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Pediatric Hospitals Hooked on Junk-Food Profits

By Andre Picard
Toronto Globe and Mail

October 25, 2005

A "plethora of unwholesome food" is being served up in pediatric hospitals across North America, according to new research.

About one in four hospitals for children has fast-food outlets on site, most have vending machines loaded with salty and sugary treats, and almost all facilities' cafeterias sell chocolate, chips, burgers, fries and meat pizza.

Worse yet, the majority of institutions rely on profits from the sale of junk food to fund research and programs. "Economic reliance on this revenue may be the motivating force" behind the proliferation of unwholesome food outlets in North American children's hospitals, dietician Christine McDonald told the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Montreal.

Her research also showed that the more commercial outlets there were at a children's hospital, the less likely it was to have health-promotion programs like an obesity clinic and a staff exercise program.

To conduct the research, Ms. McDonald and a team at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto contacted all 116 pediatric hospitals in the United States and Canada. A total of 101 participated in the survey, including all 12 pediatric hospitals in Canada.

The study found that 82 per cent of hospitals have "non-cafeteria food outlets," including 24 per cent who have fast-food outlets like McDonald's in the hospital.

Dr. Brian McCrindle, director of the pediatric lipid disorders clinic at Sick Kids and a co-author of the study, said that record is shameful.

"It's no longer appropriate to call yourself an institution dedicated to health when your nutritional environment is suboptimal," he said in an interview. "Pediatric hospitals can do better and should do better."

The study grew out of the ongoing debate at Sick Kids about the appropriateness of having fast-food outlets on site.

The pediatric hospital has a Burger King, Tim Hortons, Mr. Sub and Starbucks on the premises, along with a Soup It Up, Bento Sushi, a Shoppers Drug Mart (which sells pop, chips and candy) and a cafeteria.

Hospital administrators argue that the hospital offers a full range of food choices and that people can eat a variety of foods (including fast food and junk food) in moderation and still be healthy.

But Dr. McCrindle rejected that as a rationalization: "Having this stuff in a children's hospital every day sends a message that it's okay to eat it every day."

The veteran cardiologist said he sees children suffering from obesity, diabetes and heart problems who come in to their appointments wearing Burger King paper crowns and carrying boxes of Timbits, and that is disheartening.

Dr. McCrindle said he hopes the research will spark debate within hospitals and in public policy circles, similar to the discussion that has occurred around the quality of food available in public schools. "If they ban junk food in schools, why not in pediatric hospitals?" he asked.

Dr. Beth Abramson, a cardiologist and spokeswoman for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, said the new data is troubling, particularly at a time when there is an epidemic of childhood obesity.

"Children's hospitals should be offering heart-healthy and nourishing meals and snacks to their patients instead of presenting youngsters with unhealthy food choices," she said.

by Derrick Z. Jackson
Boston Globe, 10/26/05 

Rosa Parks did not defy a white bus driver in 1955 so teenagers in 2005 could attend school-night concerts by black performers filled with self-hate. As yesterday's newspapers mourned the death of the 92-year-old civil rights icon, thousands of youths in the Boston area counted down the hours to last night's Monster Jam at the TD Banknorth Garden.

In a 1992 interview on National Public Radio, Parks said: ''I would like to encourage young people especially to be aware of what our situation is and to be concerned about our past history and to know what we have suffered and to be willing and ready to prepare themselves through a better education and dedication to making conditions better for our people."

The lineup for Monster Jam makes a tragic mockery of Parks. There was Ludacris. His idea of education is a ''song" in which he and guest performers say the F-word 24 times, the N-word 17 times, the B-word 11 times, and do a whole lot of bragging about being ''a full-fledged killa, part-time MC, full-time drug dealer." In another cut, called ''Hoes In My Room," the explicit sexual lyrics are almost completely unprintable in a family newspaper, with 29 utterances of either the slang for whore or the B-word.

There was Tony Yayo, also toting guns on one cut that starts, ''Aww, N-, do you know what this is? One shot, one kill." In another cut, he brags, ''I got N-s in Queens that kill for Pamper money." There was Jermaine Dupri, whose respect for women can be summed up in one cut where the chorus shouts that rap stars have to ''keep these MF H-s on they knees," and, ''Hoes love me cause I keep it comin' strong and yo; I'm a pimp with mine every time, I don't give a F who she is. B- you can go. Get another cause they love us N-s in the fast life."

About the only artist who makes sense in the Monster Jam lineup does so in an ironic way. Damian Marley, one of the sons of the late reggae master Bob Marley, said in the piece ''Welcome to Jamrock":

''Come on let's face it, a ghetto education's basic, ''A most a the youths, them waste it; ''And when they waste it, that's when they take the guns and replace it, ''Then them don't stand a chance at all." It makes you wonder what chance black people stand when Parks and her supporters risked their lives, and 50 years later, the livelihoods of an ever-more vulgar generation of young entertainers is wrapped around blaxploitation, sexism, and homophobia. Just as appalling, these N-word and B-word entertainers are considered so normal in American culture that the Monster Jam was sponsored by Project Bread, the antihunger organization, Filene's department store, Dunkin' Donuts, X-Box video games, Nikon cameras, D'angelo's deli, Scion cars, and the National Guard and US Army.

Project Bread says one of its goals is to ''educate, mobilize, and empower people through the Walk for Hunger and other avenues of action." It is pretty hard to understand their sponsorship when many of the Monster Jam artists make their bread on ignorance and dehumanization. Now, the National Guard and the US Army, we can understand. They are waiting for the young people in the audience who waste their education. They are waiting to give them the guns to replace it in places like Iraq.

Before age wore her down, Parks spent her latter years saying we need to ''motivate youth to reach their highest potential." With black children still suffering from horrible achievement gaps in school, with corresponding high dropout rates, we are nowhere near realizing that potential. A lot of it is due to the general disinvestment in urban public schools in the decades of white suburban flight. A lot of it is also due to too much television, too few parents in schools, and too much daydreaming about making it through sports and song.

In the rap and hip-hop world, many of the daydreams are a nightmare of stereotypes. Rosa Parks has died, and it is up to us how she will live on. She was the quiet woman who changed a nation. Her legacy is being undermined by voices much too empty and loud.


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