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Since we’re talking about food… August 30, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy.
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Interesting that Jamie Oliver cropped up this week in relation to food. I’ve been reading a lot about child and adult nutrition over the past while. There are a range of reasons for that, not least that I’ve seen first hand how the former is shaped by eating out, and by advertising. Having been on holiday in the UK it was a revelation as to how difficult it can be to eat… normally.
The Guardian recently had a piece on sugary drinks and childhood obesity on foot of British Heart Foundation warnings about those two areas.

Children are more likely to have a can of a sugary drink a day than eat five portions of fruit and vegetables, and the vast majority have less than an hour’s exercise, according to a new report.

The British Heart Foundation is very concerned that the lifestyles of modern children are setting them up for serious health problems in later life. Large numbers are in danger of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) as adults if they continue to skip meals and sport in favour of watching TV and drinking fizzy drinks, it says.

When did it become a case of a packet of crisps, chocolate and a soft drink on a daily basis for far too many children?

I don’t want to exaggerate this. Even as a kid, four decades ago, sweets were there, just down from the school I was at there was a converted container which doubled as a small sweet shop. My Great-Gran, who lived with us along with my Gran had a tin of biscuits in her room. They weren’t unknown to us. But those and crisps, and chocolate, and a soft drink? Cost alone would have made that near prohibitive.

But there are many angles to this. It’s not just the fact of such consumption as what is in it. The Guardian had an interesting piece recently on sugar. One doesn’t have to see sugar as an unmitigated evil to feel there’s a genuine problem here. Most obviously is a graphic half the way down the article which shows how food companies evade EU guidelines on demonstrating the levels of sugar/fat/salt etc in their products, by showing GDAs for adults as against children, something that is obviously deeply problematic. I’ve seen the same here in Ireland, the one that struck in my mind was a crisp like product aimed fairly at kids which on its salt level had something like 17 per cent of an adults recommended daily intake. What is it for a child? I’ve got to be honest, I don’t know. Similarly with a juice that in a small single serving carton contained 49% of an adults daily sugar. But given what is often a child’s daily consumption of salt, sugar etc, that’s a lot of salt or sugar in one sitting.

And what of children’s menu’s? Fried foods and chips for the most part. Smaller portions of ice cream but ice-cream with every thing. Rarely if ever do fresh vegetables make an appearance, or salads. A Slate piece here suggests that children’s menu’s came about in the US, at least, as a response to the Volstead Act (or Prohibition) where restaurants asked ‘Could it be that this untapped market [children] could help offset all that lost liquor revenue?’. There’s the market for you. Not that the menu’s were much fun. Stale bread was a norm, and it didn’t get much better than that driven by a peculiarly moralistic attitude to children’s food. But even when that eventually faded it didn’t get better either. Or arguably it got worse…

Restaurants had grown reliant on its marketing benefits; children didn’t want to give up booklets that doubled as clown masks or featured punch-out airplanes; and parents, quite understandably, had become attached to the low prices. So the children’s menu persisted. Meanwhile, a growing processed-food industry made it irresistibly cost-effective to rewrite it with junked-up, dumbed-down foods. By the 1970s, the children’s menu as we know it today was basically in place: The design was as colorful as ever, but the food had been restricted to its present-day palette of browns and yellows.

And the piece concludes by asking why it is that children’s menu’s exist at all when an easier way… well, look, here’s what they say:

Today, nutritionists are rightly appalled by the insipid, mostly fried fare designated for children. In response, a growing number of restaurants have tasked themselves with building a healthier children’s menu, but the approach taken by casual-dining chains like Red Lobster and Applebee’s is superficial: Instead of throwing out the chicken nuggets, they’re counting on sides of broccoli to magically counteract them. But even a more thorough revamp would be missing the point—namely, that children never needed a separate bill of fare to begin with. If there is any argument to be made for holding onto the kids’ menu, it is that contemporary portion sizes are more than a child can handle. (They’re more than most adults can handle, for that matter.) Moving forward, the industry might do well to look backward, to the children’s options offered in Parisian restaurants at the turn of the 20th century. This 1900 menu, from the Restaurant Gardes, has the right idea: a child’s cut-price prix fixe (couvert d’enfant) that doesn’t offer different food—just less of it.

Just less of it… just less of everything – and some more of the good stuff to break away from the yellow and brown palette and introduce some green. It’s simple really, but how to fend off a society – and economy – where that suddenly doesn’t seem simple at all?

Comments»

1. workers republic - August 30, 2013

I think there are several reasons. Processed breakfast “cerials”,i.e. Corn Flakes, ( John Seamore wrote that the packet contained more nurishment!), Rice Crispies etc. don’t require cooking, so,are very convenient for a mother getting children ready for school in the morning.
There’s another side to that. Promotions and advertising aimed at children.Coupons on the packet, to be collected to get a “dinkey” or some small cheap toy.
Weetabix became very popular,due to massive TV advertising. It was promoted as a healthy breakfast food,as oat porrige is, when in fact it contains quite a bit of sugar. Fizzie drinks,basically coloured water contain about a cup of sugar per 2 litre bottle. Big money is spent advertising such drinks, sugar is addictive to many people and we see the consequences in rising levels diabetes.
On the positive side more people are shopping in Farmers Markets for local wholesome food

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2. Bluethroat - August 30, 2013

On the general issue of food we here in Ireland have to start to think in terms of food sovereignty.

The radical Left has a role in leading this debate. As oil becomes increasingly scarcer over the coming decades food production will have to become more localised.

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workers republic - August 31, 2013

Good point.food sovereignity and public ownership of water. +1

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