Readers reply to the Subway “chips with that” column

March 7, 2012

In the 11 months that I’ve been writing this column, I’ve advocated spying on your kids; I’ve scolded moms for finding more areas of division than unity; and I’ve posited that choosing a college major needs to be more than a purely economic decision.

I’ve heard from readers on those columns. But I have never heard from readers with as much volume or the fervor as when I wrote last month that Subway should have let a mom substitute a bag of chips for the fruit slices with her daughter’s Healthy Kids meal.

Many were thoughtful, if outraged. Those readers got a personal reply from me. (If you were rude and anonymous, your rant was not acknowledged. Sorry, but as a mom, I refuse to reward bad behavior.)

But I believe that for every person who took the time to write there were 10 or 20 others feeling the same way. So I want to share some of their thoughts. While it’s not fun to be disagreed with — or called a “lunatic” — it is very satisfying to know that you’re being read in a way that promotes thoughtful dialogue.

Many readers thought I was being unfair to Subway. “Many restaurants do not allow substitutions with set meals. I don’t think Subway should be slammed for not allowing chips with Fresh Fits for Kids meals,” wrote Ann Wass of Riverdale.


(Paul Sakuma/AP)

Others thought that I was making a mountain out of a carrot stick and that the mom could have bought the chips a la carte. Kate Phillips Connolly wrote that the mom “was completely free to buy a kid-size sandwich and chips. Suggesting that a no-substitutions policy is getting close to the point where ‘parents can’t make the ultimate call on what their child eats’ only panders to people’s fear of an emerging Food Police.”

Other parents said there’s a way to have a treat and eat healthy. Odenton resident Ann Greenawalt’s solution? “Purchase the chips separately . . . my younger child eats both the apple slices and the chips. Best of both worlds.”

All those readers are, of course, correct. It’s Subway’s right to sell their food bundled however they see fit. And, of course, the mom could have paid the extra money to get the chips. She also could have chosen to leave the restaurant and go someplace else. Plus, who could be against encouraging kids to eat healthy? (Apparently no one except a temporarily insane Washington Post Momspeak columnist.)

So I get it. I really do. Subway was trying to do the right thing and wasn’t limiting choice in a truly meaningful way. But no matter how noble the goal, I think it’s important to look at the precedent that is set.

Shortly after the column appeared, another reader sent me a link to a story about a North Carolina mom who sent her 4-year-old to preschool with a bag lunch that included a turkey sandwich, chips, a banana and apple juice. The school lunch monitor who was inspecting home-packed lunches said that the girl’s lunch did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines. The girl was then given chicken nuggets from the school cafeteria.

Obviously, this is a much more egregious situation than the Silver Spring Subway’s no-substitutions policy.

But as reader Linda Skladany wrote to me about the chips column, “Your column reminds me of the words of the late great Senator Malcolm Wallop of Wyoming . . . ‘We give up our freedoms just a little bit at a time.’ ”

Grant, the editor of KidsPost, writes about parenting issues every other week.

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