(I)CE CREAM | timothy valentine on flickrRecently the girls and I found ourselves famished at the late hour of 5PM, in the vast child-friendly restaurant cornucopia known as the Upper East Side. We were too hungry to get home to Brooklyn first. So we popped into an old school diner, the kind of place where the children’s plates turns out to be the same as the adult plates, only they come with a cup of milk. And the adult plates could easily feed two.

I’m not sure what chef thinks that a five year old can eat 7 chicken strips, each the size of a an actual chicken, but he must have large children.

Massive bag of leftovers in hand, we trudged up the avenue to one of the best ice cream shops in the city as promised. It’s one of our favorite Sometimes Treat places, and the girls go crazy for their cake batter ice cream.

I generally let them split a “child size,” considering the child size is more than enough for two small girls (especially those who couldn’t finish the chicken fingers). I often get one for myself, and just hope they don’t card me.

Think I can still pass for 9?

Let’s face it: our food has gotten pretty freaking big.

I’ve been asked a lot about the Bloomberg soda ban, and I’ve turned down a few media appearances because I’m conflicted about it. If you’re not familiar with it (because you don’t follow any New Yorkers or Libertarians or soda companies on Twitter), the proposal is to ban the sale of sugary drinks over 16 ounces with the aim of reducing obesity. I understand the intent. But I think there’s something to be said for the idea that adults can make their own terrible decisions provided they don’t physically hurt me–as opposed to say, smoking in public or driving like an ass on 95. To me, regulating adult food choices at the movie theater doesn’t have the same urgency as regulating children’s food choices in schools.

My issue is that we simply have no choices at all anymore.

I go into Five Guys burgers (mmmm Five Guys…) and my single option is buying a soda bigger than size of my head if I wore a bouffant. To say nothing of the gargantuan movie theater soda sizes which are so cliché by now, I can’t even make a new joke about them. I tried but…nope. It’s all been said.

Oh wait! How about…

nope. Been said.

The only compromise I can think of is that where 16 ounce sodas are sold, maybe there has to be a 6 or 8 ounce option too. Wouldn’t that at least allow the choice for those of us who want less? And then the people who want to chug 32-ounce Mountain Dews for breakfast and lose all their teeth still can?

New York has been more polarized by the debate this summer than the Mets-Yankees subway series, and that’s saying something.

As for us, back on that corner of 78nd and 2nd, our summer night ice cream outing was coming to an end in a typically messy way. Sage and Thalia and I sat under the ice cream shop canopy on a slatted bench, slurping down the last of the cup’s melted contents while I tore through a tree’s worth of of napkins trying to keep it off their faces, their dresses, their sandals, the little yappy dogs that walked by.

Ap0logies to that one Yorkie.

Just then, a man ran up to us, hot and out of breath. He wasn’t well-dressed but not quite disheveled either. He thrust a piece of paper toward me and asked me to help him find the xopaiwehihlshporreirpx and something about the church which sxkjjjporslawerrrrl something about families? And I had no idea what he was talking about with families and churches, but he seemed in a great hurry.

“I’m so sorry, I don’t live around here,” I said.

But before I could reach for my phone and try to Google whatever address he had scribbled down, he thanked me and literally ran off. I watched him scurry uptown, bobbing and weaving a bit,  paper outstretched in his arms as if he were following a treasure map on a very urgent deadline.

It was only after he turned the corner that I was able to cobble together what he had asked me.

Do you know where I can find the food pantry at the church, the one that gives out meals to hungry families who need food?

My heart sank.

It sank lower than the bench we were on. Lower than the subway tunnels many meters down.

It sunk wildly low as I ran through the scene over and over in my head from his perspective: two cute young girls with expensive ice cream all over their faces, a mother holding a 5-pound bag of leftovers that may or may not be eaten, and somewhere, blocks away, a family hungry for dinner.

“Who was that man?” Sage asked.

“He was a daddy,” I said.



79 thoughts on “Hungry”

  1. Thank you for sharing this story. My morning started out really stressful but reading this just helped me put my problems in perspective. Also, I know I’m always donating food during holidays, but I need to remember that it should be all year round.

  2. I’m torn about the soda ban, also. Yes, adults SHOULD be able to make rational decisions about their food and drink choices; yet study after study shows that things like plate sizes (our dinner plates are 33% larger than they were in the 1960’s) and drink sizes affect the amount we consume. It’s almost subconscious. If I have a larger plate and it isn’t filled, I feel deprived. If I have a larger soda, I will drink it all. It is harder to leave something behind, uneaten, than not to have it in the first place.

