I'M SPENDING $3,000 a year for my child's nursery school and she's eating saltines," a New York City parent said angrily.
This concerned father is reacting to the snack facts of life at most nursery schools and day-care centers. The most served snacks at mid-morning for children are saltines, made of highly processed white flour with absolutely no nutritive value at all, Triscuits, which contain BHA and BHT, and Wheat Thins, admittedly the best of the three but still relatively high in salt and sugar. Graham crackers, another all-time favorite, should really be called graham cookies because they too are high in sugar.
Two young New York mothers became so concerned about the sugar-laden, chemically constructed snacks served to their daughters at nursery school, that they took matters into their own hands. Anna Switzer and Ann Cook found that the director of their children's nursery school, while sympathetic to their complaint, did not have the time to search out good snacks that were not prohibitively expensive.
Guided by their own philosophy of food without preservatives, artificial coloring or flavoring, whole wheat flour instead of white flour and only occasional sweeteners, the two women began looking for snacks that would be healthy, good tasting and reasonably priced. They were so successful that word got around and parents at other schools asked for similar snacks for their children.
The result is Good Food for Kids, Inc., a two-woman company offering New York City schools and day-care centers over 14 different snacks that meet Switzer and Cook's exacting standards. They have been in business since October, 1978 and already service between 75 and 100 clients who order by phone once a week or bi-weekly. They have also learned a lot about product development and the fascinating world of New York City food producers.
The bread stick story is a good example of how a product can grow to meet a need. Both women had been serving their children bread sticks at home, but the only bread sticks on the commercial market are made from white flour or artichoke flour (for those allergic to wheat). Nowhere could they find a whole wheat breadstick.
The began talking to Louis, a Brooklyn baker who made only bread sticks but had never made whole wheat breadsticks. The obstacles seemed large, as they often do for a new project: "Nobody wants whole wheat breadsticks," "I have to buy 100 pounds of whole wheat flour and what if they don't sell?" Week after week the discussions continued. At 7:30 one morning, Anna Switzer's phone rang: "Anna, it's Louis. I made the breadsticks."
It was a breakthrough and whole wheat breadsticks have become a success. In five months, Louis made 30 percent of his breadsticks with whole wheat flour and the market is growing. The perfect snack for young children because they are so easy to manage, Louis' whole wheat breadsticks are commercially available at a few city health food stores.
Good Food for Kids is constantly developing new products. They currently offer whole wheat pretzels and cheese pretzels, pretzels that are distinctive because they are low in salt. In trying to combine the two into one whole wheat-cheeze pretzel, they find the whole wheat overpowers the cheese taste, so that combination is still in the experimental stage.
Cookies present a whole new challenge. Most whole wheat cookies are 35 percent sugar by weight. Switzer and Cook have developed two whole grain, low sugar cookies (about 15 to 18 percent sugar by weight). Annie's Oaties, is an oatmeal cookie containing whole wheat flour, pure vegetable shortening, sugar, rolled oats, water, raisins and salt. The other is called Peanut Butter Jessies.
The women are quick to point out, however, that their slightly sweetened cookies, sesame crunch (made with honey) and carob crunch represent an attempt to meet school needs half-way and should only be used for special party occasions. For daily snacks they recommend their selection of such non-sweetened items as breadsticks, pretzels, sesame chips, cheese sticks, and tropical mix.
In an unbusiness-like manner, Good Food for Kids does not want to replace innovative snack programs where they exist. Where children are making their own healthy snacks or parents are bringing in good snacks to nursery school, there is no need for alternatives. What they do want to do is offer children (and their teachers) new and healthy taste options. They believe firmly that if the adults in charge offer these snacks in a positive way, talk about the food and make it interesting, the children will enthusiastically accept these snacks and come to prefer them to saltines, Triscuits or Wheat Thins.
For more information, write Good Food for Kids, Inc., 670 West End Avenue, New York, New York 10025.