Sorry Food Pouch CEO, Free-Range Parenting Isn’t A Marketing Gimmick

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Plum OrganicsI will freely admit that when my daughter was littler, I carried around a jar of Gerber “Puffs” everywhere we went. I bought plenty of jarred baby food. I even made the mistake of buying a pre-packaged kiddie meal once. (Holy Sodium, Batman!) When I was a single mom and a little more stressed for time, I probably would’ve had a use for food pouches, basically baby food in a plastic pouch that a child can squeeze right into their mouth. They seem convenient and easy for busy parents.

That being said, the reason I would use food pouches is because they’re easy and convenient for me. I would not use them because I think squeezing her own food into her mouth would ‘ve taught my daughter some form of responsibility or self-control. In fact, those pouches would do nothing to benefit my daughter. They would be all about ease for mom.

But I guess the marketers behind food pouches don’t want to be thought of as an necessary evil for busy working moms. Instead, they’re trying to promote their product as if it’s in support of free-range parenting, a movement started by Lenore Skenazy that focuses on trusting our children and helping them take on responsibility for themselves. (Although, amazingly, the CEO of Plum Organics seems to think that he named the trend that’s been around for years now.)

In a piece in the New York Times yesterday, Neil Grimmer, the CEO of a company that produces food pouches, tried to sell the product as helping free-range parents and promoting a parenting philosophy focused on responsible, independent children.

Mr. Grimmer believes the pouch’s popularity can be attributed to the emergence of a new way of relating to our children. He calls it “free-range parenting.”

Parents, he explained, want to be as flexible as modern life demands. And when it comes to eating, that means doing away with structured mealtimes in favor of a less structured alternative that happens not at set times, but whenever a child is hungry.”

“My kids are more scheduled than I am as C.E.O.: soccer, ballet, theater.”

Regular mealtimes just add one more item to the schedule, he said, whereas the pouch supports “those moments and gaps when they can truly be unscheduled. It’s about supporting the idea that they don’t have to have every last second structured.”

Even as someone who only loosely considers herself free-range, I was offended by his exploiting and misrepresenting this parenting trend. There is nothing about an over-scheduled child in the back of a mini-van sucking down a meal that qualifies as free range. The idea that family meals should be the thing foregone to give a child a bit of unstructured time is completely ridiculous.

I think most of us can agree that family meals together are more important than that fifth or sixth extra-curricular. And feeding a child whenever they’re hungry instead of at scheduled meal times doesn’t sound like the type of responsibility that free-range parenting encourages. Let’s cut through the marketing bullshit and be honest. Food pouches as opposed to meals are not a part of anyone’s parenting philosophy. Once again, they are a convenience product.

(Photo: Plum Organics)

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