  3. I was already sad reading about the NY sugary ban… it was reminding me about the people at work (my real job, not blogging) who are mentally ill and/or disabled. They are adults, who most people don’t see all day every day, who are obese. They buy those huge drinks. There is so much attempt at educating them, trying to get them to drink diet, or water, but their brain just doesn’t function the same… anyway, I was thinking that “adult” doesn’t mean a person is capable of making good decisions for themselves, and it makes me sad that the government has to step in because a lot of Americans are making bad decisions, not just mentally disabled people. Now, I feel double sad for the guy looking for food for his family 🙁

  4. My friend, Sandy, was in the business of making paper cups and McDonald’s was his large client. He proudly tells the story that he was the one who introduced the Xtra Large size when McDonald’s only sold large and small. He said that it boosted sales of large by giving that choice. Large became medium. When we discussed how he was singularly responsible for the huge number of disgusting, fat American people we see (go to Disneyland if you want to be repulsed) and who will cost the rest of us more money that we can imagine in Medicare costs his answer was “great marketing though”. Ugh. America.

    1. Disgusting fat people. Repulsive. You make a lot of judgments about people you know nothing about. I’m fat and the knowledge that so many people are judging me and thinking about how disgusting I am makes me feel horrible, and leads to both bingeing and staying at home away from the gym or outdoor activities where I won’t be judged. Why do obese people disgust you so much? Why is it okay to express how repulsive people of higher weights are to you? Maybe some deeper thought about your own judgments and how you talk about other PEOPLE with their own lives and complexities might be a good idea.

  5. This is the second blog post I’ve read this morning. Both the first and yours touched on the need that is all around us. Writing can be so self-aborbing that a reminder to think of others (beyond our children) and actually do something for others (in addition to our children) is appreciated. Thank you.

  6. This is wonderful. And it’s a real story of real conflict – internal conflict. I am a fan of the giant cup soda ban, frankly. But I agree that part of the problem, part of the reason it’s something I *can* cleave to, is that there are few other choices. And I know myself. I won’t order the root beer from the soda fountain despite loving root beer because I KNOW what will happen if I do. With unlimited refills, I’m going to give sugary burps all up and down the afternoon. I’ll drink three 16 oz cups if it’s accessible and not costing me an extra $1.19. When I dutifully order my seltzer with lemon or a bottle of water, my husband has already slumped his shoulders and resigned himself to returning from the bathroom with half of his soda gone. I have very little self control.

    I don’t think I’m alone.

    I also think that the public need to acknowledge some of the less than cozy reasons that Bloomberg is becoming the nation’s most controlling nanny. Diabetes, obesity, smoke – 2nd hand and direct – , formula provided by WIC – these all cost the city a lot of money in product and healthcare in the populations that can least easily afford to make the choices that we who spend half the day on the Internet can. And just as some of the fantastic crowd-sourcing projects from Brian Lehrer and others have shown, providing choice is not always as easy or possible as speculations or “it oughtas” can make it seem.

    Our farmer’s market here in Montclair always has a box or container available to people to drop off fresh produce or market purchases to donate to one of our food pantries. That’s a drop in the bucket, but it alleviates some guilt. And I guess that’s worth something. But those of us who are privileged enough to have sticky, wonderful afternoons like the one you described, would do better to put aside as much $ as what we spend on outings like that to donate to those services that DIRECTLY help families like the man you met. I can’t even begin to think what the number would be for our family. Each week we get takeout at least once. I think that will be our new “cookie jar savings.” We ordered sushi for dinner at $45? $45 goes into the food pantry donation jar. Pizzas for the kids’ playdate? $20 in the donation jar. If I can afford to feed this stuff to my family instead of making something from scratch, I can afford to donate it.

    1. thank you for this idea. I’m going to do this with my children.

  7. Never was there a truer illustration of American society. There are the ‘haves’ – who have access to more than they need, sometimes knowing when enough is enough. There are the ‘have nots’ who go without. And there are also the ‘have nots’ for whom it is more affordable and convenient to pick up fast food, than make a healthy meal.

    I agree with you that the choice should be ours. But we also need to figure out a way for all the ‘having’ to be shared more equally.

  8. I had to giggle about the Yorkie. When we lived there, Kyle called it “the old lady/little dog neighborhood.”

    I’m torn too. I have some very definite personal ideas about individual health and public health, but I also respect the autonomy of individuals. However, we rarely act in a vacuum as individuals. Our choices do affect others, even if it’s indirectly or tangentially.

