Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Parental "No" Files - Canada's Wonderland, Where Healthy Eating is Banned!

This one's courtesy of a great blog post by Toronto based pediatrician Daniel Flanders.

The long and the short of it is this: If you're planning a trip to Canada's Wonderland your kids are going to eat junk food all day long. There's literally no way around it. You see according to Dr. Flanders there are food police working the entrance to the park. Every bag is searched for "outside" food, and so when Dr. Flanders' family got searched, their home made healthy lunches were deemed contraband and were confiscated.

Dr. Flanders postulates that the rationale for the ban is money,
"Scratching my head, I wondered, why the ‘no outside food’ policy? As I walked through the facility, The answer became quite clear – there is way too much money to lose when allowing patrons to bring their own food. A pizza costs $25.00. A fountain drink: $4.00. A bottle of water: $3.00. ”Criminal” I thought to myself."
And I can't help wonder whether or not it is?  Given what else passes for human rights violations in our country you'd think that we'd have the human right to decide what food we'd like to eat when spending a by definition day-long activity where meals are undoubtedly required. Whether it's for medical, religious or preventative health reasons I would have thought preventing people from bringing the food of their choice to a location where the primary fee is for non-food based entertainment would, even with a private enterprise, be a denial of their basic rights.

But I'm not a lawyer.

If there are any Canadian lawyers reading this post, would greatly appreciate their opinion as to whether or not it is legal to ban "outside" food from Canada's answer to Six Flags?

But of course for those of you who feel that the sole line of defense against an environment that incessantly pushes junk food down our children's throats should be a parent who says, "No", clearly it was well within Dr. Flanders' power to turn around at the gate and not take his kids to Canada's Wonderland.  But do you really think that's the answer?

While I'm certain at some point to bring my children to Canada's Wonderland, reading Dr. Flanders' post I'm now also certain it'll be an extremely rare visit rather than a more regular one.

Go on and read Dr. Flanders' post. It's excellent and eye-opening.

(And if you're reading this and thinking, "Ah come on now, is one day of junk food really all that bad?", please click the tag labeled "Parental No" below to start getting a sense of how this is just one in a long, long, never-ending line of days rather than just one")

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  1. Snack Girl wrote about a way to get healthy food into Six Flags (in the US) with permission: by calling ahead and lying about having severe food allergies: http://www.snack-girl.com/snack/amusement-park-food/

    The entire situation is crazy.

  2. Anonymous7:35 am

    I'm actually quite impressed with Calypso Water Park just outside of Ottawa. They actually encourage you to bring your own food (only glass containers and alcohol are forbidden, which are both understandable). We went once without bringing our own food, and what they offered wasn't great, but also surprisingly not overpriced. However, it was all fairly greasy, which left us all with big lumps in our stomachs that didn't encourage riding water slides for about an hour :) The second time, we brought all our own food (sandwiches, fruit, cheese, etc.) and then just treated everyone to an ice cream in the afternoon. We all enjoyed ourselves that much more eating generally more healthy and satisfyingly, and could jump right back into the water after every meal and snack. I wish more places followed their cue...

  3. Anonymous7:38 am

    One way to get around that & have your own food "allowed" by the food entrance police is to tell them you're diabetic. That's what I always do & it works every time.

    Sad that I have to lie but I want my own food. I don't want to spend another couple of hundred dollars on park food that's just garbage & will make me sick at the end of the day.

  4. The question it raised for me was - what about allergies? I'm guessing that Wonderland is not a totally peanut free environment? And mind you it's been well over a decade since I've been but I can't imagine the food being friendly to the dairy-free either.

    But perhaps the previous comment about claiming diabetes would help.

    The other and even less pleasant idea - kids used to healthy diet dine on hot dogs and funnel cake for lunch and then get on rides... doesn't sound like the best recipe for, um, coaster cleanliness?


  5. Movie theaters and other establishments have similar policies but they rarely search you like a criminal and you are not there all day. I also worry about dehydration, especially in children, given the often extreme temperatures and lack of drinking fountains.It's a shame it costs a parent of 3 around at least $50 to even come close to properly hydrating their kids for the day. At least have some water stations available and allow parents to make the decision about other beverages such as lemonade and soda. Then again, the six flags response may be to suggest the kids stick out their tongues at the Coca-Cola cooling station or go on the white water canyon with their mouths wide open.

  6. Anonymous8:53 am

    Other option is to leave the park and have a tailgate picnic -- Wonderland day passes allow for in and out access.

    1. Anonymous11:31 pm

      This is exactly what everyone I know who goes there does. It's ridiculous to have to have to drag everyone to go eat on the grass outside the park, but no more ridiculous than the prices at that place.

      As for the legality of it all, it's a private business, not a public park; they can have whatever policies they choose.

  7. David B.8:59 am

    We almost always do what Anonymous, above, says -- we leave food in coolers in the car and have a quick picnic when we want to eat. It's a little bit of a pain, but not much, because then we don't have to lug our food around in the morning. And with the lines we often see at food places, it really doesn't use up any additional time!

  8. Toronto Zoo with thirteen year old this summer. Very, very hot with lots of walking. Ok to bring bottle of water in but no place, other than public washroom sink to refill ( it was as unappealing as it sounds). Water is $3.00 for small bottle (that is a 650% mark-up from the wholesale cost of 30 cents. Should be a law that public place where you pay for a day's admission (including water parks and ski hills) must have fountains, or alternative, for refilling personal waterbottles.

  9. Anonymous2:40 pm

    One legal issue that could be used in their defense is the possibility of becoming extremely ill from your own food while on their property. If you bring your own salmonella-contaminated lunch (rare, I know) and have to have EMS while at the park, you can always say it was their food that got you sick and attempt to litigate. At the least, they will be forced to shut down all food/beverage sales in order to replace the stock from where you claim to have eaten. It would be expensive, and a hassle.

    But yes. It's probably just about the money they can make off you while you're there for a day.

  10. Anonymous10:10 pm

    I believe that they can by law have a policy restricting outside food/drink. If you choose to enter the park then you would be expected to comply. If you did bring in your own food and were caught you wouldn't be breaking any laws but they would have the right to kick you out. I'm from Calgary and the Stampede has always allowed me to bring my own drinks/snacks into the park.

  11. BOYCOTT Canada's Wonderland. Nothing hits corporation's 'pocketbook' harder, then bad media coverage. Dr. Freedhoff, you have the ear of the media to get the 'ball' rolling. It is a great combination; a Medical Doctor(s) and conventional media. So unless people start boycotting, going to the conventional media and/or social media (start a 'boycott Canada's Wonderland' Facebook page), nothing will change. It is that simple.