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To have written a sanctimonious, snotty email to the council? WARNING - contains soft play and fruit shoots!

(55 Posts)
AKMD Wed 31-Aug-11 13:26:51

The local council opened a new soft play facility earlier this year as part of their drive to increase health and fitness in the town. The soft play centre is in the middle of the most deprived area in our (bidding for city status) town and is really nice and well thought-out apart from the awful cafe and vending machines, that sell sweets, fizzy pop, processed McD-style food and not a lot else. Everything is deep-fried, salty, fatty, sugary rubbish and I am really shocked at how badly it goes against the 'active, healthy' mission statement of the arm of the council that runs it (it's not outsourced). You also aren't allowed to bring any food or drink in, only consume what's available on site. I've been a few times with DS and it riles me every time so this afternoon I wrote the following email:


I regularly visit the new [soft play centre] with my son and think it is a great facility but badly let down by the catering provision. Although a sign says that only food purchased at the cafe or vending machines can be eaten at the site, the cafe sells 'juice drinks', flavoured milks, sweets, crisps and highly processed burgers, chicken nuggets and ham sandwiches (all served with chips of course), while the vending machines sell sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks, with one vending machine having a handwritten option for water added at the bottom as an obvious after-thought. The 'healthy option' at the cafe is a limp salad consisting of lettuce and tomato.

I am shocked that a facility aimed at young children run by [branch of council] is offering such horrible, unhealthy food made with poor quality ingredients. What a wasted opportunity to introduce children in an obviously highly deprived area to a variety of tasty, well-balanced meals, drinks and snacks. Why Fruit Shoots when you could have fruit juice? Why flavoured milk when you could have real smoothies? Why sweets and crisps when you could have fresh fruit and flapjacks? Why fat-filled, salt-laden processed hamburgers and deep-fried chips when you could make your own beefburgers with fresh ingredients, in a wholemeal bun with a proper salad and oven-baked, straight-from-the-potato chips? Why not make chicken nuggets using real chicken breast and a tasty breadcrumb crust? None of these alternatives are unappealing to children and they aren't exactly hugely expensive either, especially considering the subsidies that go into the [x] area.

I really hope that the appalling food situation is revisited and changes are made in the very near future. Until then, I'll bring my own water and banana for my child, thanks very much.

Best regards,

I know it is snotty and sanctimonious but AIBU?

OldLadyKnowsNothing Wed 31-Aug-11 13:30:45

YANBU, I quite agree.

AngelDelightIsIndeedDelightful Wed 31-Aug-11 13:30:49

YANBU, but you should realise that the reason why they're not providing healthier options is almost certainly down to cost. Healthier ingredients are more expensive than the processed options and need labour to make them. They're probably trying to keep the entrance fee down so that the maximum number of people can access it.

BeerTricksPotter Wed 31-Aug-11 13:34:38

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MsScarlettInTheLibrary Wed 31-Aug-11 13:36:07

YANBU (especially as you know you're being sanctimonious ;)) but I think you're way off on the suggestions about healthier food.

You don't need to replace like for like (because it's not cheaper, it's just not) you need to have a healthy menu from the start.

I see nothing wrong with jacket potatoes with cheese/tuna/beans and salad; pasta with roasted vegetable sauce; fruit bowl/mini cheese/mini sandwich/veg sticks/flapjack 'lunch box' deal. All of these things take little skill or imagination, can come prepackaged and are cheap - prepackaging is of course not ideal but it's a significantly better suggestion than staff breading chicken breasts in the back room.

MsScarlettInTheLibrary Wed 31-Aug-11 13:36:39

sorry, not significantly better but significantly more likely!

niceguy2 Wed 31-Aug-11 13:36:50

YANBU to think it but in practice people buy crap. I remember the big deal a few years ago about Mcdonalds selling only crap. So they changed the menu, offer salads etc, kids meals with veg & fruit. Yet they throw virtually all of it away because people buy the crap.

juuule Wed 31-Aug-11 13:37:48

I would feed my child before or after the soft play session.
I never bought food on soft play premises anyway. It isn't obligatory.
I agree with AngelDelight in that the type of food offered is probably down to cost effectiveness.

AKMD Wed 31-Aug-11 13:37:57

Angel that's what I thought but they have 3 people in the kitchen, which has shorter opening hours than the actual play centre (so they could pre-prepare food in the morning) and this area is the recipient of huge grants and subsidies as it's so run-down. This soft play centre is part of a regeneration project for the area and the council are absolutely pouring money in so I don't think it would be hard to find the extra cash for wholemeal buns. I don't think it's more expensive to buy fruit juice than Fruit Shoots, for example, or fruit rather than sweets.