  9. I just came across your blog last week and have to start off by saying that I really love your style of writing. With that out of the way, I have to say that I am also conflicted about making rules regarding food sizes. I have found that people (and by people I am of course talking about me) that are used to over eating will find a way to do it even if they are given tiny portions. The lawmakers proposing these laws just want to say they have made a stand against obesity (In my opinion). As to the terribly heart wrenching ending to your story…well, it just broke my heart. Though also makes me think of a problem (in our area anyway) that speaks to a failure on the part of the rules we make to protect people. In our area it is nearly impossible for restaurants to donate excess food to soup kitchens. The spirit of the laws were set up to protect people from getting spoiled food but in reality means that daily restaurants throw out piles of food that could very well be enjoyed by families that need it. We have to be careful when we try to control everything.

    1. Thanks Julie – I left a similar comment above with a link.

      Maybe we’re thinking too much about people who have too much, and not enough about people who have nothing. Or do they count less?

    2. I have only worked at a soup kitchen a handful of times, but when I did, we were able to get the food from restaurants pretty easily, so maybe the law is looser there than what we think…. hopefully anyway.

      1. I think that for most people there is a want to do good and better. The “how” to do better sometimes gets a little sticky.

  10. Just the other day, I was asking my husband, “What do they do with all the recently expired food in grocery stores?” All that milk, yogurt, cheese, etc that is still good except for a (somewhat) artificially decided best-by date. Does it all go in a dumpster? Does it go to shelters or food kitchens?

    Living in Vancouver BC, we don’t generally see the portion sizes that American restaurants do, but we’re getting there. For sure. Theoretically, I don’t believe a soda ban is the answer, but doesn’t someone need to start somewhere?

    1. I used to work in a food pantry, and the short answer is yes, it does go to food pantries and soup kitchens. It obviously depends on where you are (small town, big city, etc), but there are usually set ups to help fascilitate getting this food off the shelves and into the hands of a nonprofit (don’t forget, the stores get a tax write off for this, so they have an incentive not too waste). That said, grocery stores are pretty good at managing their inventory, so it was pretty rare in my experience for things like dairy products to come in. However, we did get a ton of bread products.

      1. Yep, worked a shift at Food Bank of the Rockies and was pleased to see meat and bread. Little dairy and almost no produce though.

  11. I’m one of those folks who believes that grown ups need to be treated like grown ups.

    Let me put it to you in similar terms. One of the theories behind jacking up cigarette prices was that, perhaps, it would demotivate people from smoking. My MIL, who not only watched her father die of lung cancer, but also has seen her mother battle lymphatic cancer and who has herself had breast cancer scares AND a diagnosed heart issue still refuses to quit smoking. She’s on a very limited income and I’ve seen her forgo other necessities to feed her VERY pricey smoking habit. Her theory: everyone needs a vice and that’s hers. I also work for a cancer hospital and am SHOCKED to see, every single day, a line of people standing just past the “no smoking” zone around the front of the hospital lighting up. I know for a fact many of them are not only patients, but some of our own nurses and doctors. Tell me these people don’t know full well the impact of their smoking! And yet…guess what…they are adults, and it’s THEIR choice. And they get to live with the consequences of those choices.

    The public health information is out there for all to see. You can load people up with the best health data possible, but at the end of the day, they will do what they want to do. I think there are better places to spend political energy.

    1. Interestingly enough, I also work for a cancer hospital, and I *don’t* see people lined up smoking outside. In fact, almost no one smokes (or if they do, it’s kept very private). I attribute this to the fact that the hospital has made the entire area a no-smoking zone, and there are serious penalties if an employee is seen wearing a hospital ID and smoking (even if off duty). (There is also support for people who want to quit.)

      I agree that adults should make their own decisions, however, in this case I think the ban on smoking was put in place for business reasons — the hospital believes that it is in its own best interest to say look, “We fight cancer. So we’re not going to tolerate cancer-causing behaviors around here.” The side benefit that it may actually be reducing incidence of that behavior is a correlated benefit.

    2. Hm…I don’t entirely agree with the idea of choice and cigarettes. Cigarettes are the only legal product that when used as directed causes death. It’s the #1 legal preventable cause of death, and according to the CDC results in $96 billion in health care costs, much of which is paid by taxpayers through publicly-funded health programs. So I understand the logic of raising prices and making it less accessible (which has also been proven to decrease smoking rates). It’s like pay me now or pay me later.

      I suppose the same case could be made for sodas and obesity. However, drinking soda in moderation does not cause death. But like I said, I really am torn on this one and appreciate all the different perspectives here.

