Diabetes, Children, and School Lunches.

This is a follow-up to Feed kids. If you want to know more about the Blackfoot Nation and Abraham Maslow, take a look.

Yesterday was Michelle Obama’s birthday. So, being the bloviated, petty embodiment of all that is vile, Trump ordered the Agriculture Department to roll back some of her work to make school lunches healthier, because of course he did. The man who serves athletes cold fast-food burgers with a greasy smile on his face continued to behave in characteristic form.

A spokeswoman for the department said that it had not intended to roll out the proposed rule on Mrs. Obama’s birthday, although some Democratic aides on Capitol Hill had their doubts. Food companies applauded the proposal, while nutritionists condemned it, predicting that starchy foods like potatoes would replace green vegetables and that fattening foods like hamburgers would be served daily as “snacks.”




And I’m not sure why I’ve taken this on as my personal paladin challenge, to try to bring facts and reason to the conversation. Silly me. Did you know Trump was sued back in April for trying to roll it back?

In lawsuits filed Wednesday, the groups claim that the administration illegally issued rules last year that weakened requirements that school meals contain less salt and more whole grains. The rules were part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, a crucial part of Mrs. Obama’s signature “Let’s Move” campaign.


Here’s what’s known:

The research on diabetes is ever-evolving and building. Medical science is complex. The factors are often corollary, not causation, and this leads many to ‘play doctor’ on the internet.

Yesterday and last week two gentlemen tagged me in no less than ten articles at least about diabetes research. Not once did either ask me first what my experience or knowledge was. Now, I like one of the gentlemen very much. He’s smart, funny, and intent is honorable. The other one was some random man on Twitter. But what I truly wish is that either had them had asked me what my experience and knowledge was before they jumped in full force to inundate me with links and articles. I’m guilty of linking back, but that was futile. As a writer, I should have excused myself and come to this space. Maybe I went to medical school before becoming a teacher? Maybe my spouse is an endocrinologist? Maybe I or someone I love has diabetes? (That one.)

They didn’t know, didn’t ask, and didn’t consider.

That is a problem.

They didn’t ask, and they never do.

They, and many, center themselves in our personal narratives, pushing out and silencing voices.*

When we go to the experts, such as the American Diabetes Association, the amount of connections, analysis and critical thinking skills required may be overwhelming, we take the shortcut to “it’s giving kids diabetes!” The truth is diabetes is complex, has multiple risk factors or indicators, and whether one develops it or not is difficult to predict.

In my own lifetime, and yes, I realize this is anecdotal, only two people who are on the heavy side out of twenty or so adults developed type II diabetes: every other adult is objectively thin, athletic, and still has a type II diabetes diagnosis. What’s even more upsetting is that once someone is on insulin, even if they stem the onslaught with diet and exercise, they will still develop fat at the injection site, so often they are judged still as being obese.

If I could clear up one thing, ONE THING, it’s that if one develops Type II Diabetes IT IS NOT THEIR FAULT. And my husband’s doctor would agree with this.

Type II diabetes comes with all the shame, fat judgment and jokes. Stop it. Just. Stop. Turn around. Walk it back. Try again.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases, there are many risk factors and causes for diabetes. As with the American Diabetes Association, the list is complex and not absolute. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers the same information. In each case, as of this moment, diabetes can occur in both thin and obese people, in childhood and adulthood, across race and ethnicities, to athletes and non-athletes. Diet, exercise and a great doctor and medical treatment are required. Guess what? Those things are warranted for all of us, but without the ableist and fat shaming nonsense. And perhaps that is at the core of my issue with the diabetes and children’s nutritional jokes: it is not absolute, and dangerously may mask when a child or adolescent develops diabetes.

And we are still learning about fat. The problem with this is BMI is faulty. BMI https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2014/07/70806/bmi-health-index-flaws

I’m not the only one calling BS on BMI. “How can you possibly measure a person’s body fat based on their height and weight alone?” asks fitness expert Neghar Fonooni. “This erroneous measurement has the capability to misinform women of their true body composition, often times encouraging body dysmorphia and body-image issues. The entire measurement is unreliable and should be done away with completely.” Fonooni is healthy, sexy, and fit (case in point here) but she shares that at 5’1″ and 135 pounds, her “BMI is considered overweight.”

