Few things should be more important to America than the health and well-being of our children. Yet an astounding 30 percent of them are overweight or obese, and last year, kids in more than 500,000 American families went without the food they needed. This means that many kids are not learning as well as they should in school because they can’t concentrate or have self-esteem issues. In the long term, it threatens the safety and prosperity of our nation, as fewer 18-year-olds are fit for military service, fewer folks have the skills they need to compete in a global economy and obese adults strain our health care system. In December, President Obama took action to help us combat hunger and improve nutrition nationwide, signing into law the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. Together with the president and first lady Michelle Obama, I have been fighting for this major victory for our kids since the earliest days of the administration. We were joined in support by many organizations, including from the Jewish community and communities of faith from across the country.
Twenty parents from the Emek Hebrew Academy in Valley Village have come on a chilly winter evening to hear Dr. Francine Kaufman, a national expert on diabetes and childhood obesity, talk about promoting children's health. Although the school has 455 families, Rabbi Sholom Strajcher, the school's dean, is not discouraged by the modest turnout.
Along with the wave of ergonomically correct strollers and SAT flashcards for the 5-month-old comes Homemade Baby.
Johnny Carson used to have a joke about it. A friend of his had sworn off coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, red meat and sex. The guy was doing just fine, Carson quipped, until he committed suicide.
The Tu B'Shevat seder, with its many fruit and nuts, challenges us to reconsider our usual diets, and the recommended Jewish diet. While the FDA recommends a diet high in grains, rich in nutrients and low in saturated fats, Judaism recommends a diet high in holiness, rich in consciousness and connection, and low in selfishness. These four factors guide not only a Jewish diet, but also a Jewish life.