      As for the people smoking at your hospital – that’s not a choice, that’s an addiction. I know, because I’m an addict. I quit nearly 11 years ago when I hit two packs a day and went whoa…I’m out of control.

      (Let’s hear it for vaguely self-righteous ex-smokers!)

      1. First, all we have to do is walk around watching obese people and people smoking……….adults make some pretty bad decisions.

        Cynical me, the lobbyists (bagmen) for the tobacco industry have not only kept cigarette smoking legal, they’ve infantilized certain communities who now count on the large tax income.

        I guess the thing to do is have everyone read MOM 101. Can you publish a smanish version?

        How better than to get to the parents when they are training their children.

      2. Perhaps it was misguided of me to throw the whole tobacco thing in the mix (or maybe not), but…somehow I feel like legislating our every adult decision is leading us down the road where, as in the movie Demolition Man (lord forgive me for invoking a Stallone movie), we have robots spitting violation tickets at us for cussing in public. But hey, even in that futuretopia every restaurant was owned by Taco Bell 🙂

  12. I think any individual business has the right to make that choice and I’m surprised that the one I work for hasn’t made a similar move. That said, the span of control of that limitation doesn’t extend past their property. I still hold that adults should be allowed to make adult decisions about what they do to their own bodies.

  13. It’s really tough drawing the line between “it’s for your own good!” laws and “let’s hold your hand and make decisions for you!” laws. While yeah, people should be trusted and encouraged to make good decisions on their own, we all know that they probably won’t. The trick I guess is figuring out which situations are most pressing (YES re: school lunches!!) and which ones could probably wait (soda size).

    One that comes to mind for me locally is the recently repealed motorcycle helmet law. Yes, a grown adult riding a dangerous vehicle should think “Of *course* I would protect my head against the possibility of smashing it against that very hard-looking pavement”, but I have to tell you that nowadays, I see more motorcyclists sans helmet than with. That’s their choice, but I kind of wish I could take that choice away from them.

    1. Oh Janel, I used to argue this when I lived in RI and there was no helmet law and NO MANDATORY INSURANCE.

      Their choice, right? Until I was hit on the highway by a drunken uninsured driver. Then it was my problem.

    2. Or when everyone’s health insurance costs go up because we have to pay for the brain injured (usually along with many other parts) patients who couldn’t stand to have their freedom to ride without a helmet abridged.

      Go ahead and ride without a helmet as soon as you have an escrow account of $1-2 million set up so that YOUR choice doesn’t become my expense.

      (Don’t ask me how I really feel!)

  14. Beautifully written. I will rant just a bit and say that, while I agree that controlling adult choices isn’t how I want my government to spend its time or resources, I do think that I would support a law banning making the SUPERSIZE drink the cheapest option. For example, I occasionally crave a fountain coke and at McD’s they charge $1.00 for the SUPERSIZE. It’s more for the regular and small. It’s frustrating and it causes people – myself included – to drink more sugar crap than I should or even than I intended.

    1. What?? How is that possible?

      Maybe you need to ask for the Supersize and ask for it half full, ha. Have it Your Way?

  15. I’m a nutrition and family fitness expert and I’m absolutely 100% against the ban! And I’ve written about why it won’t work and is such a terrible idea here:
    Where do we stop? No birthday cakes? No fried foods? No salt shakers on tables? No high heels – bad for your back? No late night TV (lack of sleep contributes to obesity big time) No computer games – kids are spending more time on these than moving?
    Just like you did, as parents our job is to decide when to let our kids enjoy a treat and when not. And to coach them in developing these decision-making skills. Once we’re grown up both the decisions and the consequences are ours to bear.

    Finally – it simply won’t work. Yes, serving size makes a difference but really only when people choose to get smaller servings -that’s why Weight Watcher’s works so well. If you don’t decide to eat healthier nothing can stop you from finding a way to “cheat”. Everything I teach about family fitness and nutrition is about developing the desire to be healthy and reinforcing that by enjoying the benefits of being healthy. And unfortunately, dealing with the consequences is part of the learning process too. I’ve seen plenty of people change their ways only after they deal with a major health problems or watch someone close to them struggle with one.

    We have the right to the pursuit of happiness in this country – not happiness itself. That’s for us to work on getting and holding on to.

