Saturday, March 14, 2015

Box Tops for Education

Several months ago, a few mom friends asked me to discuss the topic of "Box Tops for Education." Not having ever participated in this program, I decided to look into it for blogging purposes, and what I discovered was rather interesting.

You don't need to be a muck-raking investigative journalist to quickly realize that Box Tops for Education says something at least potentially depressing about both box tops and education. 

Here's how it works: you clip the box tops off hundreds of shitty processed food products like Honey Nut Cheerios, Betty Crocker Cake Mix, Hamburger Helper, Fruit by the Foot, and pretty much anything where the first two ingredients are high fructose corn syrup and an unpronounceable chemical. I'm not judging, since while I do my best to feed my kids healthy hippie food, I basically also let them eat whatever they want on a fairly regular basis, including shit like Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Gogurts, both of which appear to be participants in Box Tops For Education.

You then send the box tops to your participating school, and each box top is worth 10 cents for the school. I think you can also earn some crappy plastic toys while doing this.

I'm not saying that this effort doesn't add up to a few iPads and field trips, and that's a good thing, of course. But something tells me that the public education system and the kids it serves are not exactly getting the primo end of this deal. I bet if someone crunched the numbers, they'd discover that Big Agriculture is laughing all the way to the bank. In other words, I suspect that by the time families buy all of these products and consume them, the cost of groceries and the health costs of subsisting on a diet of Lays potato chips and Capri Sun far outweigh the cost of new art supplies and an upright piano for the third floor music room.

Wait a minute. Why am I knocking this? Isn't it a good thing that these companies are donating some of their proceeds to the worthy cause of public education? Yeah. It's great! But really, it's kind of only great in the same way that Philip Morris donates bushels of money to cancer research and anti-tobacco efforts. The P.R. and tax breaks that come from giant corporations engaging in "charitable" undertakings like this continue to bolster profit margins while making their board of directors look like a bunch of good guys.

Since we're on the topic of school, let's do some quick fourth grade arithmetic: The common denominator of the participating products in this program is that all if not most of them (at least the edible ones) are horrendously bad for you. The Box Tops program brags that it's raised over $600M for education since 1996. So that's almost 20 years, at $30M a year. I am pretty sure that $30M per year is a fraction of the annual take-home pay of some of the top dogs at Monsanto. So we're talking about the equivalent of pennies on the economy of scale, all while families continue to buy these products and suffer the long-term consequences of being stuck in both our corrupt food system and our under-funded public school system.

Again, I'm not judging the consumption of this crap. I eat it too, and so do my kids. It's cheap and convenient and healthier food is expensive and inconvenient, although we all do our best. But Big Ag has the upper hand, for exactly that reason. If these guys really care about education so much, maybe they should stop poisoning the kids who receive it and just GIVE $30M a year to America's schools?

Yeah. I didn't think so.

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