What’s With Our National Donut Worship?

Jun 18, 2013, 9:50 AM, Posted by Cathy Arnst

Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joe

Just last month the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation claimed significant progress in reaching their goal of removing 1.5 trillion calories from the U.S. food marketplace. This month, a goodly portion of those calories may be back in play—thanks to the Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joe sandwich.

No, I am not making this up. The donut-shrouded sloppy joe is the proud creation of Chicken Charlie’s, food provider to county fairs in California. What’s more, it’s been written up in numerous media outlets, including Time magazine, which also provided the valuable service of informing its readers about Dunkin Donut’s entry into the lunch category, the doughnut bacon sandwich. Time has alerted America to the imminent arrival of the salty caramel pretzel donut as well. Gee, thanks.  

How discouraging that, despite the escalating obesity crisis in the U.S. among adults and, even more scarily, children, America seems to be obsessed with donuts. Or at least the media is. NBC’s Today show,  the BBC, and numerous other outlets have all done fawning features on a baked good hybrid that is evidently the must-have food item in New York City right now—the cronut, a hunk of dough that is a cross between a croissant and a donut. New Yorkers and tourists alike are standing in line for up to two hours to shell out $5 each. Limit, six to a customer. 

Now the cronut has competition from the sconut, a cross between a donut and a scone, discovered recently by intrepid reporters at Newsday and NPR.  In case donuts aren’t your thing, you can keep abreast of the news of the nationwide shortage of Speculoos, cookie butter sold by Trader Joe’s—a national crisis for sure.

None of this is news you can use.  Right now, 30.5 percent of U.S. children between the ages of 10 and 17 are obese. The highest levels of obesity are found in low income and rural neighborhoods where fast food outlets selling donuts and the like are far more common than supermarkets.  I’d like to see some media coverage of some of the many efforts to combat obesity, not add to it, such as the Healthy Food Access Portal, the first comprehensive  web portal designed to help communities launch healthy food retail projects across the country. It was created by PolicyLink, The Food Trust, and The Reinvestment Fund with a grant from RWJF.

Or how about a story on some of the many community gardens where children are learning not only how to grow vegetables, but like them?  More articles like this, about the value of cooking at home, and some easy, affordable recipes, for families with little time to whip up gourmet meals, would also be nice.

In December the New York Times did a page one story about the first declines in the rates of childhood obesity in several cities, after decades of steady increases--the kind of media story it would be great to see more often. Hopefully we won’t see that progress fall to the wayside this summer because of this national celebration of all things donut-related.