Real Food for Real Kids
A version of this article first appeared in the Coffs Coast Advocate on Saturday, 12th January 2013
It’s no secret that this country is facing a public health crisis of truly large proportions, much of it linked to diets based on so-called ‘energy-dense, nutrient-poor’ foods – aka junk foods. Anyone who’s watched the cricket over the Xmas-New Year break – and your kids, if they were watching too – will have been subjected to an extraordinary barrage of ads promoting these foods.
And now one company, the biggest of them all, is courting controversy by shamelessly wrapping itself in the national flag, not to mention utes, ambos and kids soccer teams, in the lead-up to Australia Day.
But the biggest scandal of all is that Maccas and the rest have carte blanche to promote their products to our kids, including in the most insidious ways. Last year my 7-year old son played soccer in Sawtell, and because the team was sponsored by Maccas, all the goals carried the logos, as did the adult volunteers and umpires on their backs. Why do even such wholesome activities like junior sports on weekends have to be commercialised in this way? Simple answer: because it promotes brand recognition amongst the kids, and increases sales.
This is no laughing matter – it’s a national crisis. We have gone beyond the stage of an obesity epidemic, and moved into the sphere of a pandemic. Latest figures show that a quarter of all our children are overweight and obese, with the numbers of obese children more than tripling. If current trends are maintained, two-thirds of our children and youth will be overweight or obese by 2020.
The current generation of children already have a reduced life expectancy compared to the previous generation, and the way things are going, that gap can only widen, This is a shocking legacy to pass on to future generations.
Because the food system is globalised and these companies operate everywhere, the problem is similarly globalised. But so too is consciousness of the problems, and actions to address it.
Toronto parents Lulu and David Cohen-Farnell didn’t want their son Max eating processed and frozen foods at his day-care centre, so they began packing him healthy lunches. The daycare director asked Lulu if she might help with getting healthier food for the other kids, and so the company Real Food for Real Kids was born in 2004.
The Farnell’s were motivated by the health of their own child and his peers, but they also tapped into a major business opportunity. From humble beginnings in their own home, they now run a highly professional and efficiency catering company, that serves over 8,000 children in daycare centres, schools and YMCAs around Toronto. In 2012, their sales reached $C7.5 million.
Last year, grants made available through Coffs Council saw edible gardens established at several schools and daycare centres in Coffs Harbour, Sawtell and Toormina, most recently with the community and school citrus orchards in Sawtell. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if an enterprising, woman, man, couple and / or team decided to take this process of connecting our kids with healthy living and eating one stage further, and followed in the footsteps of the Farnells in Toronto?
After all, there’s no shortage of wonderful fresh foods, produced right on our doorstep. All it will take are some visionary and committed individuals, and some organisations willing to take a risk and partner with them.
For more information about Real Food for Real Kids, visit www.rfrk.com