Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Baseball contributing to obesity epidemic? Stadiums serving ice cream in life-size commemorative helmets

A recent visit to Citizens Bank Park by a local anti-obesity advocacy organization's president sparks a plea to M.L.B. and the Phillies to offer healthier food options at the ballpark, especially for young fans. This season, the Phillies began selling the Big Helmet Ice Cream, a life-size batting helmet filled to the top with your choice of vanilla or chocolate ice cream and up to sixteen toppings. The helmet is meant as a single serving. Here is her letter:

Dear Phillies,

My name is Loraine Gorchec and I am president of Obese Lil' Rascals: Not Now, Not Ever (OLR:NNNE), a non-profit organization based right here in the great city of Philadelphia. I am very proud to lead this group of twelve strong, hard-working individuals who diligently attempt to combat childhood obesity in children and very, very small adults (adults often mistaken for children). I must first state that I am a casual sports fan, not that this should diminish the message of my letter. Though born and raised in the area, I went to my first Phillies game in quite some time a couple weeks ago when we had our agency summer outing at Citizens Bank Park at the suggestion of two of our fabulous staff members.

I forgot--although I'm not sure how--just how lazy of a sport baseball is. Two players, the pitcher and catcher, seemingly perform the majority of work in the field. I noticed outfielders, for example, did not move six inches from their designated position during a stretch of six consecutive batters. Additionally, I recently read that over a three-hour game, the ball is actually in play for less than ten minutes. Ten minutes!

I also forgot that baseball, the action of attending a game, for its millions of loyal fans, equals a fried and fatty food extravaganza! "Take me out to the ballgame, take me out to the ... great American eat-out."

My job vehemently heightens my sense of awareness when it comes to food options, whether in a mall, a city neighborhood, or, as in this case, a professional athletic stadium. Admittedly, I obtained this sixth sense of food choice awareness long before I joined the staff of OLR:NNNE. During my food stroll around the park I saw Bull's Barbecue, McNally's Schmitter, Tony Luke's, Turkey Hill Ice Cream, Hatfield hot dogs, Von Hay's Chocolate Daze, Chickie's and Pete's, Harry the K's, the High and Inside Pub, the Low and Outside Pub, Foul Ball Falafels, Planet Hoagie, Wes Chamberlain's Churros, and Campo's Steaks. I saw Doug's Dugout Danishes (I was told this was named for Doug Glanville), Kruk's Leftovers (which serves leftovers from previous games at a discounted price), Watch that Baby ... Back Ribs, Randy Ready Crocker, and Bruce Ruffin's Muffins.

This is quite the abbreviated list, but it clearly shows the types of food that beckon fans.

The closest thing to a healthy option was Dickie Thon's Croutons, a great salad place, unfortunately tucked away under one of the outfield stairwells (customers had to duck their heads while waiting in line). Also, Jeltz's Jellies had an exhaustive list of homemade, organic jellies for sale on the first base concourse.

I do realize there are some healthy food options at the park, and that you won an award for this in the past. I applaud this. But, are these healthy options really visible and encouraged in a way that young fans need? Do vendors sell bananas in the stands or rice packets or pizza with veggie cheese? Is there a Dollar Tofu Dog Night?

What struck me the most from the above-listed food selection was the massive portions of ice cream served at the stands lining the spacious concourse. I remember the days when ice cream shot from the machine into the waiting bowl of a miniature plastic batting helmet. I emphasize miniature. When I saw the current portions I had to sit down (literally, with the help from a colleague). Vanilla and chocolate ice cream pour times lasted minutes, not seconds, filling life-size Phillies helmets. These same large helmets can accommodate over thirty scoops of hard ice cream (photo above).

I witnessed a Turkey Hill ice cream promotion called Eat Ice Cream Out Of Your Favorite Phillie's Batting Helmet During the Game. Can I ask, seriously, what message does a campaign like Eat Ice Cream Out of Your Favorite Phillie's Batting Helmet During the Game send to our kids? An eating barrage where sweaty, dirt-covered helmets are retrieved (sometimes forcibly) from the dugout by a team employee, handed to a contest winner, and filled with ice cream holding the stipulation that the creamy custard treat be consumed before the player returns to the on-deck circle.

If they finish? He or she keeps the helmet. No fan has pulled the stunt off as of yet. Jimmy Rollins, waiting patiently in the on deck circle for a fan to finish, joking placed the almost-empty helmet on his head only to see ice cream pour down the sides an onto his dirt-stained uniform. Really, what is the goal here?

No, really, again, what message does this send?

I did some research. Twenty-eight of thirty M.L.B. stadiums serve the massive ice cream dish. That's over ninety-three percent! And, eighteen of these teams have been offering it for at least five years.

I want M.L.B. to partner with us to offer more nutritious, organic foods for young and adult spectators. For example, instead of Bull's Barbecue we want them to change it to Bull's Broccoli Bazaar, it'll be great, trust me. Yes, fans will need time to adjust, but it will eventually be embraced. Instead of the Schmitter, how about the Tofu-inator; however, we want the tofu to be free-range. Also, instead of cotton candy serve candy apples without the stick or the candy coating.

Children, or kids as I like to call them, are our precious gift. They are the future. Obese Lil' Rascals: Not Now, Not Ever wants to protect them and I know you, the Phillies and Major League Baseball, want to protect them, too. Let's not, however, promote an unhealthy eating lifestyle for young ones. Let's "take them out to the ballgame, take them out to the crowd that really understands healthy eating."


Loraine Gorchec

No comments: