Category Archives: food policy

A newstip that piqued our interest — and our appetites

Some of the candy we purchased in researching this post

About a month ago, a reader called in to deliver a news tip that piqued our interest – and our appetites.

He claimed that a day after the state-mandated sales tax on candy, soda and bottled water was repealed by voters, major grocery store chains upped their prices by the same margin as the tax.

Consumers would fork over the same amount for their M&Ms both before and after the tax was repealed, he said.

In other words, retailers would pocket an extra 9 cents for each package of Reese’s Pieces they sold while the state would simply go without. That was the caller’s hunch.

Had we just stumbled onto Candygate 2010?

We decided to test his theory by looking into whether retailers would charge more for the snacks and water immediately after that sales tax went away.

On Wednesday night, we made trips to Safeway, QFC, Walgreens and a convenience store on Kitsap Way.

At each stop, we picked up a candy, gum and water. We took note of how much the stores charged for soda.

We returned a day later — when stores were told to stop collecting the sales tax —  to buy those same items and compare the receipts.

The caller’s theory didn’t hold up. At three of the four stores, we spent less on our purchases the second day.

But the convenience store charged us $3.90 both times for a package of Wrigley’s 5 Gum, a Three Musketeers candy bar and a 20-ounce bottle of Aquafina. A 23-cent sales tax was tacked on to both purchases.

Despite what we encountered there, state Department of Revenue spokesman Mike Gowrylow wrote in an e-mail that the Dec. 2 transition “has gone smoothly as far as we know” for most retailers.

He said that consumers should demand a refund if stores charge them for a sales tax on candy, gum or water.

If that doesn’t work, they can seek a refund from the DOR, he said.

The bigger problem for the agency is retailers who stopped collecting the tax before Dec. 2. “But we really can’t do anything about that,” he said.

Unfortunately for us, there was no corporate grocery store conspiracy to unravel — but at least we got to eat a bunch of candy.

The Politics of Food, a Second Helping


Thank you. Now that I have your attention, more on how groups near and afar are trying to influence what we eat.

Near: Today, you can catch a forum on local food at 7 p.m. at the Norm Dicks Government Center. The event, Kitsap Conversations: Locally Grown (a community conversation about the connection between local agriculture, food production sustainability and health in Kitsap County) is sponsored by Kitsap Regional Library, WSU Kitsap County Extension and the Kitsap Sun. You can read columns by panelists to appear at the event here ( they are opinion pieces and do not represent the views of the Kitsap Sun). If you can’t make it to the event, you can catch a live-stream of it on the home page of the Kitsap Sun at 7 p.m.

Near: The Kitsap Sun has revamped its map of local farms and other food producers. It’s a work in progress. Tell us what you think; write to Web Editor Angela Dice,

Afar: in Washington, D.C. Friday First Lady Michelle Obama hosted Olympic College Culinary Arts instructor Chris Plemmons and several hundred other chefs, some quite famous, from around the country for kick-off of the Chefs Move to Schools program. Many, like Plemmons, have volunteered to get involved with local schools to help improve the quality of what’s served in school cafeterias.

To be fair, food service personnel in local schools already have been trying to get more fresh, local ingredients into their menus. Bremerton schools have sought grants to that end, the district’s PR representative told me. I know the same is true of South Kitsap schools and probably other districts as well.

Plemmons, “sweltering” on the South lawn of the White House, where Michelle Obama has planted a large vegetable garden that he and the other chefs got to tour, took this from her 45 minute speech: don’t try to take over the show. Chefs can be so pushy, she said, not in so many words. But you know exactly what she means. Think all the stereotypes of all the Food Network shows you’ve ever seen.

The night before the get-together on the White House Lawn, Plemmons and the other chefs had dined at Equinox, a fashionable D.C. destination known for using local ingredients. The dinner began with fried rissoto fritters and creme fraiche dipping sauce and got fancier from there. The main course was blue crab and sea scallops with caramelized artichokes and pickled scallions. The meat course included 36-hour short ribs that were “to die for.” And there was strawberry soup for dessert.

Wait a minute, I thought all this was about was getting rid of the chicken nuggets.