  16. It’s too cliché to say your post is great, because they always are. I’m always amazed by how you can in a few words put such a lot of thoughts (and good ones). It always reminds me of that phrase: “I’m sorry I wrote such a long letter, but I didn’t have time to write a short one.” You always seem to be able to write in half a dozen paragraphs what would take a few pages for the rest of us!
    As for the content, now I’ll carry a tennis ball in my throat for the rest of the day… thanks for that! We have to be remembered that it’s important to put things in perspective. And the comparison shown between whoever strives to feed his family and those who order something in a restaurant and get a portion way too big for what they’ll eat, reminds us of how unbalanced things are.

    1. Thank you so much Pedro. (I always feel like an egregious overwriter.)

      It’s so many issues all conflated isn’t it?

  17. Oh sheeze the last line made me cry and I’m at work. (People will think I sell very sad violins.)

    I used to think about this a lot when I walked through the park to get to where I exercised in the mornings, about how strange and unfair it is that my weight problem involves access to too much food when so many don’t have enough.

    Portion sizes are out of control. We recently went to an ice cream stand in rural Michigan where the kiddie cone was about four large scoops. One of my kids doggedly got through the whole thing like it was some kind of Olympic event, but the rest of us threw half of it out, which seemed wasteful and sad. We talked afterward about how once in a great while to indulge like that isn’t bad, but it was bad for your body to eat too much. My oldest didn’t like how she felt after so much ice cream and asked if she could please take the dog on a long walk. We went back to the ice cream stand a week later and asked for half size kiddie cones, which looked more normal, and my kids looked so happy to have less! Seems like a win-win. So I agree, there are not enough choices for people interested in appropriate portion sizes over some kind of bang for their buck.

    1. That’s so great Korinthia. I love that your kids understand less is more already. It gives me hope.

      I admit when I give my kids a choice of desserts, sometimes they ask, “which is bigger?”

  18. I was all ready to tell you how I always order kid sizes for my kids and when they’re aren’t any I just tell them to give me “one” or a “small” and charge me for whatever the smallest size is — which is ridiculous to pay more for less but I’d rather not throw food away.

    But then the last part of your post kind of punched me in the gut. We see it on tv. We hear it on the news. We know that there are people without food. Kids even. But when you’re breathing their hunger in? Overwhelming.

    1. I know. All I could think was, sell us 3 chicken fingers and give the other 3 to someone who needs it.

  19. The thing that troubles me is that so many people seem to have relinquished responsibility and think that if the serving is x then it’s ok to eat x. Then they think it’s ok to have dessert. Again, sized to x.

    I love Bloomberg’s intention, but unfortunately I don’t think it addresses the issue that Americans will find a way to rationalize any activity.

  20. Great post. I agree with you that to a certain extent, people should be allowed to make their own bad choices. (Even though obesity affects all of us in higher health care costs and other ways. But I am not willing to take a stand banning a non-controlled substance.)

    My husband and I have always had a debate about whether it is ok to sneak food and soda into movie theaters. I was always in the “No, it is not” Camp and he was in the opposite. But now that we have kids, I cannot justify buying 32 oz. of soda (the smallest size at our theater). It has nothing to do with the cost (although that is exorbitant too), it is the lack of choice. My kids are old enough that I’m ok with them having soda with their popcorn at a movie, but they have 12 oz. from a can I sneak in (even though I feel guilty about doing it) because I don’t feel like I have any other choice. (And yes – they could drink water. They do sell water in 12 oz. bottles, by the way. For $5 a bottle. I’m not doing that either.)

    As a society, we have completely lost touch with what a normal portion size is.

    1. And here’s where I admit that this is one of my big ethically dubious transgressions – we bring in little water bottles too. Forgive me, theaters.

  21. Oh wow, that would have been a rough moment for me as well. Sometimes I take my life for granted and then you see someone else who really is going through something, it makes you think and analzye that life isn’t so bad.

  22. We talk so much about about being thankful to ‘do’ nice things and go on family vacations and ‘be able’ to do activities (at least I think we do), but sometimes we forget the simple things – the basic needs like food, water, housing…..I often feel scared that our kids don’t really know what ‘wanting’ means.

    Then I recall a few years back when JB was in 3rd grade and a homeless man walked into our local sub shop that serves humongous subs, fries, and sodas to use the bathroom – and JB got up and wrapped half his sandwich and handed it to him. I have not written it – because it is in the notes for the bar mitzvah dedication (things I want to remember to include). I will never be the same after that night.

    1. As for the ban and Bloomberg and America’s tendency to supersize, I don’t have ENOUGH space to comment. My experiences are too big to put into words.

  23. This breaks my heart. We are struggling. A lot. But I have always worked in restaurants, and have never known hunger. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to not be able to feed my child. I just can’t imagine.

