There’s the paleo diet, the nut diet, the salad diet, the zero diet. So many diets. And while paying attention to your diet does benefit your health, our society is constantly telling people what to eat, or rather what not to eat. Nutrition is a huge topic. Malnutrition is too. And I’m not talking about sub-Saharan Africa here, I’m talking about malnutrition right on your doorstep. In Europe and North America alike, children, and especially girls, are increasingly malnourished. How come, in these lands of abundance, bursting with supermarkets and no natural disasters? The answer is as easy as its solution should be: because we choose to starve. We either starve ourselves, or we starve others.
The popular show Germany’s Next Top Model publicly scolds skinny girls for being ‘fat’, and the host, Heidi Klum, who starred in a McDonald’s ad not long ago, would never even touch a burger privately – at least that’s what participants of the show say. That’s one credible role model. Girls who barely weigh the minimum for their age group put themselves on a diet, because Instagram hypes the thigh gap. What’s next, a visible rib gap? Apart from not developing enough fat that’s crucial for hormones to be produced, these teens and children risk heart disease and organ failure for dieting too extremely. the social pressures to be ‘perfect’ can be overwhelming.
On the other hand, children as young as kindergarten age are malnourished and not because they choose to be. It’s an unwelcome truth that poor education and lower socio-economic status often leads to bad nutrition. And many parents who would like to feed their children appropriately, don’t have the time or money to do so, because they are working multiple jobs for minimum wage. Poverty goes hand in hand with malnutrition, all over the globe. Recently, children have been ‘lunch shamed’ because their parents couldn’t or forgot to pay lunch money. A well known German actress started a campaign to pay for school lunches, because tens of thousands of children go without food from early in the day until their first and only meal in the evening. This in a country that is able to spend billions on airports that never get finished (I’m looking at you, Berlin).
Children, and this¬†is one of the most painful facts, depend on an extremely well-balanced diet to develop. The human brain is one of the most complex organisms we know, and in order to work right, it needs to be fed. Literally. If certain oils, vitamins and¬†micronutrients are not included in a diet, the whole body stops developing correctly. Children have problems in school, are prone to infections, and cannot take part in social activities because they are exhausted. Missing out on meals is taking away their future. And again, a problem that we all too readily push into the ‘third world’ category happens right before our eyes. It’s time to stop looking away. If you hear of your kid’s friends coming to school without a packed lunch, have an extra sandwich made for them. Or invite them round to dinner. Or get involved in a school lunch club. Or write a letter to your local political representative. Because if one saves a life, one saves the world. And one who saves a child, saves the future.
Girl News International