Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Healthy Food Messages

As a parent, I appreciate that the creators of the Backyardigans make a point of having the kids going for healthy snacks at the end of almost every show. (There has been the occasional cookie or brownie.) It seems like every time I take my kids into the store I have to drag them past display after display of junk food, all of it right at their eye level. They're always begging for juice, candy, cookies, "rabbit milk" (Quik), sugary cereal, you name it.

I offer better alternatives - yogurt, cheese cubes, peanut butter and celery, raisins, etc., but all too often I find myself in the position of having to play Mean Mommy with a simple, firm "No." And then, of course, cope with the resulting temper tantrums and weeping fits. It helps that I can suggest a "Backyardigans snack" to my kids every now and then.

Which is why I find it interesting that Viacom, the corporation that owns Nick Jr., is getting sued by a group concerned by the amount of advertising that is thrown at young children, such as the target audience of the Backyardigans.

The lawsuit is aimed primarily at the "junk food" ads and Kellogg has been named as a defendant as well as Viacom. The plaintiffs are the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood, and parents Andrew Leong and Sherri Carlson.

According to a FAQ on the Commercial-Free Childhood website, in 28 hours of watching Nickelodeon there were 168 food commercials, of which 148 (88%) were for foods that had little (or no) nutritional value. and are also attacked for the amount of junk food advertising they carry.

(I swear I've only ever bought one box of Backyardigan fruit snacks for the kids. Honest!)

I remember reading last fall about the Backyardigans being used on supermarket bags of carrots. I can't say I've seen any. Neither have I seen them on any containers of hummus, despite Tyrone's fondness for the stuff. In fact, I think I can confidently predict that as more Backyardigans merchandise comes out we will see lots of sugary treats, but little or no healthy stuff.

And that's too bad. Because I can guarantee they'd have at least one mom ready to buy bags of apples and boxes of raisins that feature our favorite characters. Come on, Viacom. There's got to be some money for you in making it easier for parents to coax their kids into healthy snacks.

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