I am overweight. My struggles with my weight have been since my late 20s. But the body image issues have been nearly lifelong. I brushed against bulimia when I was 16. I do not have diabetes, not even pre-diabetic, didn’t have gestational diabetes, (and my babies were large, 12 and 11 pounds). People assumed I developed gestational diabetes because our babies were so big.

My husband has been a life-long athlete, in great shape, and fairly early in our marriage, he dropped even more weight. It was sudden and catastrophic. Someone looking at him might think he was thin and healthy, not understanding that diabetes lurked beneath the surface.

The American Diabetes Association has this message on their page:

But no matter what you do, do something, because the power to live the life you want to is entirely in your hands.


Not sure how I feel about this. So many of us struggle with hope. The thing is –sometimes we get a bad break. I don’t know why my husband has diabetes and I don’t. It’s not fair. Every decision we’ve made for our jobs has been grounded in whether or not we can get health care. Every insurance policy is gleaned for copays and prescription costs. Every meal decision and food choice is centered on this. Open office spaces demand he go to the bathroom to inject insulin for privacy. Our anxiety about living paycheck to paycheck extends to whether or not we can cover costs. The ‘life we want’ is not entirely in our hands, and to the point of Michelle Obama and her amazing campaign is IT IS NOT IN THE HANDS OF OUR CHILDREN EITHER. School is compulsory. Students are required to be at school. And the food that is in that building on any given day are their only options. Parents may or may not pack lunches for their children, and to assume so is pinnacle privilege. Free and reduced lunches are served to almost 30 million children a day.

In fiscal year (FY) 2018, it operated in nearly 100,000 public and nonprofit private schools (grades PK-12) and residential child care institutions. The NSLP provided low-cost or free lunches to 29.7 million children daily at a cost of $13.8 billion.


When we do have healthy options for children, even then I’ve seen mountains of fresh, locally grown apples tossed in the garbage. Oranges squashed on the floor. Baby carrots pelleted at classmates. So let’s start with this: providing healthy options for children from the beginning. Food options that consider maximum nutrition, satisfying, and culture. Time to eat and savor food. And time to play. We can’t possibly have this conversation without mentioning that kindergarten children don’t play. The entire system is breaking down because of complex issues. At what point do we adults demand this is unacceptable?

And for over a decade, students will bring in Hot Cheetos or Takis for their snacks of choice over an apple or orange. And Hot Cheetos are delicious. But if your belly is grumbling, the spices and crunch give your taste buds something else to focus on besides being hungry. An apple just doesn’t cut it.

Maybe it’s the reframing of the conversation that I’m seeking. Instead of the notion that “if you eat that candy bar you’re going to get diabetes,” we must help children, and adults, understand that there are risk factors we all need to be aware of. And it isn’t fate or written in stone — a deeper understanding of corollary verses causation.

Let me repeat that: A deeper understanding of corollary factors versus causation. We are a starving nation right now. Starving for time, food, love, serenity, hope, and security. Maybe the ADA is right. The life we want for ourselves, our children, country and world is in our hands. I am asking a big, big ask: please push back if you see someone making a joke about heart health and diabetes. Ask your school boards to provide fresh water to children (not in plastic water bottles, please–filtered water fountains). Do not allow soda or junk food in vending machines. Inform children from an early age that food is love, and we love them, and want to feed them well. And if they feel sick, thirsty, or something hurts them, we will help them receive care.


Nutrition Standards for School Lunches from September 2019, USDA

Centers for Disease Control

American Diabetes Association

And blessed with this: UW Medicine Diabetes Institute

*And wowza, the two white men defending Bernie Sanders to me over Elizabeth Warren this past week dove straight into the deep in of male privilege. They have no idea who they’re addressing.