The Beastie Boys would be so disappointed by today’s teenagers. No longer interested in sex, drugs, and rock and roll, today’s generation of bores is more interested in the composition of their organic salad. When did American teenagers become so staid?
According to New York magazine, an increasing number of teenagers have decided to become social justice warriors about the food they’re eating. Why? Because they want to be rebellious.
A new study revealed that teenagers are willing to adopt healthy diets as a form of rebellion, the Guardian reports. Teens aren’t as interested in eating healthy just because it’s good for them; they’re more willing to change their dietary habits to seem cool, according to the research.
“If the normal way of seeing healthy eating is that it is lame, then you don’t want to be the kind of person who is a healthy eater,” study co-author David Yeager, of the University of Texas at Austin, told the Guardian. “But if we make healthy eating seem like the rebellious thing that you do, you make your own choices, you fight back against injustice, then it could be seen as high status.”
Good grief. It makes me hope I raise a petty thief or a recreational drug user.
Of course, this makes sense today. Eating has never been taken so seriously and grocery shopping is now an aspirational pursuit. Moms agonize about every morsel of food that enters their child’s body and mommy bloggers make sport of shaming moms who choose to purchase more affordable (read: not purchased at Whole Foods) groceries.
Businesses have even gotten in on the action, designing marketing strategies that play on people’s food anxieties. They toss around words like “all-natural,” “clean,” and “healthy” and, like Chipotle, promise to only serve the best, organic, non-GMO, and most ethical food available (never mind the food poisoning).
Is it any wonder we have a generation of smug teenagers who demand a side of social justice with every meal?
American teenagers and young adults are increasingly mollycoddled in every aspect of their lives; of course this has extended to the cafeteria. On-campus speech codes and safe spaces designed to keep students from hearing and seeing things that may challenge their belief system are standard today. Even K-12 students are enjoying a new level of protection. As The Federalist recently reported, there now exists “a new proposal to develop government standards for kids’ feelings, social behavior, and relationships.” Is there really a need for this? Isn’t school itself supposed to be one gigantic safe space?
It’s only a matter of time before some eager congressman or senator gets wind of these teenage demands and requires further changes to school-provided lunches—a federal feeding program so bloated and riddled with waste (not just dollars, food waste is a particular problem), fraud, gross mismanagement and improper payments that exceed $1 billion (yes, that’s a B) that the Office of Management and Budget has placed the program on its “high-error list.”
Why not add demands like “organic only,” “non-GMO” and “wheat grass shots on Wednesdays” to the already impossible demand and loads of red tape that comes with staying within federal guidelines while feeding millions of kids each day?
Interestingly, the study showed that most kids chose a healthier snack after they were given “information on the manipulative nature of the food industry.” Yeah, that sounds like solid science right there. Let’s imagine how that works:
Researcher to fifteen-year-old kid: “So, the company that produces Doritos and cheese sticks—you know, your favorite foods, is a part of BIG FOOD, which works to control you and every other American’s food choices and tries to keep us all on a diet of processed junk food, which helps BIG AG, so that we can get sick and then demand products from BIG PHARMA. So, how do you feel about Doritos and cheese sticks now?”
Fifteen-year-old kid to researcher: “I’ll have the kale, please.”
It isn’t exactly a surprise that if fed a bunch of lies about the food industry, kids are going to choose items that they view as being outside the establishment. Yet, it might be nice to more fully inform these kids about the facts. For instance, these social justice eaters might be interested to know that the organic industry made around $43 billion last year . . . not exactly a mom and pop operation. And that feel-good companies like Annie’s Organic is actually owned by General Mills.
Of course, there’s a tiny sliver of good news in this absurd story. At some point, these kids will move on from their teenage years and ease up a bit on their Portlandia-like food demands. Until then, parents should brace themselves for a return of their picky eating toddler—this time, in the form of a kale-smoothie-demanding tween.