It has been a whirlwind few months and my feet are just touching the ground. We are back in Pau, my kids back in school and I am back writing on the blog. The next articles are snapshots of what I saw while visiting the States, in regard to how American youth eat and what I believe is a food culture crises. But there are always two sides to the story and that is where I need your input. We can debate on issues, you tell me where I am wrong and maybe you can see my side of the story. I might be more objective because I live outside America but at the same time this distance provides a subjective bias, because I don’t live the American daily life to understand this changing American food culture.
This first article is on the art of eating french fries and taking notes at the same time.
To Eat or Not To Eat In the Classroom
My daughter and I took a guided tour of a university while we were in America last month. We were impressed: everyone was so friendly and enthusiastic and the university system is set up ‘the American way’ to be as efficient and easy as possible while learning and getting the most out of a university experience. Our lovely tour guide who I will call Stella was even a student herself, she shared her adventure and love of being at this school. We visited a cafeteria on campus, it showed a typical American atmosphere, large and airy with a layout conducive to social interaction. Then Stella told us the ‘good news.’ If a student didn’t have time to eat lunch in the cafeteria he or she could swipe their meal card and pick up a hot take out meal. In fact, that happens often to Stella, she has four classes back to back, so she needs to bring in her meal during her lectures. A hot meal: french fries and burger type of meal.
That is when I raised a question: “you are allowed to bring lunch to eat in the classroom?”
Sweet and young Stella looked at me perplexed. “what do you mean?”
Then I realized I should stop asking this question. I could tell from Stella’s face that I was asking a question that everyone knew the answer to. Of course you are allowed to bring food into the classroom. This is America, you can eat wherever and whenever you want.
But I had to keep going so I asked Stella, “how do you eat french fries and take notes at the same time?” “Isn’t it hard to do both together?”
And she looked at me with an innocent face and said “no.”
The American Food Culture in a Crisis?
I have been living too long outside America to see face to face how the food culture has evolved. I was shocked that it seemed normal to Stella to bring a hot lunch into a university lecture and eat in the classroom and concentrate on the professor at the same time. I was surprised that she didn’t schedule a lunch period into her lessons, and more surprised that Stella is not the only one doing this. I asked my daughter if she thought I was overreacting. I told her that I don’t remember ever seeing anyone bring in meals in the classroom when I was a university student. Coffee yes, water of course. But a full hot meal? Never. My daughter, who eats in the French school system understood what I meant. Yes she still thought I was making a big deal about it. But “you don’t understand, this is bad to eat lunch like this!” I told her. The French would never do this. You stop and take a pause to eat, meals are a social time. This ‘detachment’ to food and lack of priority to make meals sacred moments is America’s food culture crisis. If the American youth find eating like this ‘normal’ it is going to be difficult to ‘go back’ to what I think is normal. And that is to take a moment to stop and take a break, to sit down and eat a meal at a table. This is normal.
What do you think?
The debate on whether to allow food in the classroom
What is your opinion? Should food be allowed in the university classroom? What about in high school? Should we ‘allow’ food to be eaten everywhere and at anytime? Isn’t this a type of freedom?
And teachers at least in high school, allow some food in class because the students are hungry and cannot concentrate (another problem in American society, too many kids are going to school hungry which should be less of the case at a university?)
Here is an article from Community Health magazine that pushes strongly the opinion that food should be allowed in class. Quoting from the post, “Students, especially high school students, should not have to wolf down something at their locker and use only the water fountain between classes. This is neither healthy nor efficient.” I disagree. Eat breakfast at home and hydrate well and you will not need to ‘wolf something down at your locker or only use the water fountain between classes!’ Other cultures survive fine by not eating in classrooms, why is the American food culture the exception?
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