I teach nutrition classes to elementary school students during the week, and of course every school participates in "Box Tops for Education." A realization just hit me yesterday - none of the foods I buy have a Box Top for Education label. None. Why is that?
Each tiny cardboard clipping earns your school 10¢ - which can add up quickly! What a great way for the food industry to give back to the kids and families whose nutrition they are compromising.
Ok, shame on me, who am I to criticize anyone who is giving money back to schools? Well, consider the fortune food industry giants make off the families who buy products with Box Tops. And further promotion of their products from the webpage full of coupons for all these products as well.
Let's look at the products with Box Tops for Education, and see why they don't appear on my pantry shelf.
Some of the nearly 150 products that carry the Box Top:
Betty Crocker Cake Mix
Bisquick Pancake Mix
Nestle Juicy Juice
Cheerios, Lucky Charms, and 50 other types of cereal
Welch's Grape Jelly
Pillsbury Cookie Dough, Cinnamon Rolls, Crescent Rolls, and many more
38 snacks - including Fruit Roll-Ups, Fruit Gushers, and every cartoon character fruit flavored snack out there
The ONLY fresh produce brand with a Box Top are (with limited availability):
Green Giant Fresh Broccoli
Green Giant Fresh Cauliflour
Green Giant Fresh Head of Iceberg
Green Giant Fresh Romaine Hearts
Frozen Green Giant Vegetables (2 varieties)
Land O Lakes Eggs
I think I found perhaps one Brand that I might consider buying, Cascadian Farm cereals and granola bars.
Except for the Green Giant/Cascadian Farm items, ponder this -
NONE of these food products are for meals made from scratch, yet I try to make most things from scratch.
NONE of these food items are what the USDA recommends for a healthy diet: fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seafood, lean meats; things that I eat often.
NONE of these foods are foods I would recommend. Or consume. Or let anyone I love consume.
Imagine my hypothetical child, wanting to contribute to her class' collection of Box Tops because there is a school wide contest to see which classroom can raise to the most - yet I refuse to purchase products with this label. Imagine arguments while grocery shopping - I don't have children but I do remember being one, and I remember how it went; children really can have a lot of influence over their parents consumption.
And don't get me wrong - it's not because of the label itself, but because the products with the labels are refined, processed, and don't follow my biggest rule:
EAT REAL FOOD.
(See Michael Pollen for definitions on real food.)
Update: Really? You can buy them on Ebay? Why not just donate the money to your school. Ugh.