Thursday 16 December 2010

Children Aren't At Fault

It hasn't been a good couple of weeks for Britain's children and youth. We were told the UK's education systems are failing (although it's since been reported that Scottish figures are static), the student/pupil protest failed to change the minds of those insulated in the Palace of Westminster, in Scotland intimate details of our lives are being 'monitored' and shared by public bodies without our knowledge and now child obesity is getting worse in Scotland.

One in 12 children were classed as obese, one in 25 were severely obese and the proportion of children who were already calculated to be overweight has increased by 0.6% in the last year.  Boys were more likely than girls to be overweight, as were children who live in poorer areas.  The study - of nearly 4000 people - was undertaken using children aged 5 in their first year of primary school - possibly with the use of the plan mentioned here.

In the 50s and 60s I can't remember any of my peers being called fat.  We walked to school, some ran home at lunchtime, others ran around in the playground to aid digestion after a school dinner and we had an afternoon playtime too in those days.  As soon as homework was completed outside we dashed, in all weathers, to play some game.  Kick the can was one I remember but I've forgotten the rules.  It did involve raking through bins for an empty tin to kick and also running like a whippet to hide before you were sighted.

I digress.  Families then lived on very tight budgets.  There was little money for treats although once a month or so my brother and myself were treated to a bottle of American Cream Soda and one scoop of ice cream to make ice drinks.  It was always on a Sunday evening.  We never dared suggest it or even drop the slightest hint, the decision was usually our father's and he would trundle up to the Hilltown to buy the ingredients for what I thought was the most exotic drink on earth.

So often I read it's children from poor homes who suffer.  Why, in this century when there are so many outlets for children's excess energy, is this happening?  I can only think the responsibility must lie with some parents.

Part of the problem started many years ago when Britain imported the American fast-food style. Then we imported more and more, until nearly every street in every town has a fast food outlet open long past the time children should be asleep.  In the 50s we only had chip shops and a fish supper was another special treat.

Not so long ago I was speaking to an acquaintance who told me she spends a couple of afternoons a month, on a voluntary basis, teaching mums to make soup. Lentils, split peas and barley were unknown to them when they started.  How very sad.  That problem belongs to my generation who, in trying to give our children a 'better' quality of life, we forgot to teach them the basics of good cooking.

So let's not blame it on the children or the young people.  Most very young children will eat what they are given.  If obesity is a problem today it's the fault of adults, yet most of those whose children are overweight refuse to acknowledge the fact.  They have to take responsibility for their children's health and plan their children's free time. The nanny state hasn't been effective because it removed the parental responsibility.  Is it not time to withdraw support, except in exceptional situations, and then perhaps parents would begin to accept they are the cause of their child being called 'fatty' and do something about it.  No parent wants their child to be fat but if the parent is overweight themselves then it will be so much easier for them to ignore the weight of their children.

The cost of living in rising and income is not. Could this be the catalyst for parents to realise good food can be cheaper than fast foods?  Instead of preaching the 'five-a-day' and 'healthy eating' mantras, how about having a television programme which shows how to make a pot of soup or a plate of mince and tatties?  A couple of years ago I vaguely remember some television chef doing an interactive programme about cooking a meal and it was a great success.  A similar format could encourage parents and older children to give cooking a try and in the privacy of their own homes without being assessed by the professionals.


Demetrius said...

We buy most of our food from sources other than supermarkets but they are now the only place to go for some things. When waiting at the till one of my hobbies is to check out and cost what is in other people's trolleys. In the great majority of cases there is a great deal of what is basically junk and in the foods processed stuff likely to add weight. Despite what the advertisers say all this stuff is not "cheap". The trouble is that this is the norm and few people know how to deal with basics. If they did it would be healthier and they could also save a fortune.

Dioclese said...

I was a fat little kid and was bullied mercilessly. Most of the other kids weren't fat.

What I don't understand is that if it's mainly kids from 'poor' families that are fat, where do they get the money from to buy all the junk they shovel into their kids?

It's not the kids' fault - it's the parents either because they haven't learned to say NO to a burger joint when the kids pester them or because they are just thick and have no idea. But poor? I don't think so. There were no fat kids in Biafra.

