Caught Caring: Tobey Maguire and the Child Nutrition Act

07/23/2009 at 02:00 PM ET
Celebrity Baby Blog – Caught Caring

With childhood obesity rates continuing to soar, parents are taking a good, hard look at the foods their children are being offered during the school day. Although Tobey Maguire‘s two children — Ruby Sweetheart, 2 ½, and Otis Tobias, 11-weeks — aren’t yet school-aged, he’s also taken that look, and is expressing a concern about what he sees.

In a letter sent this week to U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Tobey urged lawmakers to reexamine the standards set by the Child Nutrition Act (CNA). The legislation — initially passed in 1966 —  is poised for Congressional re-authorization this fall, presenting a “golden opportunity” for change according to the 34-year-old Spider Man star.

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

More fruits, vegetables and low-fat vegetarian meals are needed, Tobey writes, noting that “school is tough enough already — students shouldn’t have to put up with lunches swimming in fat and cholesterol.”

Tobey goes on to cite a recent article by the Chicago Tribune, which revealed that Chicago public schools serve beef nachos everyday because the federal government’s commodity foods program “dumps surplus beef on schools across the country.”

Not only would a vegetarian meal be more healthy, it might actually cost less than a higher-fat alternative, according to Tobey.

“Being overweight can be a miserable experience for children. It affects their grades and sets them up to be unhealthy adults.”

Urban school districts stand the most to lose for students in low income families are at a greater risk for hunger, qualifying them for the National School Lunch Program which feeds 30 million children each day.

It is particularly worrisome, then, that these same children are facing skyrocketing rates of obesity and related diseases like Type 2 diabetes according to medical experts.

Even if you live in an affluent district, however, you can still feel the effects. Tobey writes,

“Higher rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes mean greater healthcare costs for everyone. Healthy foods can help prevent those problems, so federal dollars spent on better school meals are a smart investment.”

Ruby and Otis are Tobey’s children with wife Jennifer Meyer Maguire. To contact your legislators about this issue, click here.

— Missy

FILED UNDER: Good Deeds , News

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Sandra on

The government needs to stop dumping money into school districts that don’t function properly. If they used the money constructively there would be less problems and better results. Education is important, so help the teachers educate and educate the parents to be more involved in their childrens’ school. Beef is not a poor food choice, teach the cafeteria employees to make better recipes, meatloaf, grilled hamburgers, even stuffed cabbage can utilize the “surplus beef”.

noam on

i’m not sure i totally understand the bill, but i do believe there should be a reexamination of school lunches, particularly in the free and reduced lunch program. in the school district where i live, students using free and reduced lunch have to eat the basic meal provided. today, for example, it was cheese pizza and a bread stick, with 2% millk. (water for those lactose intolerant.) tomorrow is going to be sloppy joes with french fries. there were healthier options today, such as salad, a tofu stir fry, and a grilled chicken sandwich, but they cost more and free lunch kids are not allowed to have them. it’s really frustrating. i volunteer at the school (which is in a really poor neighborhood) and most of these kids have no idea about fresh/healthy foods. i was working with fifth graders in their health class, and we were talking about sources of vitamins, and one little girl asked what a “crisp salad” was. my stepbrother works at a school with a school garden. on wednesdays, the schooll lunch is made from ingredients from garden and ingredients donated from local markets. the difference between lunch and the kids’ attitude about lucnh on wednesday and the other four days is mind-boggling. maybe that program could spread?

Pamela on

I wonder if that means the the Maguires plan on sending there own children to public school themselves. Wealthy families tend to send they’re children to some sort of private schools where they’re children get the best. I indeed find it refreshing that instead of worrying about the all the poverty stricken children abroad, although commendable, Mr. Maguire is showing concern about our own country’s childrens health and future. Again, it’s quite refreshing. I agree that this bill must be passed, my letter is going out today.

jj on

Although I do think there needs to be huge changes made to school lunches, I don’t think adding vegetarian meals is exactly the answer. I think I read Tobey is huge into either vegan or vegetarian diets.
Healthier yes, but vegetarian is something I don’t think kids would get too excited about.

Amber on

Why is there so much junk served in school cafeterias? Here is the answer I got a couple years ago: the processed food is cheaper, schools who get money from the program have to order from “approved” vendors (which sell the junk), and any food that isn’t the pre-prepared ready-to-heat stuff that has already been approved, needs to have the recipe approved by the state (at least in MN) which takes forever and a day. Also, schools are losing money like you wouldn’t believe providing school meals. I teach at two different schools, and both have had to increase and increase their meal prices, just so that they could break even.

I am a big proponent of changing the system, but when you have people (a.k.a. parents) who whine and complain to the school that their child wouldn’t eat vegetarian meals or healthy meals at all because they don’t like them, then you get what you get. When school lunches in England got an overhaul, there was much publicity about all of the parents who just brought their kids lunch to school- like chip butties (french fry sandwiches), fries, greasy foods, etc… So perhaps until parents realize they need to step up, be good food role-models, demand better food, and insist their kids eat healthily, then I don’t think anything is going to change.

eternalcanadian on

This is a long time in coming. Have you seen what is served in a public school cafeteria or available in the vending machines?

No wonder kids today are hepped up on sugar, fat, and unhealthy food. Schools have kids for 6 hours of the day, and they make it too easy to eat and drink unhealthy foods. Parents fight a losing battle when they try to make healthy lunches or serve healthy food at home. Their kids have been eating and drinking all that yucky food all day.

It is the school’s fault because what they provide or allow in the school is all about the $$. Schools get paid large amounts of money from food venders so really what choice do they have between not getting thousands and thousands of dollars that can help pay for programs and equipment or healthy food that they can’t afford thanks to the government.

The government is to blame since they’ve cut back education funding so much, don’t require schools to serve only “real food” (meaning not processed) and healthy foods, including vegetarian options. Schools have so many rules set out by the government in order to receive funding, for example, “leave no child behind”, sex education, or teachers don’t meet this standard or this or that you don’t get any money.

It is too bad it takes celebrities like Tobey to bring attention to something that should have been looked at a long time ago.

Healthy School Lunches on

It’s refreshing that Maguire is using his celebrity status to call attention to this critical issue. Rock on, Tobey! Doctors, nutritionists, and other health professionals are also urging Congress to revise the Child Nutrition Act to encourage schools to offer more fruits, vegetables, and vegetarian options in their cafeterias. All Americans should demand that federal nutrition programs promote the availability and affordability of nutritious foods.

To learn more and take action, visit http://www.healthyschoollunches.org/index.cfm.

Carolyn Ives on

Someone said, “Kids won’t get excited over vegetarian options”. It sounds like this is written by an adult who has been brainwashed into thinking that vegetarian food is bland and boring and tasteless. In fact, it is just the opposite. If kids are never given anything but hotdogs and macaroni and cheese, (the sorts of things you find on the “children’s menu” at restaurants), then they will never learn to like anything else. All that fat and sodium is addictive. But if they get fresh, healthy vegetarian food at school they’ll learn what real food can taste like and hopefully bring some knowledge home to their parents. Unfortunately, foods like tofu and tempeh have a bad reputation in American. My kids have had friends over for dinner and they’ve been chowing down on great food and loving it, until someone tells them it’s made with tofu and then all of a sudden they think it’s gross. If they were served healthy foods prepared well in school from the very beginning they would not grow up with food prejudices and such unhealthy diets.

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