who is feeding the children?

Fat kid 

We were at The Big Banana in Coffs Harbour last week, such a hoot, and took the kids back a couple of days later to the water slide park they have there. Also a hoot.

More so for Tilly who tore down the biggest slides possible while Henry was much more reticent and preferred to sit at our picnic table and nibble rockmelon.

So while Adam went up and down enormous water slides with our adrenaline-junkie two year old, I sat with Henry at the picnic table and thought about food. Not unusual for me. 

On our table Tammy and I had food for five small kids. Rockmelon, multigrain vegemite sandwiches, corn thins spread with hummus and as a treat, muesli bars. 

Pretty typical, right? Probably what you're feeding your kids as snacks.

Just a little way off on the table next door was a big plate of lollies. Two plates of chips. Hot dogs. Red cordial. Henry kept a covert eye on the feast and would have insinuated himself to the party if given half a chance.

Because it was a party, the kids, older than ours, came leaping off the waterslides and onto the treats. And they were big kids. And I don't mean age-wise. Interestingly the two supervising adults weren't, but the 7 or 8 kids all were. 

It bugged me. I still can't articulate why. It's party food at a party, each to their own and all that. Except pretty obviously we have a problem with heavy kids. And who can say what these kids are eating for recess and lunch but somehow I'm doubting it's fruit and crackers and the occasional yoghurt.

Is the problem more input or lack of output?

And I found myself talking to Tam about it afterwards, wondering whether working women just get so sick of putting steamed chicken and vegetables in front of whining children when they know if they deliver chips or pizza they'll be thanked.

I felt like garroting myself. So it's women's fault? Childhood obesity is the fault of worn out working women?? 

Of course it isn't.

And of course it's not about apportioning blame, it's about everyone making fresh good food choices. Which is what Jamie Oliver tried to do in English schools and what canteens around Australia are attempting to do. Wouldn't it be interesting to review school canteens by area and see if the quality of food offered is even. 

My friend Estelle gave me a fabulous book last Christmas called Eating Between The Lines: Food and Equality in Australia which I thought was very interesting although I felt the research didn't go far enough. 

It's something I'd like to do a lot more reading on.

One thing worries me though: it's so much harder to swap kids from chips to carrot sticks at 10 yrs old than at say, 3. We control their food in the early years, although I'm careful to stress that women are not responsible for this health epidemic. We tend to shop, prepare and serve. 

Maybe there's a way to make it easier for people. 'Grub Organics' weeks-worth-of-snack-boxes? Organic, additive-free, low sodium, low sugar, low fat snack options. 

Maybe a party pack option.

Hey, there's a business idea in that.

Your thoughts?


8 Comments on “who is feeding the children?

From one who gives high 5s to anyone who has fruit or vege in their lunchbox
October 21, 2009 at 8:23 pm

As a teacher, I see countless lunchboxes and over the last 15 years, I’d have to say the problem won’t be solved by just one solution. People packing kids’ lunchboxes are motivated by many different things (guilt, ignorance, money, child’s food preferences, peer pressure, advertising and so on) but the most common denominators are probably lack of time and thought.
After speaking to parents from a variety of backgrounds, it really does appear they haven’t consciously thought about the implications of what they pack day after day. I think most pack the box one day at a time and never truly take a look at the total food intake of the child. One snack on one day is not going to harm anyone but everyday? it stops being a treat and the snack becomes expected. Then the packer then moves on to place another treat to give the child something special which becomes an expectation by the child and so on. People have lost sight of what are treats and that treats are for once a week (or less). Anyway, I’m climbing back off my soap box now… πŸ˜›

October 21, 2009 at 8:59 pm

Such a great topic Fiona. What gets me is children in prams drinking coke!
Kids are generally fussy in some way so I always thought, every bite food going into their mouth had to count. As they got older I relaxed this a bit, we are lucky we have no allergies and (at the moment) stick thin children.
But also I am a working mum (full-time) and I make the time every morning to pack a healthy lunch ~ wholemeal sandwiches, pieces of fruit for fruit break, and whole fruit for lunch, fruit puree (this is the treat) plus a home-made treat (I make sure I bake enough to keep them in lunchbox and after school snacks). I like to keep their food as wholesome and as close to the source as possible. They get fast food now and then, but there are no lollies or chips on offer for snacks and I rarely allow soft drink.
Good habits do last a life-time. I think it is important as parents to emphasise with our children the importance of healthy eating.
Now I’ll get off my soap box!