It's time people stopped blaming everybody else and actually took some responsibility for their offspring.

Edward Spalton said...

The ending of domestic science (i.e. cookery) classes for girls on the grounds of sex equality probably has something to do with it. Mind you, it would have been a good idea for boys too but they often went to do woodwork or something like that.

I often observe children's "pester power" at work in supermarkets with parents of a certain type. The response can either be indulgence of the child for a quiet life or effing and blinding at them with a possibility of some violence.

In middle class homes, I have sometimes been surprised at the nervousness of parents around the feeding of very young children. The children pick this up and learn to exploit it very early.

Sometimes the attempted deterrent falls wide of the mark. I was in a farm house kitchen where a toddler in a high chair was making a terrible mess of his dinner. "If you don't stop that" said the farmer's wife "I'll put you to eat outside". A seraphic smile cracked through the mask of dinner. "With the dogs?" the child asked delightedly.

Quiet_Man said...

I'm afraid you're guilty of using common sense and logic here SR.
Something that seems to have gone missing in the last 30 or so years. :-)

Anonymous said...

It's insane, I agree. People have completely lost the concept of self-sufficiency, even so far as expecting food to be cooked for them, nevermind growing it themselves. The problem isn't just the fast food though, it's this consumer-Capitalism that encourages people to buy and buy and buy. Buy this ready meal rather than cook. Don't buy store cupboard foods. Buy meat that goes off fast. Have meat in EVERY meal.
It's damaging our children, our environment and our culture, and it's beyond a joke now. As for people being fat, there are some people that are 'fat' naturally, yes, but the truth is a lot of people out there are just addicted to additive filled, chemical crap that they do themselves a disservice eating. I wouldn't say ban it; it's not the government's perogative to interfere like that, but people need to start thinking. Another problem is that making your own food, etc is seem as something quite high class, because popular cookery programs use expensive ingredients, and fast food is geared towards the lower classes.

Anonymous said...

There are so many places where blame can be laid before we get to the kids or the parents SR.

The food processing industry that stuff us with empty calories and dodgy chemicals formulated to make pap taste like food, the governments and politicians who talked of family values but made two working parents an economic necessity, the advertising industry that created needs where there were none, the acadermics who rigged their mathematical models to 'prove' that an economy based on perpetual growth through increased consumption was feasible, the education system that imposes an orthodoxy of ... I'm fed up now

Edward Spalton said...

With all respect, Boggartblog, the food industry doesn't stuff us with anything that we do not voluntarily choose to put into our mouths.

People choose that for themselves - for convenience perhaps or perhaps because they find junk tempting. But it is their choice.

I used to produce flavourings - but for the animal feed industry, so have a bit of an idea about what tastes and flavours attract. There are turn-ons but animals (and people, I think) generally like the flavours they are accustomed to and that is a matter of choice by parents initially.

Some flavours have cross-species attractiveness. When I was starting my business and packing up samples on the kitchen table, our young children really loved the ones we made for baby piglets!

But my wife, an excellent cook, was also a no-nonsense Scottish mum so they jolly well ate their good dinners and rarely had sweets - although they really enjoyed them when they got them.
These habits seem, in large part, to have persisted.

subrosa said...

It is difficult to source food from shops other than supermarkets Demetrius and in many places nigh impossible. Of course governments in the past 30 years have encouraged supermarkets. Good for social engineering.

Fortunately where I am we're a bit thrawn and still many still insist upon buying meat from a butcher rather than something wrapped in polystyrene and clingfilm.

Sometimes in supermarkets I look at the 'cheap' options and nutrionally they're loaded with what people don't need. But it can be hard to read the labels and unless people are made aware they should do, they'll continue to buy by price rather than quality.

subrosa said...

I can't remember any of my pals being fat in the 50s Dioclese. The junk they give their children, as you say, isn't cheap although it's convenient. That's one of the problems, instant food is thought cheap because it saves parental effort in preparation.

subrosa said...

