When I was ten, my parents, my much younger sister and I moved from the UK to Boston. Three weeks after we arrived, JFK was shot. Ten months after that, we moved to Pittsburgh.
Because Dad's contract at one of the Pittsburgh universities was year-to-year, and because he and my Mother didn't know how long they would be in the States, the following year I was shipped back to England, to boarding school in Malvern Wells.
I don't really know how to explain what that's like except to say that it sounds a lot like my husband's experience of Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island. Madly energetic. Seven mile runs up and down the Malvern hills on Saturday afternoon. Five mile walks on Sunday afternoons. A "games" interval, consisting of field hockey, lacrosse, tennis or swimming, as the seasons allowed. Strict discipline. Classes and study periods all day and into the early evening (and I was 12 and 13 years old at the time). Chapel every day and twice on Sundays. I think it was Winston Churchill who said something to the effect that during his time in boarding school he had accumulated such a 'store in the bank of observances that [he had] been drawing on it ever since.' I know how he felt.
Oddly enough, one of the things I remember best about boarding school is the food. We ate well (or so I thought at the time). We ate like hobbits. We ate at breakfast, at break, at lunch, at afternoon snack, at tea, and at supper.
Great thick wads of bread, fried in bacon grease with our breakfast. Doorstops of bread with butter and jam with our tea. Huge plates of stew with gobs of fat, and even some meat and potatoes in it, for lunch. Toffee, chocolate and the odd (very odd) piece of fruit, sent by Granny, for a snack. Spotted Dick, with about a quart of custard, for pudding (no, this is NOT a CoC violation, I promise).
But my favorite was Break (the equivalent of recess) which occurred at about 11AM, Monday through Friday. It consisted of about 15 minutes on your own or spent with friends (a novelty in itself), half a pint of full-cream milk with the cream floating on top (an English half-pint is 10 ounces, not 8), together with a treat which consisted of, as follows: Monday-doughnut with cream center, Tuesday-slice of Victoria sponge cake, Wednesday-donut with jam center, Thursday-plain donut, Friday (my favorite)-Lardy cake (yes, Lard-y cake). I loved all of it.
There were no fat children at my boarding school.
Once Dad's employment situation was settled, I came back to Pittsburgh, and went through the last year of Junior High and all four years at the local High School. I don't think my mother ever packed me a lunch. I ate what was on offer at the school cafeteria. We had to buy meal tickets. I think they were a quarter each.
I can't remember a single meal, or even a particular food item that I ate during the last five years of my secondary schooling. It was that bland and unmemorable.
But there weren't many obese kids at my high school, either.
Fast forward to 2012 and Mrs. Obama's determination that "we can't leave it to the parents" to decide what their children eat. (To a certain extent, I do blame Jamie Oliver for some of this. He started a similar thing in the UK some years ago, which has now been recognized as largely unsuccesful, and now they're on to something else).
A poor little girl in North Carolina has a mother who actually takes the time to pack her a decent, if unmemorable lunch, and it's taken away from her because it doesn't meet the USDA standards for school meals. I understand that what she took with her to school was a turkey and cheese sandwich, a bag of chips, a banana and some apple juice. And I also understand that what she ended up eating was three chicken nuggets (from organically-raised, free-range, humanely-slaughtered, happy hens, I'm sure), and that most of the rest of what she was given (and for which her mother was billed) was thrown away.
Meanwhile, the school, and the county, probably has scores of children who are actually deprived and hungry, and who would think themselves in heaven if they could have a turkey and cheese sandwich, a bag of potato chips, some apple juice and a banana for lunch. And probably scores of children who wished they had mothers who loved them enough to pack such a lunch.
Would it be indelicate of me to suggest that, instead of worrying quite so much about portion control and turning the food pyramid upside down or turning it into a tetrahedron, or whatever it is now, Mrs. Obama and the pointy-headed bureaucrats in her army get up off their sometimes very considerable cans and try running seven miles up and down a few hills a couple of times a week? And that they encourage the children in school to do likewise? That they bring back recess, and dodge-ball, and softball and gymnastics and swimming and running and jumping about, and all those things that are forbidden today because someone might get hurt, or fall down, or lose the game, or suffer a bit of low self-esteem if they don't do quite so well as everyone else?
It seems to me that this would do far more to solve the obesity problem than micromanaging the perfectly adequate lunch menu of four year old girls in North Carolina.
Or is exercise and activity off the table because everyone's worried that they'll be sued if someone bumps into the wall? Never fear, an Executive Order or Presidential Diktat, and there would be no more lawsuits.
For an amusing take on this matter, see here.