October 21, 2009 at 10:54 pm

I constantly struggle with a fussy eater and it would be so easy to give into him a lot more than I do but I just have to keep telling myself the following – no kid is going to starve themselves. I control what is in the house and they control what goes in their mouth. I can’t force feed him but if it is not available he can’t have it…….
(I am trying to tell myself this too). It is hard to do and I can see how some would end up just feeding their kids whatever makes them happy.
Something that you need to consider with this topic is that most of the time “junk” food is cheaper as well as easier to come by. The majority of people out there are not going to be able to afford organic let alone your weeks-worth-of-snack-boxes. This point was emphasised earlier in the year with the debate going on over the fact that McDonalds Australia was proposing to increase prices in lower income areas because they know that the people there will keep buying their product – presumably because it is still a cheap and easy option.

Alex Nolan
October 22, 2009 at 6:21 am


Has anyone got, or read, Annabel Karmel’s After School Meal Planner? It is a great book for fab, quick healthy meals and snacks – including the treats!

As far as things go in our house… James will eat anything,
Edward has a packed lunch every day that consists of a peanut butter sandwich, banana (or apple, kiwi, orange), a yoghurt and a packet of raisins (that have been returned every day for 2 weeks!). What else can I put in it? I am lost for ingenious ideas that he might actually eat.
William. Ah, William. 9 months. Gone off solids. Won’t eat mush, might eat finger food. No finger food fills him up, therefore still waking at night. PLEASE HELP ME…..

Anyway, I don’t have a soap box, just questions….


October 22, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Perhaps they should be fed with the can of worms you’ve just opened, Fi. I believe it’s all about education and geography, social, economic and cultural backgrounds. And too many easy alternatives to good home cooked meals. It’s a complex issue that I’d love to discuss sometime in person. But for now, give em the worms. SORRY, ‘offer’ them the worms, if they refuse don’t shout and cry and feel useless and a bad mother… simply SCRAPE the plate into the bin… they’ll eat when they’re hungry, apparently. Glass of wine?

The High 5er
October 22, 2009 at 9:06 pm

LOL to nest! πŸ™‚ Love it.

October 22, 2009 at 10:40 pm

I bought Anabel Karmel’s First Foods cookbook. I loved it so much that I give it for baby shower presents. I think it’s so important to introduce our children to a good foundation of food early on. I can do you one better though…I’m in America. You want a hot mess of fat people? Check out our statistics. I’m not sure what the prices are like over there, but it’s actually cheaper here to buy processed foods then to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. We have some strict unwritten rules where I live, New York (not the city!) about kids and soda (never should the two mix), but my sister lives in the southeast (the Carolinas…South Carolina to be specific), and she was telling me that at all of the birthdays for 5 and 6 year-olds, Mountain Dew is a standard kid beverage. WHAT?!?! Not only a sugar-laden soda, but one that contains CAFFEINE! I’m so outraged by the way we feed our children. I think advertising and parents who don’t know better (they tend to tout the it-was-good-enough-for-me attitude)are responsible for the obesity epidemic in children. I’d also like to extend some blame to those electric carts they have in stores so that obese people don’t have to walk to get their groceries, if I may.

October 23, 2009 at 11:11 am

it’s frightening watching other people shop isn’t it?
i’m not perfect – i’ll occasionally pop a family sized packet of crisps into the trolley or maybe some tim tams if they’re on special but the sheer amounts of frozen foods that people seem to consider necessary to feed children scares me.
frozen pizzas and pies and sausage rolls and ice cream etc etc –
and that’s to feed two small and already overweight children ( a recent trip to the store where she was in front of me at the checkout)

Ideally i would prefer that my boys ( 11 and 5) only ate fresh fruit or raw vegetables before dinner but i do slip sometimes and get lazy
thanks for the reminder


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