Monday, October 18, 2010

Heart and Stroke Foundation teaches elementary school kids that pizza's healthy.

One of the primary drivers of unhealthy eating and obesity today is the normalization of fast food as an everyday part of life.

Apologists tend towards the stance of, "it's part of life", or, "everything in moderation", or, "there are healthy fast food options too", and while I readily agree that fast food is here to stay I draw the line at public institutions (schools, hospitals, etc.) and health based non-profits encouraging its consumption.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation is a perfect example. As I've blogged about before, the Heart ant Stroke Foundation's explicit position is that since people are going to eat out anyhow, at the very least the Foundation can steer them to healthier eating out options.


The Heart and Stroke Foundation believes that less bad is in fact good.

While the Health Check program has its check marks in many fast food restaurants, there are no checks dearer to the Heart and Stroke Foundation than those of Boston Pizza (pun intended) as Boston Pizza is likely the largest single institutional donor the Heart and Stroke Foundation's got.

Perhaps it's that donor status that has the Heart and Stroke Foundation regularly giving out Boston Pizza coupons to elementary school students as rewards for their Heart and Stroke fundraising, and perhaps it's that donor status that has the Heart and Stroke Foundation using pizza as a healthy, "combination food" example for teachers.

In their teacher-geared publication, "Heart Smart Kids: A teacher's curriculum based resource for healthy living activities Grade 4-6" the "Healthy Eating" section provides a "tip" for teachers.

The "tip"?

"Tell students to make an estimate of serving sizes and contents for combination foods such as sandwiches. E.g.: a cheese pizza might contain one serving of Grain Products, one of Milk and Alternatives and half a serving of Vegetables and Fruits"
Yes, the Heart and Stroke Foundation want teachers to use pizza as an example of a healthy combination food. But they go further than that as pizza's also included as a photo on a handout for the kids meant to be used by them in the planning of a, "healthy class party" (see photo up above).

Think there's any chance that kids having received that "tip" and/or using that handout to plan a "healthy class party" aren't going to choose pizza for the meal and think that it's a healthy choice?

So is pizza healthy?

It certainly can be, but that'd require the pizza to be homemade as store bought pizza is jam-packed with sodium and calories.

And what pizza are the kids likely to be seeing on a regular basis? Fast food pizza - both school based pizza day pizza and home delivered pizza. Hardly the sort of food you'd expect the Heart and Stroke Foundation to recommend. Hardly unless of course you consider the fact that their endorsement of pizza as a healthy food helps to plug one of their largest sponsors and that for whatever reason they've decided that it's better to encourage elementary school children to believe that less bad is good, and that fast food is a normal, acceptable and healthy part of everyday life.

Such an incredible, and yet sadly unsurprising, shame.

[Hat tip to Alaina Mundy who scratched her own head a few times when reviewing this curriculum]

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  1. I'm glad you added that home made can be healthy. I make pizza fairly often for the kids - whole wheat crust, home made sauce, a bit of meat, and light on the cheese. I consider it to be extremely healthy, and I educate them on the difference between it and the stuff that we buy at the store from time to time.

  2. This irks me to no end. I feel like I am constantly battling institutions about food -- and we homeschool (so school isn't one of them). Every activity we attend is all about the junk food -- even when food has no rightful place at the event. Do kids REALLY need a snack at an hour long event, for example?

    It even infiltrates the consciousness of my youngest child. She has Celiac and can never eat any of the junk and, therefore, has never tasted it (though she has tasted homemade gluten-free, dairy-free cakes for celebrations and the like). She is now old enough to understand, though, that she is "missing" something -- according to the excitement of the other kids at the event upon eating their junk. So now she begs me to make her an alternative, gluten-free, dairy-free version of junk to events instead of the fruit bowls and vegetable platters I have always brought to events for her (that she has always relished). So, without even knowing how that processed junk tastes, she still craves it because of the atmosphere created around it.

    Luckily, because of her Celiac and because her older siblings, who all joined our family through adoption, had Rickets as small children, we have always emphasized the importance of nutrition in our home. I can still talk her down from the desire for junk. Her siblings help by eschewing the junk in order to help her not feel left out. They haven't had too much of it at this point to alter their tastes.

    BUT, how long will this last? They are surrounded by messages that tell them that they are missing something. And, in some sort of Twilight Parenting Zone, I find myself surrounded by parents who have decided to just let them have the junk and "try to do better at home". I'm all for the occasional treat, but when we are attending 1-3 activities a day and they all include junk, that makes for more than the occasional treat.

  3. If other food was drawn there instead of the pizza, it would also give kids more ideas on what to make for group snacks/meals.

  4. Hmm...My daughters' school just switched to Boston Pizza for their pizza lunch. I'm going to have to ask them why.

    I've been bothered by the twice-monthly pizza lunches (which I blogged about as Junk Lunch recently: ever since my kids started school. As if the pizza itself weren't bad enough, the snack they offer along with it is chips or a cookie. (Would carrots be so difficult to provide?)

    Pizza was something I ate once in a blue moon when I was a kid, and I didn't like it much, because compared to the real food my parents were giving me, it tasted bad. Now it's considered a staple of a kid's diet, and even (sort of) endorsed by the Heart and Stroke foundation. Disgusting.

    Thanks for bringing this relationship between Boston Pizza and the Heart and Stroke Foundation to my attention.

  5. It's really time for food industry sponsorship of the agencies we look to for health advice to stop. It's incredible how often you hear 'well intentioned advice' like this and then trace it back to corporate sponsorship. But only the very well informed would ever make that connection. The ADA's new partnership with Hershey is another recent highlight of this important issue.

    We make pizza at home. Whole wheat crust, extra tomato sauce, plenty of veggies. It's surprising how little cheese you actually need on a pizza too!

  6. I still remember making pizza in grade 9 Home Ec. class. In contrast, I don't remember any restaurant meal from when I was in grade 9.

    If you have to spend time planning, preparing and cooking your food, you might enjoy it more, value it, and try to savour it, and remember and learn from the experience. If you get pizza from a school cafeteria or order it for dinner at a restaurant, you've invested nothing but your money, which you're only likely to feel the loss of at the cash register. You're not likely going to care as much about bought pizza as your own pizza.

  7. Anonymous4:52 pm

    I eat thin crust whole grain pizza with vegetables like mushrooms and peppers and some meat once in a while. Don't overkill it, and encourage children to choose "healthy toppings" if they want pizza. ALWAYS IN MODERATION.