Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Canadian Sugar Institute Tells Curious 13 Year Old Boy To Get Lost

Meet Ryan Storm.

Ryan is a 13 year old student at Northern Secondary School. He's also a blogger in his own right, and a budding food activist, and when he heard that his school had invited the Canadian Sugar Institute (CSI) to "promote healthy sugary treats" in his school's cafeteria, he knew he had to be there.

Unfortunately, shortly after Ryan showed up at the Canadian Sugar Institute's display, he was told that their presenters would no longer answer his questions and so I reached out to Ryan with a few questions of my own.

Can you describe the school display from the CSI folks?

CSI had a table right near the doors to the cafeteria, where kids go to buy their food. Their table had a banner on it that read “The Healthy Hub”, which is a school program, that isn’t really very healthy. There were four women staffing the table, but they weren’t wearing uniforms or any identifying marks about where they were from. They also had no Canadian Sugar Institute signage. I was told that they were doing a presentation, but it was more like they had a table at a trade show that people could go up to if they wanted. On the table they had a few black and white photographs of seemingly random foods with the nutrition facts of each pasted on the back. They were trying to tell people how sugar is connected to calories somehow, and I didn’t really understand the point they were trying to get across. They also had a “Jeopardy” game board with categories like “Sugar and Health” and “Sugar and Your Body” and were trying to get people to answer their questions. I chose the “$1,000 question” from the “Sugar and Health” category, which was
“Sugar can be part of a balanced diet.”
I said,
“What is NO?”
and they replied,
“actually it is yes”,
that was my first big inkling of how much of a problem this was. The women were friendly at first and tried to explain to me that since sugar is in almost everything we eat today we should embrace it and then starting talking about how fruits even have sugars.

What was the message the CSI folks were trying to teach the kids in your school.

They were trying to teach about “healthy sugary treats” and actually used that term in promoting it! Absurd! I actually read it and laughed at first because of how much of an oxymoron that was!

How many questions did you ask before you were asked to stop asking questions?

I think I probably asked maybe 4 questions about their work and then 2 questions to see if I could interview them on camera or audio.

What reason did they give you for why they were no longer comfortable fielding your questions?

They thought I was being “too inquisitive” and also “invasive” into their privacy. They mentioned that they were university students and didn’t feel comfortable being asked questions.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions Ryan, and thanks too for caring and trying to make a difference.

[And if you want to reach out to Ryan, you can also find him on Twitter]