In case you were wondering, Plemmons’ trip to D.C. was paid for in part by a Perkins Grant (Perkins Grants are federal funds provided through the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 for the advancement of career and technical education.) and in part by the Olympic College Foundation. Nick Giovanni the college’s director of hospitality and food management services said college officials deemed it money well spent, if it helps inspire Plemmons to continue and amplify his history of volunteer work in educating the public, especially people in lower income brackets, about where and how to get food that fills, nourishes and, most importantly, satisfies.

Michelle Obama’s mantra is accessibility to healthy food for all. Plemmons seems on board with that. He wants kids to have more chances to experiment with food, to become more adventurous about eating. How he’ll go about effecting that is yet to be seen, and it will depend on how well he can work within the constraints of the Bremerton school district’s budget, staffing and time schedule.

Because here’s where the rubber hits the road, as we heard from the one person who commented on my last post on this topic. She is pretty much running herself ragged time-wise trying to make healthy meals for her family. How much easier it would be to throw a cookie sheet of nuggets into the oven. And you thought June Cleaver had it easy.

Oh, wait. June Cleaver’s full-time job was to shop, cook and clean up after a family of four.

How much time do you spend each week on your family’s food? Me, including shopping time, 45 minutes per day average, if I’m lucky … or if they’re lucky. My husband probably that much again. So 1.5 hours per day still a full-time June Cleaver does not make.

What would you say is your biggest hurdle to eating a more healthy, satisfying diet?
Access to Ingredients

The Politics of Food

People responded like crazy to my recent story on local chef Chris Plemmons, who was chosen to help promote First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign against childhood obesity. Some resented the government’s taking a role in creating policy on what we should eat. Some applauded the effort to get America back on track, health-wise.

It’s been decades since most people worked hard enough on the farm — as my father-in-law did — to sit down to noonday meal full of starch, meat, cream and butter.

These days, we are leashed to our computers or other electronic devices nearly 24/7. No wonder the Kitsap County Health District reports that, like the rest of the state, 60 percent of us are overweight.

I was, to be honest, more than a little bummed that my article that ran on Sunday on employee wellness programs had zero, count them, zero, comments. In part because I had worked so long on the article that people I originally interviewed in March had given up hope it would ever be published. But especially since the article addressed the issue of exercise, which some of those who commented on the chef article had raised.

In part, I think it was a case of “what were they thinking?” running an article about the workplace on a Sunday of the three-day Memorial Day weekend. Probably the last thing readers wanted to think about was the workplace. But here we are, back behind our desks. Who shall we call on to keep our behinds from spreading ever wider? The government? Our employers? Or ourselves?

I am not suggesting there’s one answer here, folks. I do welcome your comments.

I read with interest the comment on the chef story from coffeetime, who wrote about his family’s regimen in regaining control over their food intake and exercise. He wrote, in part, “Four large stuffed green olives adds 32 calories. 2 tablespoons of Newman’s Own low-fat sesame dressing is 35 calories. A quarter of an avocado is about 73 calories.” He also wrote about how far he runs on the treadmill each week.

On one level, it makes sense to do the math, calories in minus energy expended equals either excess calories, which equals xyz pounds of fat, or a calorie deficit, which equals weight loss, or a balance, which equals maintenance of a healthy weight.

But, ay caramba, when did we slip into having to count everything that goes into our mouths or every ounce of sweat we produce? At the extreme end of the spectrum, that kind of obsession can be deadly.

I really have no answers — plenty of opinions, but they pay me not to express them — I’d just like to hear from you. How much of your day do you spend thinking about food, weight, exercise, appearance? How do we as a society get control of balancing our lives?

Again, whose responsibility is it? The government’s. Your employer’s? Your own? All of the above? How, when, where, at what cost?

Thanks for sharing. Chris Henry, reporter

P.S. I am right now reading a book my father-in-law found at a garage sale entitled, “Therapeutics, From the Primitives to the 20th Century,” which tracks the history of medicine from prehistoric time through the 20th Century, with a complete chapter devoted to the history of the human diet. Do you know at one time consumption of figs was thought to cause lice? The Greeks had “strong reservations against fish, fruit vegetables and meat.” These items formed the bulk of the lower class diet, as it was all they could afford, and so seemed inferior. A lot of the other observations of early nutritionists were much more reasonable, based on observation or by luck those based on superstition, religion or prejudice happened to hit the mark. The point is, what we eat is influenced by the times we live in and the social class we inhabit. Food for thought.