At the risk of sounding like a food cop, I wanted to share a little parenting that's going on in my house. My son, who I have written about before, is now 3 1/2. One of the great joys I get is hearing him say "Can I have an apple?" or "Can I have some grapes Daddy?"
While he is far more brand aware than I would like (Daddy...Best Buy is a lovely place, isn't it?), he is not asking for Fruit Snacks or Fruit Roll-Ups or Fruit Gushers. Last night we snacked on a yellow seedless watermelon. And one of his favorite places to go in New Jersey (as well as in Ann Arbor where we used to live) is the Farmer's Market. Hooray!
And so it is with some enthusiasm that I see that the Children's Advertising Review Unit has prevailed on General Mills and Kellogg to revamp labeling and marketing of such faux fruit packaged, processed products that say "Contains real fruit" so youngsters do not get the idea that somehow they are eating something as good as an apple, grape or orange as God and the farmers intended them to be.
Henry is at the age when he is being confronted with food choices that we don't specifically control. The other night, while we were hanging with the neighbors down the street, he got into a bag of Cheese Doodles and ate four of five before I realized what was happening. No, I didn't get hysterical. And at his pre-school camp, I learned that they are making Jell-O and eating it as a snack. Again, it's fine. I ate many a dish of cherry and lime Jell-O as a kid and turned out to be a reasonably healthy bloke with a bank account, drivers license and loving family. In good time, we will be telling him about what a better choice is.
I feel a bit frustrated that the techniques of branding campaigns from companies like Best Buy, Applebees, McDonald's and even Home Depot are getting to him before I can really educate him about properly discerning brands and food choices. But CARU is doing some good work here if they can get the food giants to back off confusing Henry about what's real fruit and what isn't on the labeling. If the companies are sincere, it could make my job a little easier. And I'm all for that. Of course, when he bites into a peach perfectly ripened to late summer sweetness or knocks back a couple of beautiful Michigan cherries, he won't be confused about what "real fruit" is if somebody happens to offer him a Cherry flavored Gusher or Roll-up that says it contains "some" "real fruit." Educating our kids about what "real fruit" really is should be at the top of our priority list, esecially when the summer-fall bounty is upon us. Will there be a day when I see him opt for a faux fruit processed product instead of an apple or grape? Probably. I think I'll cry when that day arrives. And then we'll talk again and, hopefully, go to the Farmer's Market.