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]