In a 2015 post titled “Letting Off Some Steam,” I vented my frustration over the fact that this artificially-colored and -flavored frozen blue dessert from SideKicks qualifies as a school food “fruit.” That’s because it’s made from 100% fruit juice (albeit with a lot of stabilizers), which can be served to kids in lieu of fruit up to half the time under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA):
What bothered me more than the mere existence of this product was the way it was marketed to school food directors: “This is one fruit credit that never winds up in the trash.” Aargh!! As I noted back then, “Maybe if we stopped offering kids bright blue Italian ices instead of fruit, we might increase the chances they’d eat an actual piece of fruit?”
Maybe it’s unfair of me to take a second bite at the apple (or a second spoonful of frozen dessert, as it were) by once again picking on this particular brand, SideKicks. But yesterday I happened to notice an ad for two new SideKicks juice desserts – products which count as “vegetables” under the HHFKA.
So instead of exposing school kids to more of these foods:
A district can serve these, up to half the time:
SideKicks is not alone, of course, in turning whole fruits and vegetables into “kid-friendly” products that bear no resemblance to the real thing. Indeed, there are aisles and aisles of such products in every American grocery store:
But what particularly irks me about SideKicks and similar products marketed to school food directors is that they totally subvert the cafeteria’s potential to serve as a nutrition education classroom. One of the clear goals of the HHFKA was to regularly expose children to a wider variety of fruits and vegetables, but turning those foods into hyper-palatable, highly processed products does nothing more than reinforce kids’ abiding love of junk food.
I have a lot more to say about this topic – so much so that I’m in the middle of writing a book about it. (The book isn’t coming out until 2019, but it’s never too early to start plugging, right? 🙂 ) And I’d love to hear your thoughts, too. Leave me a comment below or on The Lunch Tray’s Facebook page.
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