Friday, March 30, 2007

Constant Crap: Food Advertising Aimed At Children

The Kaiser Family Foundation released a report yesterday of its study of television advertising in America aimed at children.

The findings showed that American kids view several commericals a day on average, the largest proportion of which are for food products. Below are the shocking numbers:

What's even more troubling is the kind of so-called food that is being marketed to children - almost all of it is artifical, processed and unhealthy.

What level of damage is this massive barrage of marketing mind control doing to our children?

As a parent of three children below the age of 15, I sometimes find myself struggling to help them develop the attitudes and knowledge they need to make smart choices about eating. And my kids DO NOT watch very much television, so they are not being exposed to these food ads for the most part.

Unfortunately, advertising crap to children is just the tip of the iceberg of a bigger problem that this country has with its dysfunctional perceptions and attitudes about food. McDonald's is revered more than reviled as an icon of American values - i.e., the quick, the easy, the convenient, the standardized and the profitable.

It's free enterprise. Anything goes. Let the market decide. Freedom of speech. Allow the consumer to choose. Yeah right. Continue using advertising to seduce kids and adults into consuming nutritionally deficient and unhealthy food. Let big corporations define our values. Make a bundle doing it. That's the American way.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Promising Innovation in Local Agriculture

Today's Boston Globe Food section features an article about a new greenhouse operation in Maine run by one of my Carlise, MA neighbors, Paul Sellew.

They grow tomatoes, known as Backyard Beauties, year round in an in-door nursery/greenhouse.

This is a very intriguing idea with great potential to expand the supply of locally-grown fruits and vegetables particularly in areas of the country with a limited growing season.

Despite my Utopian yearning for the return of lots of small family farms across America, economic realities make it unlikely that enough land can ever reclaimed for this purpose.

But creating nurseries and greenhouses using sustainable energy and agricultural methods might just be the thing to dramatically increase local produce production.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Quantity Over Quality

Portion sizes, like American waistlines, have been slowly but relentlessly inching outward. Despite all the happy talk about healthy and balanced eating that you hear, many Americans seem to prefer quantity over quality when they go out to a restaurant.

And according to an article in today's New York Times, "Will Diners Still Swallow This?", the profit models of many restaurant chains are built around the notion of providing diners with massive amounts of cheap calories. Apparently, the bigger the portion sizes they provide, the more they charge and the greater profits they make.

The article contains a wonderful graphic which shows that a typical chain restaurant main dinner course of pasta contains almost the entire daily allowance of calories for an adult.

The article also talks about how one chain, TGI Friday's, is taking what the restaurant industry considers to be a bold and risky step - reducing portion sizes and charging less for them.

Just another of the crazy consequences that result from applying mass production models to food production and consumption.