10 08 12 Candy Mania

Once again this year I took note of how candy mania “feeds” the festive atmosphere of the annual Steinbach parade. By far the majority of persons lining the street were children on summer holidays accompanied of course by adult caregivers and a sprinkling of senior citizens. Who else gets a Friday morning off in mid-summer?

As the parade got underway, I noticed children waiting expectantly with ice-cream pails or large plastic bags in hand. And sure enough, soon candy began to rain down on them like mana from heaven. It soon became clear that sponsors of more than half of the 100 floats had come prepared with bins full of candy to toss to the waiting children.

Come on! Who can resist “treating” children? Why even talk about it? Give us all a break for one sunny day in mid-summer!

Okay, I understand, but… The fact still haunts me that we are in the grip of a serious crisis. According to Paul Roberts in his book,“The End of Food,” “…obesity afflicts a billion people world-wide, or roughly the same number as those who are underfed…” In 1960 almost no children had been classified as obese. By 2000, one in seven were and the ratio continues to climb. For adults in Canada we are now looking at about two in three being obese or overweight.

There is a general consensus in the medical community that obesity is a major health risk for adults as well as children. And that to stay on the present trajectory of weight gain is simply unsustainable in the long run.

A significant factor contributing to this crisis is our collective overdose on sugar, especially high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). It is the cheapest sweetener the world has ever known and therefore found in most processed food and drink. One of its most dangerous side-effects is that it overwhelms our natural abilities to monitor intake. So when you don’t “feel” full you keep eating even though you “are” full.

So we have a situation, as Roberts notes, that “…both industries – those selling junk food and those selling fat cures – depend for their future on a prevalence of obesity.” While many are waking up to this betrayal of trust, others continue to play their prescribed roles in this escalating tragedy.

So what is wrong with offering my grandchild a candy? Not much. Most anyone can handle a “treat” once in a while without becoming obese. But one has to wonder about the wisdom of a society raining candy on children to the point where they have to cart it home in buckets and bags because their pockets are not big enough!

Kudos to the parade participants who offered alternatives to candy. That takes imagination and creativity. But that is the way of the future. Some day we will look back on this annual candy shower ritual with dismay and say to ourselves that we could have done better.

So let’s begin doing better next August long weekend.