Saturday, July 25, 2009
Vending Machine Wars
We are regulars at several Denver community recreation centers and I’m an advocate for these centers.
But each visit involves facing an archenemy. The vending machine looms large over my daughters, inviting them to slip their dollars into the slot to eagerly watch a mechanical spiral slowly spin to drop over-processed food into a bin for their little hands to reach in and grab. Their prices are brutal, highway robbery. They are designed to grow insatiable anticipation and high profit margins. And, judging by the photo to the right, they are growing legs and will soon set chase to children.
Unfortunately, these vending bots also happen to be the only place to buy any food at our rec centers. Imagine how it must look to a child after spending one and a half hours of swim practice, their bodies ravaged from a workout, ready to eat anything, including their towel.
I’ve fought these wars for nearly a decade. I’ve brought fresh fruit, cheese and crackers to combat the taunting of these behemoths. Despite my best intentions, I’m always hoodwinked into a debate as to why my children must avoid these monsters.
This summer I contrived a new tactic. It’s working beautifully. Fight over-priced, over-processed food with cheaper over-processed food. It’s not perfect in design and involves a bit of giving in. But it works. Gone are the vending machine wars with my daughters. Everyone is at peace and happy and lessons are being learned by all.
I reflected back to the days of my own childhood and summers spent poolside. Memories of many songs flooded my mind, as did Chewy Sweet Tarts. Ho! I was absorbing over processed food at the pool as a child and, thanks to a very tight budget, it was in moderation.
I opened Mommy’s Summer Candy Store and stocked it with two boxes of candy purchased from the local price club. I beat out my competition by selling candy at half price. I am open three mornings a week to sell one item of candy and the girls had the fortune of choosing which days. I figure with all the crazy hours these girls rack up swimming, three candy treats a week is not too much. Should they prefer to give my competition their money, Mommy’s Summer Candy Store will be put out of business. I guess this is also a lesson in patronizing small businesses too.
My daughters now look forward to candy store and we keep the money they spend in a mason jar on top of the fridge. At the end of the summer, we will count it up and multiply it by two so they can learn how much they saved by shopping at Mommy’s. I’m certain it will help prevent them from future vending addictions.
Also, they now have no complaints as they munch on fruit and other healthy snacks knowing that they will have some some relief to low blood sugar gained from their intense workouts. I prefer moderation in life to complete abstinence. After all, doesn’t abstinence make the heart grow fonder?
I won a similar war years ago against the Ice Cream Man. With 14 children on our block, The Man was quick to sniff them out. (He smells them like the evil child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. This character, pictured to the left, still gives me the shivers.) He makes routine, slumped shoulder drives down our street, sometimes three times a day, scanning the street at .25 miles per hour - all this to sell Bomb Pops old, crusty and harder than granite for $3.95.
Off I went to the price club to buy ice cream with the rule that if, The Man drives down our street, the girls are welcome to an ice cream treat from our freezer. This has led to a remarkable sense of hearing in my daughters. Just the other day, Little Pi said to me, “Mommy, I hear the Ice Cream Man.” My response was, “No honey, that’s the train.” Five minutes later, The Man was driving down our street. Either my hearing is shot or Little Pi’s is on par with a rabbit’s, probably true given her addiction to fresh vegetables.
Unfortunately, over-processed food has become an American staple and this industry is hungry for new blood. As they turn to our children, it’s our job as parents to out smart their attempts to turn our children into diabetic teens with brittle bones without depriving them of some of the joys of childhood, like sipping an Orange Nehi while sitting on the dock in 100 degree heat fishing with your grandfather.
Speaking of the devil, here comes he comes now. Bring it on Ice Cream Man! You're no Pied Piper to my children!