CPAG asking the wrong questions

Maia has an excellent post which drew my attention to this chest-beating piece about nasty junk food straight from Satan’s bottom being served up to our innocent kiddies, leading them inevitably down the path to BEING FAT, truly a fate worse than death by poverty-induced starvation.

Let’s first look at the post itself.  Maia suggests it’s written by Anne Else, a  woman whose work I thoroughly love.  Except for this one, of course.  And Anne, I must beg your forgiveness pre-emptively, but I am pissed off.

Clue 1:

Apart from the Oreos, a US “treat” that used to be unobtainable here, the other three things are all brands I’ve never seen before.

O for the halcyon days when Kiwi kiddies weren’t being tempted into obesity by filthy Oreos, and remain lithe and active on a steady diet of made-in-New-Zealand Tim Tams!  Just a thought:  the reason you – and I – haven’t seen these brands before probably has something to do with neither of us living in deprived suburbs where well-known brand names fear to tread thanks to the local consumers not being exactly flush with cash.

My friend worked out that for $2.50, children get “almost no dietary fibre, 40mg vitamin C, rather more salt than they need, 35% of their daily requirement for simple sugars, quite a lot of fat, and about 25% of their total daily energy needs. That is, they get a lot of empty calories.

“Empty calories” is a pet hate phrase of mine.  I direct y’all at this point to the Fat Nutritionist’s post on this subject, and particularly to the handy-dandy pyramid of food needs.

You see what’s right there on the bottom?  Enough foodEnough.  Empty calories aren’t so fucking empty when just getting enough calories is a pretty big achievement.

But let’s not forget there’s also

quite a lot of fat

QUITE A LOT, PEOPLE.  Oh.  My.  God.  Because as we all know, fat is a disgusting substance which exudes an aura of pure degradation and immorality and taints all who are even close to it (hey, knowing fat people makes you fat, after all!).  It certainly isn’t a major part of your brain matter or anything, and definitely doesn’t play any kind of role in even the most “health”-conscious of balanced diets (but only in the form of EVOO, of course).  CHILDREN ARE EATING FAT!! QUITE A LOT OF IT!!  Shit, that’s probably something to do with that enough food thing again.

And 25% of their total daily energy needs?  Cripes, it’s almost like that’s what they’d have at breakfast.  If they had breakfast.  Because that’s not an assumption we should be making.  Just because a dairy owner calls it a “school lunch” to take the sharp edges off our moral outrage.

Speaking of which:

She asked the dairy owner if he was embarrassed about selling this stuff to school children, and he said no, because “it’s what they like”. So she asked if he would give this to his own children for lunch. He eventually said no, because “they didn’t like it”.

You know what dairy owners can probably do that a lot of parents in South Auckland can’t?  Buy instrumental food.  Buy food on the basis of nutrition and variety and “health”.  What they probably don’t have to do (but hey, recessions are shit for everyone who ain’t part of the overclass, so this isn’t a given) is figure out precisely how much caloric value and how much time-feeling-not-hungry they can purchase with their disposable income.*

Which, let’s not forget, may be deliberately set at starvation levels if they’re on a benefit.

Which you’d think would be of great concern to CPAG.  Their questions, as posted on their Facebook profile, are instead:

What are our kids eating? And what is our government doing (or not doing) to encourage them to choose an orange over an oreo?

Focus? The kids.  Those naughty, sugar-bewitched kids and their poor choices.

In short, my immediate response to this is simple:  FUCK. YOU.

But once the red mist clears I just feel really confused and a little betrayed.  Seriously, CPAG?  We’re seriously going to frame the food purchases of poor children as “choice”? We’re actually going to make that the number 1 concern we highlight?

I get that it’s a difficult situation, though.  Because there’s not any other really immediate questions this story raises.  Certainly there’s no questions to be asked about the supermarket duopoly in this country which marks up your beloved oranges out of the everyday purchasing power of people on the breadline.  Or why our government continues to fail to give beneficiaries enough to feed their families, as well as cutting programmes and allowances which will help people get out of poverty.  And we don’t want to go near the whole thing about capitalism requiring some people to be poor and desperate in order to keep wages down and crime high to scare the middle classes with.

We definitely don’t want to talk about child poverty.  We don’t want to ask, “How have we got to a place in this country where this “empty calorie” school “lunch” is actually one of the best food choices available to some kids?”

We just want to hand-wring about poor people being too stupid to eat fruit.


*If any young middle-class yuppies are reading this, it’s like when you go into a bottle store and do the price/%alcohol x volume calculation.  Only not for fun.


  1. Octavia on her phone

    AAAIIEEEE! I know when the most vulnerable members of our supposedly utopian society are starving I certainly blame them, BECAUSE I AM AN ARSEHOLE WHO LACKS EMPATHY EVEN FOR CHILDREN. Maybe I also kick puppies because THAT’S THE SORT OF SOULLESS SAD EXCUSE FOR A SUPPOSEDLY THINKING HUMAN BEING I CLEARLY AM. Oh wait no.
    That’s all I’ve got at this late hour. More to come.

  2. Octavia on her phone

    I lied, two more things for tonight that are pissing me the hell off:
    1) the overt, unsubtle, eliminationist rhetoric double meaning of ‘not fit to eat’. Seriously? That is embarrassing and zie should feel embarrassed. Shit doesn’t exist in a vacuum away from our society’s fucked up attitudes toward class, race, food, and who ‘deserves’ help.
    2) Can we as supposed liberals please stop with the fucking privileged ‘starvation-level poverty in NZ isn’t *that* bad [lolsob] so let’s ignore it for all intents and purposes (P.S. we’re a superior country)’ trope? How many kids need to be starving in our country before we *can* have that conversation about the fact that getting no or enough calories at all IS still fucking important here? That is some mighty unapologetically privileged brushing off.

    Dear extremely poor people struggling to eat,
    It doesn’t actually suit our discussion to meaningfully include you here, or basically acknowledge you really exist, so we’re just not going to, okay? Otherwise we might have to apologise on the internet. You can see why this takes precedence, right?