  24. Liz, I had an incident similar to yours yesterday in South Carolina, only I was let down by a family member. A woman outside the restaurant we had just feasted in stopped us and asked for a $1 and my husband continued walking. I quickly put my hand in my pocket, feeling that if we had enough money to eat a meal in an establishment, we could spare a few dollars. That is the image I want my children to see and that is why we will head back to the local pantry to help fill hundreds of bags that will be delivered around our county. You are so right by what you state in this post, thank you.

    1. You’re good people. But I think it’s hard when you live around NY and you have people asking you for things all day long; you tune it out eventually. Or do you give to everyone? I wrote about this before – sometimes some people just for whatever reason grab your heart. I’m glad she grabbed yours. It sounds like she needed it.

  25. If you look at the research, you see that raising the price if tobacco products is the most effective way to reduce smoking. No other public health measure has ever had the effect that taxing alcohol and tobacco has. Want to cure obesity? Charge $10 for a soda, I guarantee people will drink water instead.

    1. Love this idea! That’s the way to do it. I’m overweight, but I never drink soda, so a ban on large sizes or a huge tax on soda has no affect on me. I’d love to see calorie counts on all fast food items though!

    2. I think that’s a very good point. And yes, the tax on cigarettes coupled with the ban on smoking in public + education has GREATLY reduced smoking.

  26. When you write about poverty it always feels so honest and compassionate. I wish giant sodas would be banned for the amount of trash they create.

  27. I don’t know, Liz. During my time teaching, especially in low income areas, I often saw children coming into school every morning with a giant fountain drink. If they hadn’t bought it themselves, their parents had bought it for them. And that with a bag of Cheetos or chips was their breakfast. I’m all for the soda ban if it means creating a healthier lifestyle for kids–even if it does eliminate some adult choices, too. I think Elise’s shard of brilliance above is a great idea–heavily tax it.

    Onto the greater moral of your story, those instances really do make you think. I had a similar experience last week when I had gone to run some errands after ordering lunch with my family, half of which wasn’t eaten, and then saw a man eating garbage out of a trashcan, completely oblivious to anyone surrounding him. It made me so sad and so sick all at the same time. The disparity in our country is gutwrenching to me, yet I know I don’t do enough to help repair the problem. Thank you for your poetic reminder.

    1. Thanks Kendra. I’m not sure if banning large drinks will change that much. If you think a 16 ounce Coke for a kid’s breakfast is okay, then isn’t an 8 ounce Coke for a kid’s breakfast okay? I don’t know that banning large sizes will change behavior. I think there needs to be more education and PSAs all around. Teaching nuutrition in schools at an earlier age would be a great start; kids actually come home and say “mom we need to recycle more/get a fire extinguisher/eat more greens.”

      1. Totally see where you’re coming from with that. Like, if it’s okay to ban soda size, what’s next? Limiting the number of cookies that come in an Oreos box? I think a part of me will always picture that tiny little freshman boy, though, with a soda almost as big as he was, crashing in my class after 30 minutes. Maybe a smaller size would have at least gotten him to the end, right? 100% with you on education. It’s the only lasting solution.

  28. I don’t live in New York, but: I’m not torn about the soda ban at all. I don’t believe in bans as a way of changing behavior; and that’s what this is about, right? Like Elise I’d support extra taxation rather than a ban.

    And, as you said in a post on breastfeeding: Rather than banning sodas, the city (and the country in general) could do a lot more to encourage exercise and healthy eating.

  29. We just got back from the ice cream store “down the shore,” where a small is TWO scoops. TWO. Why? Portion sizes are wack, as the t-shirts (sort of) say and that’s one of the reasons why, to my surprise, I support the soda ban. As many have said here, there isn’t often a choice about size and frequently (maliciously?) the bathtub size cup is cheaper than the others. Why? Don’t even get me started on high fructose, or corn, or the whole crazed cycle that Michael Pollan describes. Suffice it to say that the obesity epidemic costs money: in work days lost to sickness, in the cost of health care for those who don’t have reasonable health insurance, in the rise of diabetes in children (skyrocketing). YES absolutely, the system should be changed; YES absolutely, governments should promote health, exercise, wellness (Bloomberg & bike lanes, yes?) ; YES people at all economic levels should have access to decent health care. But none of that is happening any time soon. Bloomberg isn’t saying you can’t drink as much freaking soda as you want; he’s not preventing you from going into the store and buying 10 2 liter bottles of high-octane Pepsi. He’s just saying that hey, you know, no one really needs to buy or sell a cup of soda big enough to use as a baptismal font.

