Let's pass on the cheese roll offering

20:46, Jun 16 2014
cheese rolls
NOT SO FUNNY: Some fun was had with the cheese roll "story", but there's a serious message in the incidence of child obesity that this foodstuff doesn't help.

It appears that our mayor and at least one councillor are firm supporters of not only cheese rolls, but Timaru having attained the crown of cheese roll capital of New Zealand.

The story, if you can call it that, began harmlessly enough with a piece about the number of these dreadful things South Canterbury schools produce for fundraising.

However, word made it south that we had staked some sort of claim and in no time Finance Minister and staunch Southlander Bill English had something to say about it, as did imported Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt.

The nadir seems to have come on Friday evening with Timaru Mayor Doman Odey and Tim Shadbolt appearing on Campbell Live, which I am told is some sort of television programme about current affairs and, it would seem, cheese rolls.

I became aware of this when a family member from a far away country (the North Island) sent a text proffering the opinion that it was all a bit, well, silly. Of course, the whole thing is something of a joke and those who might be lacking in real entertainment would no doubt claim that it is all in fun, followed by a good-hearted chortle.

Cr Steve Wills certainly had to have been taking the micky when he suggested, "Gore has the big guitar, Paeroa has the big L&P bottle and Timaru should have the giant cheese roll." That was a joke, wasn't it?


Cheese rolls have been around for a long time and no-one really cares who is the capital of fat and white-bread-carbohydrate nourishment. Moreover, there is a serious side to the issue, namely the incidence of child obesity in New Zealand and the fact that this dangerous rise in ill health is at least second-generation obesity. However, that is not the same thing as saying that child obesity is genetic, either through big bones or big anything else.

Parents with poor eating and lifestyle habits instil these in their children so a fat parent (go on, that is what we are talking about isn't it - fat) might end up with a similarly large child not because the parent's physiological hardwiring was passed on to the child but because the child ate like the parent and, in the process, became psychologically hardwired to believe that being overweight was normal.

That becomes reinforced when many other children are the same and then, for good measure, on a trip to a local takeaway the child or children see a mural with kids playing sport and at the forefront, an arguably super-sized kid, albeit doing something active and dynamic with a ball, but larger than the average bear, as Yogi might say.

Now, it is all very nice and inclusive to show children of all shapes and sizes playing and being happy, but at an outlet for an international franchise behemoth where the staple diet is burgers and fries, the message is, at best, warped. We don't need statistics for any of this. Just look around and if you need some support for your observations, ask a doctor. The average GP will tell you that there are increasing numbers of overweight kids and that this emanates from the parents.

And if this somewhat purist tirade seems mean-spirited and churlish, then we only need pause and think about the consequences: Not the cost to the country, because we all pay that and it is too remote for anyone to really care, but rather, the fact that these young people are going to grow up with not simply health problems and difficulties in experiencing a reasonable quality of life, but they will be ill equipped to see their predicament and even less able to do something about it if they do.

We might as well tell them that smoking is, like most forms of poison, a great way to lose weight because their life expectancy is dropping with every extra kilogram. There is also another fact that many people only discover when it is too late. At some stage, humans lose the ability to remedy obesity; after a time, and closer than you would think, the body cannot cope with or perform the activity it needs to generate to attain a passing level of fitness and health.

It is tough enough for moderately active people to advance their fitness but for the obese, the task approaches the impossible and in the blink of an eye, a podgy teen is a very overweight 40-something staring down the barrel of approaching heart disease and wondering where life went.

None of that makes the case to ban cheese rolls, either as fundraisers or food, but we don't really need them, or the hubris surrounding ownership. With a bit of luck that will, like most cheese rolls, pass quickly.

As for the town symbol? Carrots, fish, sheep, dogs, fruit, guitars, drinks? Last time I looked we were already on most maps but if we must, then a symbol of unwholesome consumption isn't likely to gain popular support. How about our fireproof, lawnmower-choking but otherwise beautiful friend, the cabbage tree? We could plant some at the end of town and all around the place. Oh, look we already have!

The Timaru Herald