Los Angeles Public Library
How many librarians does it take to change a light bulb?
With a whole nation agonizing over the obesity epidemic, LAPL has done it again--offering high-calorie junk food to young children as an incentive to read books. First it was In-N-Out Hamburgers and then Shakey's Pizza. The latest motivator for potential young readers is a "FREE Kids Creation from Cold Stone Creamery."
As large companies like Kellogg, General Mills, Kraft, Hershey, and Coca-Cola are promising to scale back television advertising of their junk cereals, candy bars, and soda to young children, LAPL is acting as an advertiser for a company producing high-fat, sugar-laden frozen desserts loaded with artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.
The process for obtaining this frozen treat is quite simple with any child 12 or younger eligible to participate. The child receives a bookmark from a librarian and lists each title read on the back. The librarian then validates the bookmark beneath each title.
After the youngster reads five books with a minimum of 30 pages, the librarian stamps the back of the bookmark to verify the books have been read. The child then presents the bookmark at Cold Stone Creamery to receive the "FREE Kids Creation."
The program limits the child to one bookmark during the promotion, but everyone knows that a resourceful child will find ways to obtain more bookmarks. Since this is basically an honor system, children have been known to claim they have read the books, even if they have not. Unlike other food offers, this program does not insist that the parent accompany the child to gain his "FREE Kids Creation," but the odds are the whole family will participate.
The colorful bookmark promises four different choices:
Ingredients for the ice cream in each of the four choices appear at the end of this article. No nutritional information is available for the rainbow sprinkles, Oreo Cookies, Gummi Bears, and the marshmallows.
Searching for nutritional information on the Cold Stone Creamery website, we found the following statement:
"We fully support the intent of this regulation; however, since most of our products are made-to-order, there simply isn't enough room on our existing menu boards to comply with the regulation. As a result, we will no longer be able to provide nutritional information on our website or to residents and customers of our New York City stores. We regret this inconvenience. If you have questions about this regulation, please contact the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and refer to Health Code Section 81.50.
"Nutritional Information for Ice Cream Lovers Residing Outside of New York City
"For years Cold Stone Creamery has provided nutritional information on our website, however due to New York City Health Code 81.50, we regret that we can no longer do so. Customers residing outside of New York City may contact customer service at 1-866-464-9467 or click here to request nutritional information."
Instead of nutritional information, the click here takes the web surfer on an endless loop that provides no information. Apparently, Cold Stone Creamery has used the New York Department of Health dictum as an excuse to remove the nutrition facts from their website so that non-New Yorkers won't know the details either.
VIP called customer service to ask for the nutritional information and were asked for our name, address, phone number, and email address. We were told we would be contacted, but to date we have have not received any communication from the company.
VIP fired off the following letter to LAPL expressing our concerns about offering food as a reading incentive, but we don't have to work very hard to predict the answer. It will probably be similar to their past responses about using food as reading incentives: "It is the responsibility of the parents." This is the type of statement we received when we wrote about the library providing coupons for food at In-N-Out Burger and Shakey's.
July 20, 2007
Ms. Fontayne Holmes, City Librarian
Dear Ms. Holmes:
Once again we write to you to plead that the Los Angeles Public Library refrain from offering food, in this case ice cream, to young children as a reading incentive. Past reading incentives have included hamburgers and pizza.
Every day the public is bombarded with information about the childhood obesity epidemic in this country. Most disturbing is that a public agency like LAPL, supported by taxpayer money, is contributing to the obesity epidemic instead of educating children to help prevent it.
Also alarming is that the library system could be persuaded to act as an advertising medium for Cold Stone Creamery by promoting that company's products.
Hopefully, you will not tell us that this matter is "in the hands of the parent or reponsible adult as to whether to redeem the coupon or not."
LAPL is just as guilty as the large food companies who have been advertising their junk food to children under 12.
The time has come for LAPL to say it will no longer use food for reading incentives and devise more creative methods for encouraging young people to read.
Zel and Reuben Allen
cc Board of Library Commissioners
LAPL probably has a form letter in the file to respond to complaints like ours about giving obesity-promoting food as a reward. The answer below smells like their past communications that reveal their glaring irresponsibility. It's wrong to tempt children with junk food and make the parent the villain for saying, "No!"
Like so many Americans, we at Vegetarians in Paradise are concerned about the childhood obesity epidemic. The blizzard of advertising aimed at children to encourage them to eat calorie-dense junk food loaded with fat, sugar, and sodium is an abomination.
We are disturbed that a public agency like LAPL, supported by taxpayer money, is contributing to the obesity epidemic by allowing itself to be used to promote food that will expand children's waistlines, not their minds. The library has no business acting as a public relations and advertising medium for Cold Stone Creamery or any other food company.
As we said in our letter to the City Librarian, "The time has come for LAPL to say it will no longer use food for reading incentives and devise more creative methods for encouraging young people to read."
We sincerely hope the light at LAPL will go back on very soon. Perhaps, some public outrage is needed to accomplish that mission.
ICE CREAM INGREDIENTS
STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM
CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM
COTTON CANDY ICE CREAM
BUBBLE GUM ICE CREAM