2011 Scholarship Entry #77: Melissa Marchesi

Our country's rapidly declining health is one of the biggest problems that plagues Canada today. For whatever reason, Western culture has become a culture of not only excessive overindulgence, but unrealistic paradigms that we are asked to measure up to while at the same time being constantly bombarded with advertisements and slogans that promote convenience, and quick-and-easy foods that do nothing for our image or overall health. For this reason, I hope to obtain a degree in Food Sciences in the interest of reversing this trend.

I was never more aware of our unhealthy habits than during the 5 years I spent working at a major grocery chain. The store's downtown location made it popular over lunch, and a good deal of our business came from greasy, fatty foods and ready-made salads. The lunchmeats were not much better, most of them high in calories and salt, and even the low-fat variety contained ingredients that made me uncomfortable selling them. We also advertised sub- and panini-style sandwiches, which gave the customers the illusion that they were eating 'healthy' when in fact they were not. One of the major things that bothered me about working in the delicatessen was the overwhelming number of oven-cooked chickens that went through our kitchen daily. Though cooked in such a way that most of the grease was collected in a drip-tray, the sheer amount of fat that I disposed of daily was sickening. No one wants to cook for themselves. We advertised whole chicken dinners at a cheap price, containing a choice of either salads or fries, and everyone chose fries. It astounded me whenever a young mother would rush in close to dinnertime looking for an easy meal, and when offered the choice she would simply say 'Oh, just give me fries, my kids will never eat salad.' Not eat salad? At all? What?

With childhood obesity reaching astonishing rates it baffles me that a mother would not be more concerned about the health of her children. This is not to say that fast food once in awhile isn't fine, but people are doing it all the time. Mothers buy black forest ham, which had the highest sodium content of most of our products, by the kilogram and feed it to their kids daily. I have chosen to go into the field of nutrition in order to help young families learn how to properly feed their kids, to teach them healthy habits and lifestyles. Much of the problem consists of misinformation, and a lack of knowledge in things that should be simple, such as label-reading. It is my goal to make a difference by teaching these skills to the parents and giving them the tools they need to give their kids a healthy future. Hopefully this would also alleviate the backlog in the health care system, if less of our children suffer from cancers and heart disease. I also hope to apply the skills I learn to my own family one day.