KID FOOD (Hint: the cards are stacked against you, but they’re beginning to tumble)

Just in time for our kids’ favorite holiday Halloween, when even the most restrained parents cross over to the dark side, our good friend, the public health crusader Bettina Elias Siegel is releasing her long awaited book- ten years in the making- KID FOOD: The Challenge of feeding children in a highly processed world.

The work is remarkable in many ways, most notably because it is a broad overview of the cluttered and mine-filled kid food landscape. It identifies the challenges and potentials for triumph that ordinary families have in the obesogenic environment. In beautiful, and very accessible prose, Bettina pulls the curtain on the nefarious industry practices of advertising directly to children, taking advantage of exhausted and wary parents and using cartoon characters and other enticements to lure the most vulnerable to the least healthy options.

Even the most media-savvy, well-intentioned parents find themselves in the crosshairs when feeding their young kids. Consider the challenge of cooking scratch-based home-cooked meals when elementary school palates are accustomed to chicken nuggets and pizza for lunch (chocolate milk, too), doughnuts and oreos for birthday parties and Mister Softee as an after school treat. Steamed broccoli and roast chicken just don’t have the same allure to this crowd.

For many decades consumer packaged goods companies like Coca Cola have opaquely poured millions into shifting the obesity paradigm to put the onus on individuals, rather than corporations (they have done the same with recycling as Sharon Lerner reports in the Intercept). Thanks to a sustained spotlight on sponsored research by public health figures like Marion Nestle the tide is shifting and consumers are growing more interested in transparency and the food system. But can it come quickly enough?

As big trade groups like the Grocery Manufacturers Association disband and voices like Bettina’s and our friend food journalist-turned school food reform advocate Andrea Strong‘s continue to propel this critically important segment of the food movement to the spotlight, we are empowered to demand reforms in school food and the broader environment. And there is hope for our kids, who know we are fighting the good fight.

Have a great Halloween!