Yesterday, I wrote about The Walt Disney Company’s licensing agreement with Imagination Farms (I-Farms) to market the Disney Garden line of produce. While not a fan of no-good-deed-going-unpunished, I expressed my disappointment in one of the world’s most powerful brands getting into the produce business (read more).
Today, I wanted to share with you some of Imagination Farms “favorite ideas to help you get your kids excited about fruits and vegetables and help them start eating more.” As you read, I encourage you to consider who is really benefitting. Kids? Parents? Disney? (My comments are contained within [sample]. Everything else is from I-Farms.com).
- Look for Disney Garden branded fruits and vegetables. The exciting packaging that includes their favorite characters, as well as informational games and activities will help them relate to the products. [While Mickey Mouse may have done some gardening in a cartoon, shouldn’t we be showcasing farmers or their farms?]
- My Favorite Foods: Have your child make a list of their favorite foods. Make sure the list includes at least 3 fruits and 3 veggies. Then make sure that you always have those items in the house and include them in your cooking. [Good idea, especially if they add to the list from time to time.]
- Fruit & Veggie Quest: Kids tend to not want to eat things that they don’t know what it is [Excuse me? Considering how much highly processed and fast foods kids eat, this made me laugh]. Take them shopping with you and have them pick out at least one new vegetable and one new fruit every week. When you bring the item home, talk about its appearance, flavor, texture and other important characteristics of why they chose the new fruit and veggies. You can even spend time together on the internet researching where the item came from and new recipes of how to use it [Since not all Disney Garden produce is organic, this could make for some interesting conversations]. This will help your child feel engaged.
- Chart It: Use the Good Food Gauge on this web site to track your child’s eating habits. This fun and easy tool provides rewards as well. The goal is to eat at least 5 or more fruits and vegetables every day. [Now things start to get interesting, as kids are encouraged to visit heavily Disney brand web site to tell them where they live, what they like, what they eat, etc., while engaging Disney characters in various activities. Unfortunately, farmers are invisible except in the Parents section]
- Collect It: Look for fruit with Disney Garden stickers on it. Have your children print out the collectible pages on our website and then look for that fruit in the store. This will encourage them to try new fruits and collect the stickers like baseball cards and bubblegum [Wow! You can print of 17 different pages with different combinations of produce and then put the little stickers on fruits and vegetables on the pages. At least this will reduce the chance of the stickers ending up in the compost. Who needs baseball cards!].
- Snack Attack: Be sure to have snack size fruits and vegetables cut up in your refrigerator and ready for your little ones to snack on. The easier it is… the more they will eat. [The “eat more” message I found in several places is not the same as eating the right amount. Can’t someone start saying “eat less”, other than Michael Pollan?]
- Play With Your Food: Kids love to be creative. Look at our kid friendly recipes and help your kids create fun kid friendly fruit and vegetable snacks. [This and the next two items seem like they should be at the top of the list. Unfortunately, building the Disney brand is most important.]
- A Family That Cooks Together: Have your children help you prepare dinner. They can wash the fruits and vegetables, peel the corn or other activities that will make them responsible for their food and help them learn about fruits and vegetables. [See #7]
- Grow With Me: Pick an item to grow in a garden, flowerbed or pot. A tomato works great for this project. The child can help plant the seeds and take care of the plant. This will help them learn about where food comes from and they will value fresh food that they grew.[See #7]
- Healthy Kid Clue: Requires kids to – you guessed it – go to the I-Farms website to learn more by entering package code on the web site. [Every visit offers Disney another opportunity to learn more about brand preferences (characters not carrots).]
At first, it seemed like Disney was doing the right thing, but after considering everything I was able to find, I’m convinced that branding real food (e.g., fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk) with non-food brands (e.g., Disney which is branding all four) is about the worst thing we can do. It further distances people from where their food is coming from, and does nothing to increase the financial rewards going to the hardworking people that grow our food.
We need real change in our food system, not more Mickey Mouse ideas.
Supporter of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays
I guess I’m not convinced that getting kids to eat more fruits and vegetables is completely evil. I do agree that Disney is entirely motivated by profit margin and by the desire to get kids hooked on their brand at an early age. (I don’t dispute any of your commentary, not at all.) But Disney discontinuing the McDonald’s relationship – if that’s actually what they’re doing – and replacing it with a line of fresh produce (at least some of which is organic) seems like a step in the right direction. Did I get it wrong?
2 points I’ve been thinking a lot about:
1. When a big company starts selling local and/or organic food, is that bad?
2. Does it matter WHY someone does something if the results are largely positive?
I don’t care much for Disney for a whole host of reasons (“Fast Food Nation” has a good, solid list, as you know). I’m looking forward to hearing your perspective on these other points as well.
