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February 26. 2012 4:14PM

Bananas vs. candy: Choices in Manchester

Manchester health officials hope to improve the eating habits of city residents by getting local shop owners to stock more fruits and vegetables. Good luck with that.

We don't mean to be cynical. There is nothing wrong with encouraging people to eat better food. This particular program sounds just fine. The privately funded effort involves having city health experts work with the owners of convenience stores and other small markets to have healthier foods stocked and prominently displayed. The idea is that residents, particularly children, will buy bananas or apples if they are placed as prominently as candy bars and soda are.

That's a much better approach than the one taken in Los Angeles, where fast food restaurants were banned from certain parts of the city on the theory that low-income people were simply too weak-willed to resist the temptation. But will children really skip the Skittles for pears? Count us skeptical.

It is true, as the city maintains, that in-store presentation makes a difference. Is it enough of a difference to make a significant impact on people's eating habits? Probably not. The effort is commendable, and it will be nice to see fruits in stores that don't stock them now. But don't expect this to make Manchester kids a lot healthier. It's not as though fruits and veggies are unavailable to center city residents now. If parents are not teaching good eating habits at home, kids won't make the right choices when they go to the market, no matter how many bananas are put on the counter.


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