  30. I gave up drinking a particular diet soft drink 4 weeks ago as I was starting to having some health issues. So I did a bit of my own research. Alarmed, I then went cold turkey and although for the first week I was a bit of a nightmare, I now feel fantastic. I feel more energetic and the pains in my legs are gone. I have no proof but I am personally convinced there is a link.

    The irony is that I was drinking a diet drink but was putting on more weight – especially around the stomach. I have stopped buying it for the family as well.

    Even in Australia we heard about what Bloomberg was proposing, however I don’t think it will work. It isn’t just the soft drinks but the types of food consumed and the sizes of portions.

    After visiting the states (Hawaii) last October, I was gobsmacked at the portion sizes in restaurants. We quickly realised we didn’t need to order entrees and just stuck to main meals. In some cases the amount of food was double what I’d consider a normal serving here. So I felt bad at times wasting so much food when I couldn’t eat it.

    It feels even worse when you realise that families are struggling to eat. I’ve never been in that situation and pray I never will. Your story certainly puts it in perspective.

  31. I love the way that you described the man to your children. So touching.
    Worth noting, I’m a room parent and this year we were told that there will be absolutely no birthday celebrations of any kind including small parties that don’t involve food…NOTHING. Isn’t that going a little bit too far?

    1. Wait…birthday celebrations can’t include food? That’s the stuff that makes me think we’ve all gone crazy.

      1. as my years of having kids in elementary school continues to grow, i become more and more convinced not having food at parties isn’t that crazy. forgetting the whole childhood obesity issue, there are so many allergies. i was class mom last year and accomodated nut allergy, gluten-free, and kosher – in a class of 20. my favorite party was when every kid brought in their favorite fruit and we made a fruit salad.

    2. Wait, lemme get this straight. Eva, are you saying the parties cannot have food or even if you wanted to throw a small celebration minus food, it still isn’t allowed (basically making sure you have NO celebrations of the birthday variety whatsoever).

  32. The last line of your post tore my heart to shreds. As a mother I can’t think of anything worse than not being able to feed my child. As always, you hit the heart of the issue. Here in NC with the decimation of our manufacturing industry, more families than ever need food assistance. Our local pantry can’t keep up and has been puttingout urgent calls for donations. My family makes a monthly donation because we all know far too many families who are just a paycheck away from not putting food on the table.

    I’m on the fence about the whole food legislation thing. I agree with another poster that adults need to be treated like adults (oh, and that goes for my uterus too. I can make up my own damn mind thank you very much). That said, I am gobsmacked at the size of portions. Can my two -year old eat his body weight in chicken nuggets? Definitely. so I watch his (and my own)portions like a hawk . But that’s my job as a parent – not the government’s. Just my opinion.

  33. What irks me is just what you said: no choice. Especially at movie theatres. If you’re going to make me have that large of a cup for my child, at least respect my wish that you not fill it all the way up. You fill it up, he will drink every drop because it’s there, nevermind his not being thirsty anymore, and this is why I don’t know how Ice Age #whatever ended and I blame you, concession employee who refused to fill the cup only to the damn middle.

    I love your simple explanation to your children about the man. It hurts to know there are hungry people, to know that I’m enjoying meals at home or out while others suffer. It’s why we signed up to help at soup kitchens. I have to believe that every bit helps. Someone, somewhere, is helped by this small gesture. I wish it were more.

    1. Maybe because I don’t live in a city – but, I don’t understand why this is even a discussion. There is a choice. You can eat at home. You can pack a lunch. Drink water from the water fountain, pour it in your own water bottle to drink later. Split a meal between two people. Order an appetizer rather than a main dish.

      The battle over the law is not about portion sizes. The battle is about the role of government. I personally believe a law like this is government over-reaching itself, and I would rather Bloomberg et. al. focused their attention on that man you saw — who is, you notice, headed to a CHURCH and not a government-sponsored safe haven.

      1. Jennifer, in all likelihood that church receives funding, as well as the same tax-exemptions allotted to all religious organizations. It’s also possible that the church lends its space to a food pantry (our former food coop worked out of a church room). I couldn’t say.

        I understand both sides of the issue about government intervention on things like what businesses can and can’t sell. But my own value system dictates that yes indeedy, I’m glad that we as citizens offer safe havens to our own who need the most help. It’s the least we can do for one another as fellow humans. And I totally agree that our efforts might be better spent on those without than with those with too much.

