When Lunchables alone are a $1 billion dollar business, you know the concept of “kid food” is out of control. When children’s menus and kid parties offer nothing but junk as the (accepted) default, when veggies are something to be hidden and endured, and “picky eater” is a national bonding cry, you know we’ve all lost our everloving minds.
Click those links above, and you’ll see my many thoughts on the subject, but also click below for some great reads I came across this week. If we don’t expect more from our kids, no one will.
Feeding Our Kids, Kidding Ourselves
In this editorial from the journal Childhood Obesity, editor-in-chief and Yale University researcher David Katz tackles the idea that humans have failed in our evolutionary responsibility to feed our children well. An excerpt:
“Food, after all, is the one and only construction material for the growing bodies and developing brains of our children. Who among us would sanction building anything we care about and hope to see last — house, car, computer — from junk? How, then, do we tolerate building the bodies of our children and grandchildren from such dubious material? … We have created a separate universe of kid foods, which the practices of our fellow mammals might suggest is dubious from the outset. But, we have gone a step further and made that universe of foods home to our most deplorable dietary practices.”
We Must Be Kidding! The Case for Eradicating “Kid” Food
Also worth a read is this separate Katz article, which ran this summer in U.S. News & World Report. An excerpt:
“This, of course, is all about money. But since we have a hard time justifying profits that result from doing something to our kids that is at odds with their health, we have confabulated an entire mythology to veil the fact that we are doing exactly that. Our mythology implies that multi-colored marshmallows masquerading as food are part of what make childhood special and fun. Our mythology implies that without a little help from Madison Avenue and pseudo-food, we would be helpless to deal effectively with fussy little Homo sapien eaters. Without red dye No. 32, our offspring, apparently, would starve. Our mythology implies that ‘kid food,’ just like ‘junk food,’ is a legitimate category of comestibles.”
Even Little Kids Know That “Kids’ Foods” Are a Bunch of Sugary Bulls*&!
From the always insightful and entertaining Yoni Freedhoff, also a physician, comes this look at how children themselves view “kid food,” drawn from his colleague Charlene Elliott’s 2011 journal article, “‘It’s junk food and chicken nuggets’: Children’s perspectives on ‘kids’ food’.” An (unsurprising but still sobering) excerpt from the journal article itself:
“What is particularly troubling about how the children classified foods is that ‘adult foods,’ to them, are generally the unprocessed fruits, vegetables and meats that all North Americans should be consuming more of, whereas ‘kids’ foods’ are associated with processed, high sugar, low‐nutrient edibles.”
In her article, Elliott explores how “kid food” has been constructed entirely through advertising and marketing, and how that marketing has, in turn, reconfigured the very ways in which children think about food.
Now that is some scary s*&!.