The Black Market Cheetos Ring

They say you never really care about an issue until it effects you directly, and, yes, I think that’s true sometimes.

For example, the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” healthy food program wasn’t even on my radar until recently. I never really thought much about this program, more specifically, the USDA’s nutritional standards for school menus, as I agree healthy living is a good thing.

I fully support healthy eating and exercise, as well as helping people have access to healthy foods. We eat our fruits and veggies at home. Yet, sometimes the government can go a little too far with good intentions, and as a result the seedy underworld of independent playground refined white sugar solicitation rears its sticky head.

Wait…what was that last bit? See, my husband, a high school teacher, was working after school, and grabbed one of the small individual servings of Froot Loops, just to snack on. He took one handful and something tasted, for a lack of a better word, “off.” He looked to make sure the cereal hadn’t gone stale, and noticed it was a special version made specifically for the schools.

“I couldn’t even finish them,” he said, and described the taste as some sort of grainy paper. “They are pretty bad,” my teenager chimed in. “They taste like something you’d feed an animal.” There are some things my daughters like from the programs, the school-provided smoothies and regular fruit (whole apples or bananas) for example, they enjoy thoroughly. Other things, like wheat biscuits, they just can’t seem to get down.

My daughter explained a lot of kids are tossing their meals, or taking their business elsewhere. That “elsewhere” is to a few enterprising students in her school selling “the real goods” out of their backpacks to other students. Potato chips, individually wrapped cookies, and a regional favorite, Hot Cheetos, are particularly big sellers. In the wake of the flavor and palatability systematically being taken out of school food in the name of good health, resistance is coming from some students by means of little money making pogey bait ventures.

Yes, this practice is a big “no-no” at the school, but good luck catching these kids. They’re slick little salesmen. It isn’t just restricted to high school, as I caught a fifth-grader at my other kid's elementary school selling little packets of another border area favorite, Limon 7 salt and lime packets. These little “covert” sales were going down seemingly in plain sight, with this sly little dealer palming off her lime and salt “dime bags” with the warning “don't have more than seven at one time..it will mess you up.”

I really should be disgusted by this practice, but, hey, they're dealing Doritos, not meth. The idea of wanting kids to eat healthier is noble, but the old adage of leading a horse to water applies here. Leading him to the water's edge and trying to force his nose into the water's surface might make him less likely to partake willingly.

Yes, encourage healthy eating, supply healthier food, but allow for a little bit of something tasty as well on occasion. Teenagers don’t have the same palates as fifty-something food co-op owners. This program has certainly been effective in one way; it has developed the entrepreneurial skills in young people in my neck of the woods, and, if I can make a bold assumption, I would bet this is happening in other parts of the nation.

It’s always nice to see that when the government’s Nanny State works to make sure we are saved from our own shortcomings as parents and teachers, that a little bit of homegrown Capitalism creeps in as a side effect. We all want our kids to be healthy, and eat right, but healthy living, to be desirable, needs to include a little flavor once in a while, as well. Otherwise, that underground chips and cookie ring will continue to grow, and who are we to stop free enterprise?

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