Written May 31, 2006     

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© 2016 Bob Lonsberry


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Maybe we need to mandate Home Economics.

Remember that class?

A generation ago school girls took Home Economics. They learned how to cook and sew and shop and clean. Basically, they learned the things they needed to know to be homemakers. It was preparation for being a wife and a mother.

But it became politically incorrect and has become virtually extinct. The programs have been shut down, the classes aren't offered and the teachers have either gone into something else or retired.

And that's too bad.

Because what America needs right now is a crash course in Home Economics. Amazingly, we have lost the ability to teach ourselves and our children how to get by. The simple life skills have fallen away and fallen apart. At least for some of us.

One example is cooking.

Increasingly, we don't know how to cook. The simplest and most basic skills of preparing our own food have been lost. As a consequence, we spend far more on food than we need to, we have poor nutrition and we're getting fat. Especially our children.

And this is truest among lower-income people.

Lower-income people typically have the worst life skills. They have the fewest resources and they have the fewest skills necessary to make the most of those resources. And that's too bad. Especially for their children.

You don't have to talk to too many pediatricians before you learn that there is a clear link between obesity among poor children and their parents' lack of homemaking skills and homemaking commitment. The worst foods and the worst eating habits are consistently chosen out of laziness or ignorance. And the worst consequences result.

Translation: When you see a fat child, more times than not you're seeing the product of a home that doesn't know how -- or care to -- organize itself properly. People don't know how -- or are too lazy -- to budget, shop, cook and parent.

So children are given soda pop to drink, candy for snacks and prepared food for dinner. Frozen burritoes and Twinkies and canned ravioli are the staples, obesity is the result. Many people -- including poor people -- eat prepared food, drive-thru meals and delivery every day. And the expense is through the roof. And we wonder why poor people have higher rates of obesity.

Activists say that it costs more money to eat healthy.

But the truth is exactly the opposite. Wholesome, nutritious food, made from scratch at home, is the least-expensive way to eat and the most healthful. It is not bad income that makes people fat, it is bad habits.

And we should change those.

We should replace them with good habits -- and with knowledge. We should teach people -- all people, but especially people on public assistance -- how to budget, how to shop and how to cook. We should teach them the very basic skills necessary to make wholesome, affordable, nutritious food for themselves and their families. And then we'll have to cross our fingers and hope they care enough to use what they've learned.

And who is the "we" who needs to do this?

Government partly, but not primarily. Churches, community groups, service organizations, could all teach home economics classes. For those receiving Food Stamps or other food-related welfare, attendence at the classes should be manditory. Schools should consider bringing Home Ec back -- for boys and girls.

Most people have never had the chance to learn these things. Their parents didn't teach them or their parents didn't know themselves. There's nothing wrong with not knowing something, but there is with refusing to learn.

We should help people learn.

Because the best hope their children have -- the best hope their children have to eat nutritiously and control their weight -- is to teach them how to be good homemakers.

Simple recipes, basic skills, wholesome foods. Inexpensive, filling, nutritious. How to make mashed potatoes, how to cook rice, how to stretch a food dollar.

Those skills are priceless.

And I'd like you to help teach them.

If you have simple recipes or skills, basic things, that you can post in the comments section of this column, please do. Then we can work on getting those to the people who can use them. And who knows, maybe we all can benefit from one another's experience.

Home Economics is a class I wish I'd taken.

It is a class I wish my children could take.

But you can learn things outside school, from people who know. Which is where you come in.

- by Bob Lonsberry © 2006

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