Friday, March 14, 2014

The Lost Art of Feeding Kids: What Italy Taught Me about Why Children Need Real Food

Title: The Lost Art of Feeding Kids:  What Italy Taught Me about Why Children Need Real Food
Author:  Jeannie Marshall
Publication Information:  Beacon Press. 2013. 228 pages.
ISBN:  0807032999 / 978-0807032992

Book Source:  I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:  "It is children who can change the future, if only adults will give them some guidance."

Jeannie Marshall had visions of moving to Italy and of raising her family on a traditional Mediterranean diet - focused on fresh, local ingredients and focused on real food cooked and enjoyed together as a family. When she did relocate from Canada to Italy, she found some of what she was looking for. Yet, to her dismay, she found reliance on packaged foods, fast foods, and other such things to be as common in Italy as it was in her North American home.

This led her on a journey to research why the change occurred, what influence it is having on children and the coming generations, and what needs to be done. This book - part research and part memoir of her teaching her own son to appreciate and enjoy "real" food - is based on her experiences.

Topics the book addresses include the food industry, childhood obesity, school lunches, food marketing geared towards children, and the transition toward an increasing reliance on packaged foods. The book talks about government policy in North America and in Europe and its influence on the food industry. It incorporates examples from the author's own life and family. Finally, it delivers the message of the increasingly urgent need to re-examine the way in which we eat and the way in which we feed our kids.

This book is not really new information; we all know that "real" food is the correct approach. This book is also not a cookbook or a specific how to guide - it's not meant to be. It is one family's experience. It is a comparison of two cultural approaches to food, and the influences of one on the other in a global food market. It is an examination of the food industry. It is a call to action to change our habits which will change the industry.

Some of the research and information the book presents on marketing within the food industry, particularly on marketing to children, is somewhat disturbing. The industry actually uses something called the "nag factor" as a marketing measure. That means pretty much what you think it means. Children see an ad and start nagging parents for the food. The greater the nag factor, the more likely a sale of the product. There also exists a marketing company called the Girls Intelligence Agency, which recruits young girls to spread the word on upcoming products to their friends. The food industry is marketing to children and via children.

I find the book fascinating. The research presented reinforces the need to focus our energy on the food we eat and on how we feed the children of the community. The personal anecdotes especially on cultural differences are interesting and add a lighter touch to the book. A really interesting book for anyone interested in food and the global industry that surrounds it.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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