AnotherJaffaCake Wed 31-Aug-11 13:39:53

Is sponsorship involved somewhere? It may sound cynical but I wonder whether vending machines containing unhealthy snacks and drinks are there because the suppliers/manufacturers have put money into the project?

AKMD Wed 31-Aug-11 13:41:01

MsCarlett that's a good point and part of the reason that it irks me so much - why didn't they think a bit harder about the food on offer before they opened in the first place?

niceguy2 there is a MCD's just down the road from this place and I have yet to meet a child of soft play age who doesn't like bananas and blueberries. I agree, if a child is given the option of a hamburger or a salad, they will choose the burger every time, so make the hamburger worth eating!

RedOnion Wed 31-Aug-11 13:42:36

YANBU, the very same thing really riles me. Same as the kids menu in most family friendly pubs/restaurants are terrible.

Don't think you were snotty and sanctimonious either.

AKMD Wed 31-Aug-11 13:42:46

Oops, sorry MsScarlett smile

I don't think sponsorship would be involved here - no signs mentioning investment partners show any food or drinks manufacturers. Anyway, the chicken nuggets aren't branded, just rubbish.

Vinomum Wed 31-Aug-11 13:44:28

YANBU at all - your email is spot on. If they have reasons for only selling unhealthy food (which most probably does come down to cost), they should allow parents the option of bringing their own food in.

BTW I think your point about it being an excellent opportunity to introduce healthy food to children in the area is very well made.

CurrySpice Wed 31-Aug-11 13:48:31

As an aside, neither of my kids like bananas or blueberries. I am consistently shocked by this as they like, without exception, all other fruits shock

As you were!

sjuperwolef Wed 31-Aug-11 13:51:01

yanbu at all, i took DD to a softplay bloody miles away across city yesterday and it was so much better to the one i used to take her to! not just fruit shoots and chicken nuggets <which i didnt see on the menu at all> but proper diluting juice, bottles of water and frutt smoothies and slushies, made in lasagne and macaroni etc and cheaper than the other one.

hope you hear something back from them and a reasonable change soon.

Pendeen Wed 31-Aug-11 15:14:56

Is the cafe definitely run by the council?

AnotherJaffaCake point about sponsorship sounds quite feasible.

JodieHarsh Wed 31-Aug-11 15:16:33


Nice one. There should be Jamie Medals of Honour for this sort of thing grin

LyingWitchInTheWardrobe Wed 31-Aug-11 15:24:37

You're right, it is snotty and sanctimonious. Many parents will be bringing in their own snacks or maybe they aren't even needed - it's not essential that a child eats every minute of the day, healthy or not. Most parents are not so derelict that they would feed their children this type of food on a regular basis and the hysteria surrounding occasional treats is really frighteningly ignorant. Why not just ask for fruit, nuts, water, whatever to be available too? If it sells, it will carry on being sold there.

The key to health is activity, exercise, getting kids away from the tv and giving them good nutrition. I'm presuming that you do cook good stuff at home, no?

The council has put in place the vending/catering concessions that will subside the play area, which maintenance and associated activities will cost money. Your council has done well to provide a facility in these days of budget cuts, one that they aren't even obliged to provide.

talkingnonsense Wed 31-Aug-11 15:30:17

They could easily do juice, water, cheese and crackers, so there were healthier options,

catgirl1976 Wed 31-Aug-11 15:35:47


troisgarcons Wed 31-Aug-11 16:04:55

If it's highly deprived how can these 'poor' people afford to eat out? Because it won't be cheap.

halcyondays Wed 31-Aug-11 16:10:05

Yabu, most soft play places tend to sell mainly crap IMO, it's par for the course tbh. Yes, it might be nice to see some healthy options but your email does come over as a bit OTT. Why not just say that you were disappointed by the food choices available and would like to see some alternatives such as fruit juice and fruit? They may well provide them if they feel there is a demand. Maybe they just think there is a greater demand for nuggets and chips than for burgers in wholemeal buns with salad.

milkmilklemonade Wed 31-Aug-11 16:53:30

Great treat, water and crackers!! We have what we want when out for a treat and weirdly, the entire family has survived a tri-annual burger and full fat coke. I feel so sorry for kids who I see on a birthday party in pizza express etc and have a bag of organic muck with them because they aren't allowed the party food. Soft play areas are the most depressing places anyway, they smell of feel and bums, inhaling that can't be all that healthy either, maybe you should invest in an oxygen mask as well.

milkmilklemonade Wed 31-Aug-11 16:53:59


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