The Great Defattening

The Mayor’s office announced today it will be launching its new Healthy Meals Initiative (HMI) today. HMI is a pilot program, cooked up by the Boston Public Schools and the Boston Public Health Initiative, and meant to gradually defatten small children via more salubrious cafeteria fare. “The new program features a professional chef cooking in two schools and educating cafeteria managers citywide about healthier ways to prepare and present meals that are both nutritious and delicious,” says the mayor’s office.

The HMI is a no-brainer. With many children ballooning to downright leviathan proportions, the BPS can no longer justify feeding them crap all the time. I didn’t go to a Boston public school (BC High in Dorchester, class of ’95), but I did have a pretty standard experience with cafeteria food. I’ve repressed most memories of what entered my body at noon everyday (go ahead, make your priest jokes), but through the haze, I can still picture a formless, boneless gray horror called “Ribwich” nesting on a plate of greasy tater tots with a Slush Puppy chaser.

Gross as that was, it’s depressing that the city even needs to take these steps. Cafeteria food has been famously crappy since the first public school was founded in Boston in 1635 (they served Sloppy Joes made with horsemeat on rolls made out of ragamuffin hair), but kids have only started getting super-fat in the last decade. According to the Public Health Commission, “Almost half of Boston’s students are at an unhealthy weight.”

While time will tell how effective the city’s approach is, the real benefit I see arising from this program is that when it doesn’t yield a school of svelte kids, we’ll at least know to stop blaming the public schools. It’s not the Tater Tots. Or the sneaky soda companies. It’s the fact that parents see nothing wrong with giving their kids punch bowls full of Mountain Dew and Cocoa Puffs for breakfast in the morning, then letting them sit motionless in front of the TV until their bodies convert that shocking carb-load into blubber, as mommy sits next to them licking her chops, with visions of successful class action lawsuits against Pepsi and Frito-Lay dancing in her head.

Judging by the mayor’s statement on the HMI, however, this isn’t expected to change any time soon.

“Nutritious, tasty meals provide the fuel our kids need to succeed in school and help them form habits that will keep them healthy in the future,” Tom Menino says. “With obesity on the rise, programs like this are so important because they will teach our kids how to be healthy adults.”

Glad somebody is.