Edward, back in the 50s boys and girls in my school learned to make pastry, custard, cook meat and make gravy. I can't remember our other efforts.

I do love your anecdote. How often has that happened to a parent? :)

subrosa said...

Aye QM, but my generation have to take some of the blame. We're guilty insofar as we forgot the basic rules of teaching our children survival skills. After all, if there were no fast food outlets how would many manage.

subrosa said...

Lazaruszine, yes indeed. Consumer capitalism is part of the modern social engineering strategy.

I'd agree that certain foods are addictive if eaten over a period of time.

What's put on TV at the moment uses mainly reasonably expensive ingredients but good cooking doesn't need them. A half pound of good butchers mince, a couple of onions and a couple of oxo cubes can make a great meal for three.

It's always annoyed me when women complain they're too tired to cook when they get in from work. I worked all my life yet, in winter, used to prepare a stew in the slow cooker most week nights before I went to bed.

I'd switch it on before leaving in the morning then all I'd have to do was peel some potatoes when I got home. Really easy and saved a lot of argument about who was having what, which is what happens these days. Then it was a sake of take it or leave it.

Now I'm asked for the recipes and they're amazed just how simple they were.

subrosa said...

Boggart, governments and advertisers don't put food into children's mouths. Parents do.

It's up to the carers of children to teach them what's good and what's not.

For generations children have been told not to take sweets from strangers. I defy any parent not to know that. We need the similar information to be given to parents about food which has little nutritional value. Porridge is cheap. Soak it in water the night before and cook it for 3 minutes on the stove in the morning. Not time consuming, quicker than toast.

subrosa said...

Edward, it's strange really, but neither my brother or myself have sweet tooths. Perhaps it's something to do with the fact sweeties were rationed when we were small and also nobody made a fuss about that.

There was more argument in our home about macaroni cheese (I hated it and my brother loved it) than any pudding.

Jo G said...

I'm remembering my own mother Subrosa and one of her favourite saying if we children were less than enamoured with what was for dinner that day: "You'll eat it before it eats you!" Memories!

subrosa said...

Jings Jo that's brought back a memory. When I was in my 20s I had a colleague who used to say that. Many thanks for reminding me of her.

Elby the Beserk said...

In for a pre-op a few weeks back, I got to talking health problems (I am fortunate to have had good health all my life; I do look after myself, eat good food, exercise with two very energetic hounds) and noted that when I was young (born 1951), a fat person - never mind an obese person - was a rarity. I suggested that if the obese had to pay for their hospital treatment (if not exempted on med grounds - Thyroid etc.).

She said. I'm a not allowed to say this. And said it - "I agree". It is an abdication of personal responsibility; for me, if someone is not prepared to help themselves, then why should anyone else help them?

Of course, this problem is not helped when you get the likes of the Guardian and the BBC News, with their monthly news item on "Obesity gene identified". Etc. Obesity gene? Where was it in the 1950s?

Wibble wobble... driving past our local MacDonald the other day, the most IMMENSE woman was walking away. With two bags full of Big Macs.

subrosa said...

If you look at the photo on the post Elby you don't see a fat child either. That was taken in 1950.

No we're not allowed to state the obvious nowadays, in case we offend. What's offensive about saying to someone their child could do with losing a bit of weight or more exercise?

Doesn't surprise me in the least. I used to drive past one on the way to work and see people having them for what was obviously breakfast.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if the discussion's going on here, but I thought I'd toss this in too; the illusion of choice is a very thin one. Having taken up a vegan diet recently, supermarkets are NOT the main place that I order food from. And I don't mean weird vegan soya mush, I mean stuff like dairy free, gluten free, etc that a large minority of the populace needs for health reasons!

subrosa said...

The discussion's going on as long as someone wants to discuss lazaruszine. :)

I'd have to agree with you there. I've one friend who requires dairy free and another gluten free and in supermarkets their choice is more or less non-existent.

Fortunately we have a small 'heath' food shop (I hate that title as I think it should just be called speciality or extra-special) who see to most of their needs. Otherwise they would have to travel some distance.

Any reason for the vegan diet? You don't have to answer. :)

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