        As far as the government role question…it actually is kind of a question as to whether the government should be involved in public health matters – smoking bans, “sin” taxes on soft drinks, warning labels on tobacco, helmet and seat belt laws. Especially when, as others have said, those decisions actually do cost others in health and money. I still remember when people freaked about seat belt laws in the mid-80s because it was ‘government interference in my life.’ Look how many lives have been saved…

        it’s complicated, huh?

        1. Just to be clear, I was trying to say that I do think government should help the hungry, and its shameful that we rely so much on religious organizations and other volunteers to do that work.

          I would say that nearly all human activities involve risk of injury. Biking, even with a helmet, is risky. Driving, even with seat-belts, is risky. Skiing, mountain climbing, football — all of these put a person at risk of injury, which injury to some extent costs the larger population. I understand the government legislating that we mitigate risk (and would only argue to what extent it may do so – it’s a slippery slope, as you say); but I don’t see the soda ban performing that function successfully. If the objective is to keep people from eating themselves into a diabetic coma, I can think of a lot better ways to do it. (Like subsidizing vegetables. Where I live, one organic tomato costs $2. Craziness.)

          1. Sorry Jennifer and thanks for the clarification. In that case, I’m with ya mama!

            And yeah, let’s subsidize something besides high fructose corn syrup, eh?

  34. Jennifer, I was talking specifically about movie options. While yes, I have smuggled in my own popped corn or bottled water, the theatre has the option of asking you to leave without a refund if you’re found to have brought in items not purchased at the conession stand. And while we don’t always opt for food at the theatre because of the size and price (exercising our choice, as you’ve mentioned), sometimes we do. In some of those instances, we do split the popcorn or the drink. On the rare times that we eat in a restaurant, sure, we’ve shared meals and had appetizers and sides as a meal instead of a full price entree.

    I hadn’t touched on the legislation in my comment, but I’ll do so now. I’m on the fence (I know; too much clarity too soon!) with the banning of oversized candy bars and sodas. While I think “adults” should have a right to buy whatever they want in whatever size they want, I do think that too many adults have not shown children what portion control is, what not eating an entire super sized Snickers is like. Do I think government has a right to step in and say no more big soda for you? Eh. Maybe it’d help. I have to say I think we as a society NEED help saying no. Do I absolutely agree that it is government’s role to help in this manner? Eh again. I think if you want it you should be able to buy it. But do you NEED it? And is need relative? Does it differ from person to person? Would a ban on big ass sodas really deter people from drinking the same amount of soda, just buying more rather than getting it all in the one big container? I don’t know. But I’m willing to see where it goes. I agree with you; I’d rather government focus on more pressing matters rather than regulating consumption (wait, is that not a pressing matter, though, given our obesity rates?). Hell, I’d like to do away with the lottery system altogether and use that money to feed the homeless, build shelters, because sure what we need is another instant millionaire who blows it all in two years. Yes, I know the lottery is money from the people, but why can’t the people agree to use that money for a “better” purpose?

  35. Ok, so I’m already dehydrated, and I just cried out the last drops of water in my system. 🙂 Lovely post, lovely writing. I’m really glad I found your blog.

    For what it’s worth, I think these public health issues are larger than “choice.” I could go on for hours on this, but I’ll just make two quick statements.

    First, there was an article in the Economist recently about how reframing our expectations of portion size makes a huge difference in our consumption (and desire). “Choice” is a bit of a red herring in that regard.

    Second, I am a former hospital administrator. The obesity and diabetes rates in this city put a huge burden on hospitals and other providers. Some hospitals are not-for-profit organizations, but many are part of HHC, the public hospital system, which is funded, obviously, by taxpayer money. So the “Supersize Me” culture affects us all, whether we choose to drink 20 oz. sodas or not.

    Ok, I’m done. 🙂

  36. Whenever I’m feeling overly gluttonous (which as a pregnant woman, happens these days) I try to remember that there are people who don’t have a stocked pantry and to tone it down. Not that I give my kid the old “There are hungry kids in Africa so clean your plate” line, which never made sense to me. It’s just my signal to give some thought to the reality that there is hunger in America, in the world, and right in my own neighborhood if the popularity of the community food bank is any indication. It’s a moment in which I can ask myself what I can do to change that.

  37. Definitely don’t think a soda ban is going to save America from obesity. I think portions in establishments is where it should really begin, as you stated the children’s meal is large enough for an adult. Some people eat all their food when they go out because they don’t want to be wasting it, when if they stopped, they would most likely feel full and in reality no one really needs to eat a bowl of pasta large enough to serve 3 people… Lets have our plates go back to the normal, original size as well… Many things other than soda can be done about our food issues. Especially when there are starving people within our country..

Comments are closed.