Thanks for a great, informative post,
Thanks for the comment. I appreciate your candor and will attempt to respond in kind.
If I had to choose between Disney promoting fresh produce (organic or otherwise) or Happy Meals, then its an open and shut case in favor of fruits and vegetables, since Disney’s brand has the ability to attract such attention. And I’m pretty sure I did not say or imply that its actions were evil. What does concern me is that produce, and real food in general, is not something that should be branded by a company that has nothing to do with growing and/or processing the food. It is already difficult enough for farmers of these specialty crops to make any money. Adding Disney to the mix only makes things worse in my opinion.
In response to your two specific questions, I don’t equate big to mean bad, in terms of company size, as long as the company is actively engaged in the value chain. Disney is not, and is simply exploiting its “socially responsible” actions to promote its entertainment brands. They did it with Happy Meals, which also drove me crazy. Regarding whether it matters why someone or something does something if the results are largely positive, my answer depends on who is defining “positive.” On the surface, Disney’s actions appear to be “positive” by mainstream accounts. I guess I’m not “mainstream,” as I think that the branding of produce will have adverse impacts that we don’t see yet, e.g., more non-food companies jumping in to brand produce and other real foods.
With more and more people wanting to eat better, its time to give farmers their opportunity to shine…and make a decent living.
An “orange” alone isn’t a brand – it doesn’t stand for anything. If someone can brand that orange and sell more, especially to people who were not buying oranges before, that is a good thing. It increases the market and market potential for everyone – and that is good for the person producing the orange, too.
If your idea is to put a sticker on an orange with a farmer’s picture, etc., go for it. It is a great idea.
Yet that does not mean others should be put down for their approach to marketing fruit and veggies, or “exploiting” their considerable brand.
In walking down the isle of a grocery store or thumbing through the weekly ads, I can’t find a single company that hasn’t done something to push its brand – its products. From name brands to generics. All have their own set of marketing talking points. “Washington Apples!!” “Fresh Florida Orange Juice!!” It goes on and on.
All farmers work hard to earn a living, and all look for better ways to sell more of what they produce at a better price. But picking winners and losers based on how their wares are marketed seems to be a bit condescending and elitist.
I see potential. Getting kids excited about something lets them explore it. Opportunity. That is what we do with our kids homeschooling them. Works great.
Then the question to ask is do you trust Disney to do this for you?
Mike: While an orange by itself isn’t a brand, it surely stands for many things. Depending on how it was grown and transported to market, it is a real food with natural nutritional value, flavors and taste. It also represents a potential ingredient in making other foods, e.g., orange juice. And in a way it represents sunshine. Like other products, e.g., pasta manufactured by General Mills, oranges are “manufactured” by farmers. Giving non-food companies (e.g., Disney) a foothold in being recognized as providers of fruits and vegetables concerns me, since it will make it increasingly difficult for farmers to do the same. And while most farmers are not branding themselves today, I can see innovative regional food systems, including specialty food retail outlets, where farms/farmers are the brands, where they capture more value for their products in the marketplace, and where they are experience growth in sales, profits, and production. We can get there, but only if we change the game.
Walter: Let’s take Disney Garden’s to the next level. Imagine 5-10 major international brands jumping into branding fruits, vegetables, eggs, etc. How do you think that will impact small, regional farms? Will they be able to sell more/less product? Will they be able to make more/less money? For me, this is more than just getting kids to eat more fruits and vegetables. It’s about building sustainability into our food system, including health, economic and environmental sustainability. It’s about developing strong, vibrant regional economies and communities build around food. It’s blending large and small farms to ensure supply for all that demand real food.
Speaking as a creator of art (photos, writing, inventions, etc) my hesitation on Disney in particular is I don’t like what they did with the Digital Millenium Copyrights Act (DMCA). Copyright shouldn’t last forever minus a day, a stance Disney pushed.
Works are created within the context of society and on the shoulders of all those who created before. Eventually works should go into the public domain. Disney fought this so I don’t have much trust for them.
The old “Evil is as Evil does” question of if they’re doing bad things in one area I’m not trusting them to do good in other areas. I don’t trust Disney to do anything except work for their own greed.
The interesting mix on that is Steve Jobs who is now in the play at Disney. Will he make a difference? Corporations are often molded strongly by people in power. I have a lot of respect for him. We’ll see what happens.
Oh, what an interesting debate. I’m not sure where I come down either.
For now, I put more weight on the fact that more kids are eating more fruits and vegetables, and that’s pretty much always got to be a good thing.
I’m kinda viewing this the way I view Wal-Mart selling organics. Sure, it may be Big-O organics shipped thousands of miles, but it’s a step in the right direction.
So, on the whole, I’m encouraged, even though I greatly distrust this sort of branding.
Thanks for joining in the Fight Back Friday fun today!