ColumnWhat if we saw snack foods for what they really are?
Cheese puffs, bags of mini chocolate chip cookies and caramel chocolate bars, that’s what good snacks are made of, right?
Of course we all know better than that, but if you were to take a look into the vending machines of most schools over the past few years, you might have thought otherwise. Companies spend around $149 million a year on marketing to kids in schools, most of it going to beverages. To change that, the Obama administration has implemented new rules in regards to food and advertising in schools, part of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative.
Part of it involves offering up healthier snack foods than the good ol’ regular vending machine options. The new USDA standards include limits on calories, sodium and sugar. Snack foods with grains must have at least 50 percent of whole grains, or have whole grains listed as the first ingredient. That means no more Frito-Lay’s Cheetos Oven Baked Flamin’ Hot Cheese Flavored Snacks and other assorted culinary fineries.
Ready for the really shocking result? Kids are not happy about it. “Michelle Obama is single-handedly ruining my life by changing school lunch and the vending machines,” tweeted a student, one of many complaints that students have been making online. Here are a few more gems from the Twitterverse:
“michelle obama killing me putting whole grain rice krispies treats in the vending machine this is unamerican and just plain cruel”
“Everytime I think of Michelle Obama taking away the good vending machine I just want to eat a big mac! #Youdontownmemichelle #takethat”
“Me and Michelle Obama gonna fight if I dont see chewy sweettarts in the vending machine tomorrow”
Yeah, she’s pretty terrible, that Obama lady. Who does she think she is trying to get you to eat more carrots? That’s just grotesque.
That kind of response is of course ridiculous, and I feel that the only real appropriate counter response to it is this amazing trailer for a fake film called Snackpocalypse.
Ah yes, the issue of snack foods turning kids into zombies.
But wait, that’s not really that absurd of a claim. After all, unhealthy snack foods affect our brains and our bodies. Too much sugar is linked to mental health problems and lethargy. It’s one of the most addictive substances out there – eight times more so than cocaine – and companies are happy to keep feeding it to us, putting us all into a sugar-dazed state. Sound like a zombie apocalypse yet?
Sure, snack foods high in fat and sugar aren’t going to turn you into a real zombie, but how they do make you feel isn’t that far off.
So good on Michelle Obama for working to tighten up nutritional guidelines, and for cracking down on food companies marketing to kids in school. Because if anything, we don’t need fewer guidelines, we need more. Pair that with better education about real food and you can be sure that we’ll be well on our way to avoiding the snackpocalypse.
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This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’ weekly column at EcoSalon: Foodie Underground, an exploration of what’s new and different in the underground movement, and how we make the topic of good food more accessible to everyone. More musings on the topic can be found at www.foodieunderground.com.
Image: Phil Whitehouse