“Our week to bring juice boxes for the soccer game — guess who didn’t buy organic?!”
I had to chuckle when I read a Facebook friend’s post about the moral victory he scored over the other parents on his young son’s soccer team. Apparently, the only politically correct choice for team snacks is the organic option. The peer pressure must be intense because another mother informed him he would probably not be selected to bring snacks in the future. I don’t think she was joking either.
Unfortunately, my friend seems to be in the minority when it comes to standing against societal food pressures.
McDonald’s recently announced it was changing out the regular orange juice in its Happy Meal to an organic apple juice. The stated reason for the change was that the organic apple juice has less calories and sugar than the orange juice did. It is true that over the past few years, McDonald’s has made a few changes to their Happy Meals to get mom’s approval, like offering apple slices as an alternative side option. Maybe it isn’t just a gimmick — maybe they really just want to make the Happy Meal a healthier option for the little ones.
The timing of my friend’s social post and the McDonald’s announcement seem a little too much like a coincidence though. I suspect McDonald’s change is really about making the Happy Meal more palatable for parents who already feel guilty for feeding their kids fast food. If the chain throws in an organic apple juice, mom and dad can still feel like good parents. Starting in November, when the organic apple juice will first make its appearance, we can all sleep a little better at night.
Can we just admit how silly all of this? Sure, childhood obesity is a problem and something we should work against. Feeding Little Timmy a Happy Meal with organic apple juice instead of orange juice isn’t going to fix the problem. We just feel better because false organic marketing propaganda tell us that we should feel bad about giving him conventionally grown food. Just switch out that drink and everything will magically be better.
What about those parents who cannot really afford to purchase feel-good labels? Research has shown that organic marketing tactics impact low-income parents by causing them to worry needlessly about the pesticide residue on conventionally grown produce. They end up conflating nutritional qualities with organic marketing claims. As a result, they end up less likely to buy any fruit and vegetables because they cannot afford items with the organic label.
No doubt participating in extracurricular activities only makes them feel worse. These parents are already tightening their belts so they can afford paying to develop their children’s skills. Now, we shame them into purchasing overpriced apple juice so that the other parents can feel better about it.
Why have we allowed a label to become a status symbol or define how much we care about our families? We need to stop fussing over these labels and beating ourselves up for not paying more for them. No one needs to feel guilty or shamed because they didn’t splurge for nothing. The organic label doesn’t come with a promise of food safety or increased nutrition, so let’s stop pretending it does.
While everyone else is doing that, I’m going to muse on the fact that my children, if I had any, probably wouldn’t be able to play soccer at all if they had to drink the organic apple juice. They would probably just be relieved if mom restrained herself from launching into one of her agriculture lectures.
Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.