Friday, November 06, 2009

The McCains Potato Story

McCains potato busI have been inundated by comments and emails since I resumed blogging. Thanks for all the support, Bean Sprouts readers, it means a great deal to me.

I have also heard from some organisations who would like to be featured on the blog. For example McCains (of the oven chips) thought my readers might be interested in the ‘Potato Story’ bus which is currently touring Liverpool.

McCains say that:
  • 1 in 10 children aged 7-11 think chickens lay potatoes (where on earth do they think eggs come from, then?)
  • 1 in 5 have no idea that potatoes are grown in the ground (I've grown most of mine in bags this year, but that's just nit-picky)
  • 1 in 5 don't realise that chips are made from potatoes

That last one may have something to do with children these days getting their chips from plastic bags of frozen oven chips. And no doubt McCains have a marketing agenda here. I doubt they are acting out of the goodness of their hearts. But someone ought to educate children about where food comes from. I rather liked their Potato Story website which features videos and games and resources for parents and schools. The McCains logo is clearly featured on each page. You can make your own mind up about whether that is brand placement or honesty. I'd have been more uneasy if it wasn't there but that's just my response.

McCains have also offered me a couple of gardening kits for kids, which include a gardening set, colouring book and crayons plus some vouchers. I'll always tell you if I am offered an inducement to include anything on the blog, and I try not to let it affect my decision but I'm only human. I was only ever offered cash once and told readers about it straight away. Mostly I get offered books to review. I remember once I was offered biodegradable poop-scoop bags. I usually give them away as competition prizes to readers and that's what I plan to do with the gardening kits.

What do you think about this kind of education-cum-marketing? I think as long as it doesn't masquerade as being independent and unbiased I am OK with it. Do you agree or disagree?


Sol said...

If it educates the children, where the parents havent bothered. I am all for it.

Anything that gets kids thinking is worth it.

And the word verification is


how can I disagree with that

Anonymous said...

I like the website a lot. It's simple and informative. The McCains logo is unobtrusive, and not present at all on the bit of the video for children that I watched.

All in all, I think it's a very good effort. I have to say though, I'm stunned by the idea that any children are really brought up in such ignorance that they can seriously think spuds are produced by chickens. Ye gods, just look at the sheer size of a good baking potato. *Wince*...

pete shield said...

Great to see you back Bean Sprouts, hope all is well.

Have to disagree on corporate 'education'though.

There has always been a grey area on frontiers of the law on advertising and marketing to young people/kids, which companies keep pushing further and further over.

If there is a problem with our education system to such an extent that kids no longer know where chips come from then its a public policy/parental/civil society issue, not one for the private sector to step into pushing fat, sugar and salt heavy junk food.

Product placement, subtle or not, is a form of advertising, whether it be under the guise of education or in a cartoon, and still does not alter the fact it is advertising to kids to opt for one brand over another.

Like Tesco's computers for schools was a cynical attempt top get cash strapped schools to ask their pupils to pressurise their parents to shop at Tescos( See Campaign for Commercial-Free Education: in that case it would cost Irish parents €344,000 to get one computer valued at €700.

Sorry to be kill joy, but I would much rather back the Soil Association's campiagn for organic school meals than McCains spud bus

Once again great to see you back.
all the best


Mrs King said...

I used to be healthy eating co-ordinator at our Babe's school, and was horrified to have junior children asking me "What's an onion?" and "Do you think I'll like pasta, I've never tried it?"

It was a privilege to be able to make a small difference, especially to the little lad who used to invariably come up to me smiling and say "Mrs King, I've had vegetables again today".

I guess anything that helps is valuable. The Bible teaches that he who is not against us is for us, so on that basis go with McCains - with your eyes wide open.

Neil said...

It is a double edge sword. One the one hand it is education, and probably better than nothing, but major qualms about industry providing education about the problems that they themselves are partly responsible for.

And I am inclined to agree with Peter that the marketing/advertising aspect is a major issue.

The gifts I think you always act responsibly about - and presumably they don't ask for them back of you don't blog about something.

Diane said...

Glad I kept checking for updates. I missed your blog. About corporate "education": I'm not comfortable with it. I think my state even has a law against it in schools. Parents can let children read or view material like that and discuss the message behind the message but I doubt that they are the ones whose kids think chickens lay potatoes.

Pete Shield said...

After writing my rather bah humbug comment above I went off to make some coffee and read October's 'The Garden' magazine, the monthly publication from the Royal Horticultural Society. In it I found a wonderful article about an initiative called the RHS Campaign for School Gardening.

It starts with the story about Forster Park Primary School in Lewisham London, one of the 9,000 participating schools throughout the UK. It tells the story of a guy called Graeme Slate, who was employed as a learning mentor to help deal with behavoural problems at the school, particularly with pupils that were unable to cope in a classroom environment, on average 4 pupils were permanently expelled every year.

On an absolute shoe string he build up a school garden. Transforming the six large planters out side the school, which previously had been full of cig butts into individualy pupil managed flower gardens, and building a vegetable allotment down one side of the school.
According to Graeme, "Within weeks of starting the scheme things had started to settle down, I think it has something to do with a positive male figure who gave the boys pratical learning activities such as hammering, sawing and digging to do. If you don't read and write well, then gardening is something you can do that makes yourself feel good about yourself."

Most of these schools gardens are run outside of budgets on a make do and volentary basis with individual teachers and parents helping our with materials, plants, seeds and tools.

Now if corporates could provide enabling resources for these, under the control of say the RHS or schools then I would be more positive than I am about such involvement than I was in my first comment.


Melanie Rimmer said...

Thanks Pete. I like the way you think. It's useful to ask "In an ideal world, how would we like corporations to behave?" I don't want businesses like McCains to go away and stop existing. But I'd like to see highly inethical practices of some businesses stopped, and I'd like to see more genuine involvement with community programmes. You don't have to buy a certain number of bags of oven chips to access the potato bus, you just have to know where it is and go along. We have to be as quick to applaud corporations when they get something right as we are to damn them when they get things wrong.

Sue Garrett said...

I hope you don't mind me posting this - if so just delete but as an ex primary teacher and allotment holder I kept being asked to help with school garden projects. NOt enough time in the day and so I have created a website to support school garden projects. It does have some resources which have to be bought but most of the information and resources are free.


The URL is across two lines as I know it will be cut short on the posting