“One of my soapboxes when I was working on food was (that) we need a healthy alternative to the healthy alternatives. A Nutrigrain bar, there’s nothing healthy about that. But it’s supposed to be a healthy alternative because it’s got fruit and grain in it. But it’s packed with sugar.”
-Former “Big Food” advertising executive Amanda Carlson, as quoted in Born to Buy by Juliet B. Schor
I love our school. The amount of crap my kids get there which is labeled “food,” however, I do not.
I know, I know. If the school has to pay attention to every parent’s crazy-ass marginal concern we’d probably have to cancel school altogether until we could figure out how to encase each child in a nice firm bubble. Still, I cringe when I read the wrappers that I dig from the bottom of my kids’ backpacks, and learn about the high fructose corn syrup in their Rice Krispies, the partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening in their Goldfish Grahams, and lovely-sounding things like methylcellulose, diglycerides, and something called “propylene glycol esters of fatty acids” in their Nutri-Grain bars. Yum.
This is breakfast, folks. Don’t even get me started on the treats which pop up on holidays (since when did every valentine have to come with a piece of candy attached?) or as rewards for reaching reading goals (mini candy bars) or completing a round of standardized tests (ice cream sundaes).
Just the other day the school hosted an outdoor winter carnival with sled riding and lots of wholesome outdoor games. This was followed up by…? A chocolate milk and a cookie. I sound like the Grinch, don’t I? But after a breakfast of sugary cereal and a lunch which is often composed of highly processed frozen and canned foods- doubtless containing sugar- you do have to wonder whether we’re doing the best thing for our kids by piling a sugary snack on top of that.
I’m very conflicted. I really do love our school. And I love the fact that they care enough to reward our kids, even if I don’t always love the way they do it. And I know there is no way to make all us parents happy all the time. And yes, I see that for kids who can’t/ won’t have breakfast at home, Frosted Flakes and a blueberry muffin filled with thirty unpronounceable ingredients might be better than no breakfast at all.
But still. I wonder: is this truly the best that we can do?