Once again, the media is looking at the question of who is to blame when children aren't eating properly. Parents and activists (such as Corporate Accountability International) don't want fast food and processed food companies marketing their junk to our children. Those companies, on the other hand, claim that they offer many different choices and that it is up to parents to make good decisions for their children.
This week, Ottawa-based Dr. Yoni Freedhoff who blogs at Weighty Matters was quoted at length in the Chicago Tribune. You should read the whole article on the David vs. Goliath fight parents face, but here is a quick excerpt:
The argument put forth on how to protect them from all of these traps and more? Parents can just say 'no.'
'No' to pizza days at school. 'No' to chocolate milk as part of the school lunch program. 'No' to the freezies handed out after soccer practice. 'No' to the meal and the co-branded Disney toy that was advertised on television. 'No' to the sugary cereal with the decoder ring on the bottom.
That sure is a lot of "no's."
But what of parents who don’t say 'no.' Some may not due simply due to 'no' fatigue, while others may not even see the need for 'no.' Perhaps as a consequence of tremendous time or financial pressures, or their own distracting medical issues, or deceptive advertising that suggests health benefits to bowls of sugary cereals, or perhaps simply as a consequence of not believing or understanding why it matters, there is a huge swath of parents don’t see value in the parental junk food “no”.
As an increasingly unhealthy society, the question we need to urgently wrestle with is should a non-uniformly delivered parental “no” be our sole line of defense against the incredibly aggressive marketing of unhealthy food to our children?
So who is to blame?
My long answer is written out in my post outlining the reasons why boiling everything down to "personal responsibility" will not fix the systemic problems in our food system.
My short answer: Both. Parents do have a responsibility to say no. To seek balance. To teach and provide proper nutrition for their children. To help their kids unpack deceptive advertising and become media literate. But at the same time, we shouldn't have every obstacle possible shoved in our way as we do that. Each of us has a limited amount of energy and time and patience. None of us wants to be the parent who is saying no all the time. Some of us (I would bet all of us) would like to be able to sit down, relax, and lower our guard every once in a while.