Last week I had to dash into a Whole Foods at 6:00pm to grab items for that night’s dinner — with two famished kids in tow. (If you’re a parent, you know how fun that scenario can be.)
As soon as we entered the store we were greeted by a friendly Whole Foods employee offering us brownies and glasses of lemonade. Of course my hungry kids made a beeline to the table, oblivious to my plaintive cries of “Wait! Hold on! We’re about to eat dinner!” Feeling guilty that our meal wasn’t already on the table at 6:00pm, I sighed in resignation: “Fine, you can have some lemonade — but no brownies!”
I was getting my shopping cart when my kids came back to tell me that the lemonade cost a dollar a glass. I looked over at the store employee who explained that the lemonade and brownies were being offered in exchange for a dollar donation to the Whole Kids Foundation.
It was hard not to be struck by the irony: the Whole Kids Foundation is, according to its own mission statement, dedicated to “help[ing] kids learn to love fresh, nutritious, whole foods,” but to raise funds it was enticing my kids with brownies and lemonade.
Oh, whatever, I thought, ruefully. I support the foundation, I’d already agreed to the lemonade and mostly I just wanted to get on with my shopping. So I bit my tongue, handed each kid a dollar and started fishing around in my purse for my shopping list.
And then I overheard this exchange between the solicitous store employee and my kids:
[TLT offspring shake their heads mutely.]
Whole Foods Guy: The foundation is working to bring salad bars to schools. Do either of you have a salad bar in your school?
TLT offspring: No.
Whole Foods Guy [while handing over the sugary drinks]: Well, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to get one in your school, and then you can start learning about eating healthy!
OK, that did it. I walked over to the table.
Me: Um, that’s a really great goal but don’t you think it’s a little inconsistent to use lemonade and brownies to raise the money for it?
Whole Foods Guy [stammering]: Wow. That’s a great point, actually. But I’m just an employee here and I don’t make these decisions . . .
Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve encountered the incongruous use of sugary or other junk foods to raise money for kids’ health or fitness. I’ve described here the tables full of junk food sold to young dancers at their weekend clinic to raise money for the dance team, and, on a much larger scale, a PepsiCo promotion that required the purchase of snacks like Doritos to raise money for school athletics. But somehow you don’t expect to see this going on at Whole Foods, of all places.*
I assured the Whole Foods employee that I didn’t hold him responsible and it was all very friendly. Then my kids and I moved on to the produce area where I was met with:
Deeply mortified TLT Teen: Oh my GOD, Mom! REALLY???
Yeah, it’s hard to be my kid sometimes. . . . .
* I was curious to know if the brownie and lemonade fundraiser was going on nationwide (Whole Foods has dedicated the month of September to raising money for the foundation) so the next day I called Whole Foods headquarters in Austin. A representative in the company’s marketing and communications department told me that managers have autonomy in deciding how to raise money for the foundation and she believes the brownies and lemonade are only being offered in stores in the Houston metro area. In other geographic areas, she told me, fundraisers have included other sorts of events like outdoor grilling stations.
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