Tag Archives: Michael Pollan

10 Ways Mickey Mouse Can Get Kids to Eat More Veggies

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).

  1. 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?]
  2. 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.]
  3. 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.
  4. 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]
  5. 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!].
  6. 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?]
  7. 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.]
  8. 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]
  9. 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]
  10. 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

Related Posts:

  • Disney Garden: A Figment of Our Imagination
  • Follow me on Twitter: Jambutter
  • Man v. Nature on Soil and Food: Nature 2, Man 0

    While diligently planning my family’s significantly larger vegetable garden (thinking Victory Gardens), especially studying how to care for the soil, I was struck by the similar paths that soil and food have travelled during the industrialization of our food system.

    Let me explain.

    According to one of my favorite gardening books, Shepard Ogden’s Straight-Ahead Organic, published by Chelsea Green (a favorite publisher), the chapter on Caring for the Soil opens as follows:

    By volume, a productive garden soil is 25 percent air, 25 percent water, 40 to 45 percent minerals, and about 5 percent organic matter, including a whole Noah’s Ark of plants and animals ranging from microscopic fungi and bacteria to worms, insects, and burrowing mammals.

    Seemed pretty straight forward; until I read the very next sentence:

    A double handful of this soil contains more organisms, mostly microscopic, than there are people on Earth.

    Granted, this book was original published in 1992, so the world population was approximately 1.3 billion less than today, but there were still an estimated 5.4 billion people on the planet, so we are talking about near-astronomical concentrations for such a small space. Despite this incredible diversity, a fateful decision was made to change how we would feed this highly complex, fertile soil.

    Quickly, here are three key contributors to that decision:

    1. German chemist Justus von Liebig’s determination that plants primarily need nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (mid 1800s; you’ll likely recognize this as the “N-P-K” found on nearly every bag of fertilizer)
    2. German chemist Fritz Haber’s method of synthesizing ammonia (won him 1918 Nobel Prize in chemistry; described by some as “father of chemical warfare”)
    3. End of World War II, which left the military-industrial complex with the need for new markets, since demand for explosives and warfare chemistry dropped off significantly

    Industry found its way to repurpose factories by industrializing a major component in growing food – “feeding the soil.”  The products? Chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  But it turns out that the industrial food system they built, which has made many corporations a lot of money, can not be sustained (assuming a triple-bottom-line v. profit only perspective). Yes, it produces massive amounts of food, much of it inedible monoculture crops used in feeding livestock and producing sweeteners and oils for processed food.  But the price our soil has had to pay is “a legacy of death, destruction, and pollution that continues to this day,” quoting Shepard Ogden.

    How does this relate to food?

    Through decades of research (mostly funded by food companies), marketing claims (often contradicting other claims), and hundreds of billions of dollars spent on advertising those claims, we have ended up with food retail shelves dominated by highly processed, fake foods. These “edible food-like substances”, as Michael Pollan likes to call them, provide consumers with one or more key nutrients that are supposedly key to healthy living, at least according to the ideology of nutritionism (read more).

    Unfortunately, for consumers, fake food has done a poor job mimicking the actual nutritional value, flavor and experience of highly complex, yet 100% natural, real food.  It wasn’t that long ago that Americans ate real food, which was used in preparing nearly every home or restaurant-cooked meal.

    Like soil, we have not come close to understanding food well enough to replicate it in an industrial system. Some may say I’m crazy as they point to the claims and supermarket shelves filled with fake foods. But like the “death, destruction, and pollution” propogated by chemical fertilizers and pesticides, fake food has its own dark side, including obesity, diabetes, shortened life spans, fewer specialty crop farms, dead soil, dead zones in our oceans, massive carbon emissions, bankrupt local economies, etc.

    It’s high time we return to a simple organic principle (no USDA labels required). Feed the soil, so the soil can feed the plants, so the plants can feed us. Even better, do so in a way that ensures we leave the soil richer and more productive than we found it – without chemicals.  That, in turn, will allow us to accelerate the supply of real food to replace as much fake foods as we can, as fast as we can.

    A tall order, no doubt. But considering the alternative, do we really have a choice?

    4 Simple Food Strategies to Live By

    I woke up this morning with an Earth Day hang over, not from drinking too much, but from consuming way to much information.  Being on Twitter yesterday was like facing a fire house with an endless, and I mean endless supply of water.  Great energy.  Let’s just hope it lasts.

    Being sensitive to my “information hangover,” I am dedicating this post to brevity by offering four simple ways for each of us to eat better until next Earth Day.  

    1. Do not get fat; if you are fat, reduce. Favor fresh vegetables and fruits. Avoid heavy use of salt and refined sugar. Get plenty of exercise and outdoor recreation. See your doctor regularly, and do not worry.  –Ancel Keys, Cardiologist, 1959
    2. There are no “secrets” to cooking – only good guidance combined with experience.  To cook good dishes you must start with real food. In general, the better the ingredients you have the simpler your cooking can be.  -Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything, 1998
    3. Eat less, move more, eat lots of fruits and vegetables…go easy on junk food.  -Marion Nestle, What to Eat, 2006
    4. Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.  –Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food, 2008

    I highlighted the years to show what looks like a “dumbing down” of a message that hasn’t really changed in 50 years (no offense, Mr. Pollan) – eat less, eat produce, avoid junk, cook more, exercise. Repeat.

    Why didn’t I think of that?

    Happy eating!


    Supporter of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays