Yesterday Maya and I went to the Imagination Playground near South Street Seaport. (http://imaginationplayground.com/) It is an awesome place, with sand and sprinklers and all kinds of blue foam pieces which allow you to build your own stuff. Here is Maya building her own stuff:
Lots of fun. While we were there a camp group from somewhere in the Bronx showed up in their bright orange so-you-don't-lose-a-kid-in-the-park t-shirts to eat their lunch. (Believe me no one was getting lost in these shirts!) Maya was very busy singing and dancing through the water so I had ample opportunity to watch the campers eat their lunches. Here is what I saw:
- Numerous bags of Cheese Doodles, Doritos, Fritos and other "ito" variants
- One bag of Funyons. (ewwww)
- One GIANT bag of Smartfood popcorn because apparently if it is slightly healthy it needs to be super sized. One boy was eating it. A large boy. At least someone in his house was trying.
- No fewer than four bottles of Arizona Fruit Punch (which is clearly labeled $1.00), cheaper than almost all bottled water
- Five different flavors of Gatorade
- A package of Oreos.
- Three different kinds of candy
- One sandwich. That is right I only saw one kid actually eating anything that isn't sold in the snack aisle. Of course I couldn't see everyone.
- One bottle of Poland Spring.
And like I said, I couldn't see everyone.
These campers were around nine or ten years old, probably not old enough to have packed their own lunches, although if they had I am sure nothing would have changed. But a parent did this. A grownup sent these kids off to camp with their sugary drinks, their chips and their candy. Is it because Doritos and Gatorade are all their child will consume? Is it because they just don't know any better? Is it because an Arizona Ice Tea costs less than an apple, and a bag of Cheetos is only 50 cents? It cannot be a coincidence that all of these campers are from a poor neighborhood and all of them have the same thing for lunch. Who is to blame, the parents, or the world they live in?
I take back what I said in my previous blog post. Forget freedom, make it ALL illegal! Make it illegal for children under 18 to buy soda. Make it illegal for Mc Donalds to package their food with toys. Make it illegal for stores to charge more for vegetables than potato chips, more for milk than Hawaiian Punch. Get rid of those neon colored drinks that you can buy at the corner bodega for a quarter. Stop putting sugar in EVERYTHING, from applesauce (which is sweet already!) to cereal, to peanut butter, to Rice-a-Roni. Not everything needs to taste like candy.
Make it illegal for parents to pack lunches like this. Then make it easier (and cheaper) for them to pack something else. And if they don't know what to pack, teach them!
Why bother? Because the children are our future. (Thank you Whitney Houston, may you rest in peace.) Presumably you sent your kid to camp for them to get exercise and fresh air. I know you don't think the other stuff matters. I know it is what your mom gave you as a kid and you grew up fine. But please. It matters. They are young and their growing bodies deserve better than Funyions and Fruit Punch.
You can start small. All the salt in those chips are going to make your kid incredibly thirsty. Pack a bottle of water. When he is done drinking it he can use it to start a water fight with his buddies. Because no one wants a face-full of sticky orange Gatorade.