Getting Preachy about food: Food Force Five

No-one does a lopsided grin better than my nine year old son.

“Mum, our headmaster has changed everything about lunchtime!” he exclaimed over dinner. Mr Merrers is a new, impressive, young head teacher type. A lot has changed. There’s a  gleaming set of ‘houses’ – not Gryffindor and Hufflepuff, but Savernake and Northerham, Ambarrow and Englemere, four of our local wildlife reserves. He’s started a school football team. Felix is his steadfast goalie. It’s almost like having a shiny new school.

And he has indeed changed the lunches to a system Felix finds baffling.

My son forgets, I’m an insider. “Do you have three lunch options, one of them vegetarian?” I ask, deadpan.

My sons eyes widen. “Yes!”

“And do you have to wear a rubber wrist band, red, green or blue, depending on what your choice is?”

His eyes bulge. If he’s this easy to impress at 14, I think to myself, we’re going to coast through the teenage years.

“How did you know?” he gasped.

“They have that system at my school. It feels complicated for a while,” I go on, sagely, “but you do get used to it in the end.”

And that’s where the lopsided grin appears suddenly, out of nowhere. It has the effect of making people laugh even when no-one’s told a joke.

So I know something’s coming.

“Do you have that thing where they try to push you to eat things?”he ventures. My mind is boggling. They do force feeding at primary school now? Felix is busy casting around for the correct technical term, his face clouded. And then it clears.

“Food Force Five!” he exclaims, and the grin is full-strength now. “It’s rubbish,” he beams, confidentially.

It’s ok for the infants, he tells me seriously. The 5-7 year olds. But to the 7-11’s , its a source of constant amusement.

Felix holds that consumption of school dinners has dropped like a stone since Food Force Five came along. It’s a campaign aimed at getting kids to eat healthily: comprising of five schoolkid heroes, professionaly turned out, with some impressive powers; immortality through regeneration, immunity to toxins, advanced intelligence, yada yada yada. Each one has a trigger: one of the major food groups.

Felix says that on Thursdays – Food Force Thursday – when dishes are named after the five heroes,about two people queue up for dinner. Now: never underestimate my sons ability to exaggerate lavishly, but even so, those are some pretty awesome fact-based statistics.

Who could resisit Googling the superheroes which – Felix says – the infant schoolers love, but the juniors love to hate?

Screen Shot 2013-01-29 at 19.33.17

Like any responsible parent I riffled though the five’s resumés.

The Dairy Guy was born in Basingstoke General Hospital. Just after he was born he accidentally, and improbably, drank from a carton of milk  in which one of the maternity doctors had hidden a substance named Invincium. He finds himself inadvertently invincible.

The littlest one – triggered by protein – is called Albert and lives in Holland Park.  “He has never met his father,” reads the biog, “who, his mother tells him, works for the armed forces, but she can’t be too sure as she only met him once.”

Poor protein-triggered Albert is viewed by his mother as an ‘accident’.

Now I’m hooked. Appalled, but hooked. This is a kid’s healthy eating campaign?

The unfortunately labelled Jaz Mann is the veggie character, rescued by the Red Cross after an attack on her Indian village and brought back to the UK to be cared for by a prominent scientist. Does the Red Cross do that?  She ends up at the school for gifted and talented – wait for it – Food Force Farm.

No, not Force Food Farm, silly.

Or Food travelling at Force Five.

That’s Food Force Five to you.

 

And just to prove I have not been hallucinating, you can check out Food Force Five – and whether it really is for infant schoolers -here

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48 thoughts on “Getting Preachy about food: Food Force Five

  1. Wow. Not one token female character but TWO. And one of them isn’t even wearing PINK! I am shocked and amazed. And also musing over the Theory Of Unintended Consequences. This must be a classic example.

  2. I am desperately cynically thinking that it started out as Food Finance Farm and someone got a great hefty bonus/ promotion/ honorary degree for finding the ‘right’ name. Has Felix got the T-shirt?

    • Aw, I loved Snap, Crackle and Pop. My mum always insisted on buying Sainsbury’s own brand.

      Karen, I am so glad someone has put it into words. The way they have chosen unsettling back stories really does clash with they way I believe children should be taught. They need to rethink their strategy!

  3. I just posted this to my FB, Kate, asking friends to “weigh-in”–no pun intended, as to whether schools in the States have anything quite like it. I applaud all efforts to redirect current trends in children’s obesity and poor diet, but I don’t know how well anyone is going to do to break the dependency on sodium and fat. Efforts are good, however. Applause to your school system, though, with a sympathetic nod to Felix! :-)

    • Ah, you are a sympathiser, Debra! I am a teacher, and have always been taught that one judges such enterprises by their outcomes. Not sure this enterprise has been entirely successful on that front.

      Our classrooms are packed full of activities and a curriculum to support healthy eating; it’s done simply and directly with lots of practical cooking to send the message home. Campaigns like this put a lot of money into a rather confused forum. And the older primary children simply use it as irony fodder.

      • I get that. I don’t honestly think the schools can make much of a dent in the problem without a family’s buy-in, but I also think these messages take decades to sink in. I don’t expect many changes to take place after a certain age. I didn’t think about the money aspect! :-)

      • Ah, we’re British, we love getting all disgruntled about things like this :-) I’d be interested to find out what your FB audience tell you. California, I believe, advocates seven-a-day whilst we barely manage five. Do you visit Tammy at agrigirl.com? She’s done the most education for my family. Shows me how to fit being healthy into a hectic routine.

      • No, I don’t know her. Thank you. I will definitely visit. I am sure my daughter could really use the support. And to your comment about California, it’s so funny, Kate, but I really am more a product of my environment and culture than I typically admit even to myself. I’m often informed by what is a bit emotional and not ground in logic. :-)

  4. Oh Kate, this sounds like it was created by my stepdaughter’s PSHE lot – you know the one – create the food group pyramid. Fabulously sensible for lower school, but by year 11 you have boxes on the side for: pizza, chocolate, popcorn – and (who could resist) – booze!
    with the future in hands like this… what need we…

  5. I confess–before I saw the link, I planned to google Food Force Five to see whether you and Felix were making the whole thing up. I visited the FF5 Universe–It’s fascinating, in a strange way (sorry about that U. S. Danger Zone). But I can’t imagine anyone thinking school-age children would be impressed. Roy Rogers got me to eat a lot of Wheaties, I’m told, but by the time I hit first grade, I’d dropped him for sugar-frosted everything. Or would have if anyone had agreed to buy it for me.

  6. You are not hallucinating, Kate, but the people who wrote the back stories, clearly must have. :) The stories are really disturbing, and more important, pointless. I don’t even see how they would interest the children in eating healthy food.

  7. Grumbling about school lunches never goes out of style.

    But, the back stories of the super heroes (?) are quite disturbing given the target audience. You wonder what the ad men (and ad women) are thinking sometimes.

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