"Parks and Recreation" star Nick Offerman and comedic video website Funny or Die joined forces to create a parody on unhealthy cafeteria lunches to raise awareness for the American Heart Association. At the end of the video, "because our kids health shouldn't be a laughing matter" flashes across the screen, juxtaposing Offerman's captivating effort to convince the audience that pepperoni pizza grows on plants.
There was something about the freedom of getting a $5 bill each day for lunch. Waiting all day in my fourth grade class for the lunch bell to sound so I could select from the smorgasbord of junk that my body would soon disagree with. My teachers watched carefully as I scarfed down my homemade peanut butter and jelly just so I could be the first in the snack line. Would it be ice cream, hot fries or Otis Spunkmeyer cookies? My 11-year-old self never seemed to have a propensity for saving, so why not all three?
Now, more than 1 in 3 American kids is overweight or obese — nearly triple the rate from 1963 — and lawmakers are pointing to school lunches for reform. In 2010, Congress passed and enacted the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The initiative, which boosted nutrition standards for foods sold in schools, was only enacted as a five-year program. Without congressional action, the bill will expire on Sept. 30 of this year. The parody, aimed to highlight what kids would be eating if this bill weren't in place, raises awareness for the progress made from the act.
According to the American Heart Association, children are now eating 16 percent more vegetables and 23 percent more fruit. Children who participate in the National School Lunch Program have an overall better-quality diet, the organization said. The association also said that healthier children are more inclined to become healthy adults, a lifestyle bridge that could save billions of dollars.
First lady Michelle Obama has headed the healthier school lunches movement as well as created Let's Move, a program urging kids to exercise and combat obesity. While Obama and the American Heart Association teamed up to transform lunches in public schools, the process wasn't completely welcomed with open-arms. Students and faculty were outraged at the change in food quality after the program was introduced, with food turning from pizza to colorless yuck you may see on a Nickelodeon show or "Orange is the New Black."
In later 2014, #ThanksMichelleObama was trending on Twitter and was often accompanied with a picture of a less-than-appetizing platter of "mystery mush," as one tweet eloquently put it.
Despite the aesthetically unpleasing food in the program's inaugural year, anything is better than Offerman's "hot, moist sloppy Joes" grown from the earth. Congress only has a few months to reach an extension before kids in the country are back to eating a "fresh-picked bushel of hot, flaky fish fingers."
Image credit: Flickr/U.S. Department of Agriculture
Based in Washington, DC, Grant works as a program assistant at SEEP Network, an international development nonprofit. A proud graduate of the University of Maryland, Grant spent four months post-grad living in Armenia where he worked for Habitat for Humanity and the World Food Programme. Grant is passionate about humanitarianism and finding sustainable approaches to international development. He enjoys playing trivia with friends but is still seeking his first victory - he ceaselessly blames his friends lack of preparation.