Junkfood Science: Starting them young... on the road to eating disorders?

November 29, 2007

Starting them young... on the road to eating disorders?

A new board game for preschoolers has come out just in time for Christmas gift giving. It’s a toy being marketed for 4-year olds to teach kids ‘healthy eating’ and exercise. Instead, it is one of the most troubling examples of educational toys to address 'childhood obesity.' Not only does it reinforce with little ones prejudicial stereotypes of fat children, it shows them how to think like anorectics and compulsive exercisers.

Players come away learning that foods, especially “bad” foods, make them fat. The message being illustrated is that when a food is eaten, they must purge by expending a certain number of calories in exercise to avoid getting fat. Calorie counting before they can count.

The creator of Hungry Hank™ says it “helps young children make the connection between eating, exercise and weight.” [A myth that JFS readers well understand.] Every time the players land on a space on the board game with a food on it, Hungry Hank eats, “burps, grunts and his belly expands.” When they land on an exercise space, they have to do the required exercise to burn off the calories.

The loser is the player who lands on a food space and causes Hungry Hank to explode.

The Orange Country Register promoted it in a recent article:

Formerly obese guy tries to develop board game for kids

Hungry Hank hiccups. He grunts. He burps. Michael Moore – not that Michael Moore – sits at his kitchen table in Irvine gazing at Hank with unblinking, unconditional love. After all, Hank’s his baby – 14 years in the making The 8-inch-tall, cartoonish figure has a massive, eggplant-shaped nose and arsenal of rude noises. Hank was going to be a star....

What’s needed, Moore says, is a little education – a philosophy at the heart of the Hungry Hank game. But before the educational stuff, Moore says, the game had to be fun – something kids and their parents would want to play together, regardless of their food issues.... Players (from two to four) roll a dice to make their way around a circular board, landing on food and exercise spaces. Every time a player lands on a food space, he or she presses a big green button by Hungry Hank’s feet. For example, landing on a bowl of cereal and a banana for breakfast is one pump – two donuts and chocolate milk are three pumps. Each pump causes Hungry Hank’s belly to grow. His arms flap and he burps or grunts....

“We all have to do more on the early part of the age education to reinforce healthy eating habits,’’ says Moore...

The game comes with no warning labels for parents.

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