Editor’s Note: Kelly Wallace is CNN’s digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. She is a mom of two. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.
A woman tells radio station she will hand out warnings to obese kids on Halloween
It's unclear if her suggestion is real or merely a radio station stunt
But such an idea has been met with outrage online
"Wrong strategy for a real problem" is a sentiment shared by many
I know whose house I would avoid on Halloween if I lived in Fargo, North Dakota.
Instead of handing out candy, a local woman called into a radio station, saying she plans to pass out letters to trick-or-treaters she feels are “moderately obese.”
How do you say killjoy?
“I just want to send a message to the parents of kids that are really overweight,” said the woman, who identified herself only as Cheryl, during an interview with WDAY-FM radio in Fargo.
“I think it’s just really irresponsible of parents to just sort of send them out looking for free candy just ‘cause all of the other kids are doing it,” she said.
Since news of such a Halloween plan went viral, people have called CNN affiliate KXJB-TV questioning whether the story is a hoax, according to the station.
But “Rat,” WDAY-FM’s morning co-host, told CNN it was definitely not a radio station stunt. “The woman Cheryl did call into our show,” he said. “We have been unable to get her back on the phone.”
It remains unclear if the woman truly plans to hand out obesity letters or if this was all a prank.
“Whether Cheryl goes through with handing out letters or not seems to be a Halloween mystery,” said JT Thaden, brand manager for WDAY-FM. “If any local children do get a letter, we’re encouraging them to stop by (our) studios and we’ll exchange it for a piece of candy.”
The radio station said the woman e-mailed it the following message for parents: “Your child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season.
“My hope is that you will step up as a parent and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits.”
Her goal, she said in the interview, is spurring action to battle a communitywide problem.
“Their kids are everybody’s kids. It’s a whole village,” she said.
CNN iReport contributor Tony Posnanski said he was motivated to write a response of his own after hearing about what he calls the “fat-shaming letter.”
“Any kind of fat letter is just a shame. It doesn’t solve anything, it just shames people,” he said in his iReport.
Prank or not, Posnanski said the whole concept could still affect people. “It can influence others to send in fat letters, too. When I was a child, I was overweight. I think the more that people pointed it out, it only put me through hell.”
Posnanski said he plans to hand out his own positive letter along with Halloween candy to trick-or-treaters, pointing out how “awesome” they are.
“I don’t think (my letter) is going to affect kids or parents, but it is better than handing out fat letters. This is a holiday for kids to have fun; this isn’t a holiday for candy,” he said.
Plenty of people in my social community had some other choice words.
“This is despicable,” said Sue Scheff, author of the book “Wit’s End: Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen,” on Facebook. “Talk about giving a child a complex and deflating their self-esteem especially in front of their peers.”
“Holy cr*p! This is just plain mean,” said Sarah Winer Maizes of Los Angeles, a children’s book author and blogger, also on Facebook. “It’s just plain heartless. Can we videotape someone giving her a ‘you’re a heinous creature of a human being’ note?”
“This is terrible, particularly for the girls already overly concerned about body image,” said new mom Katie Resnick Lamoureux of Hyannis, Massachusetts.
Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association, agrees, saying such a concept, along with letters from schools to parents about a child’s body mass index, would be the wrong way to go.
“So-called ‘fat letters’ have no place in schools and certainly no place in our kids’ Halloween buckets and bags,” Grefe said. “Bringing attention to a child’s weight and size in this way is yet one more thoughtless approach that targets and bullies children, putting them at risk for low self-esteem and ultimately developing an eating disorder.”
She added, “Health should be assessed by a medical doctor, certainly not a stranger who might be dressed as one.”
Everyone in my social networking circles was horrified by the North Dakotan’s possible approach, but some also recognized there’s a real problem.
“I agree that the community as a whole should support and promote healthy lifestyles because it does take a village, but this is not the way to go about it,” said Janet Abrams Piechota on Facebook.
Said a reader who goes by the Twitter handle @nunoc3, “Wrong strategy for a real problem.”
“Maybe she should just give out healthy snacks to all,” @patgee59 tweeted. “Don’t be the fat monitor.”
Yes, she can join the small number of families (less than 5% according to a poll for a story I did a few years back) who give out healthy snacks – raisins, fruit, even toothbrushes and dental floss on Halloween.
Like the woman in North Dakota, I guess these families also have good intentions, but come on, folks, it’s Halloween.
Mike Adamick, a stay-at-home dad in San Francisco, had another idea. “I want to hand out letters to people who hand out raisins or dental floss … although with a kid there, I suppose the correct response would be, ‘Thank you.’ Still, killjoys,” said the blogger and author of the book, “Dad’s Book of Awesome Projects.”
I agree, which is why I sent my children to school with what my husband called an “unconscionable” amount of candy in small baggies to give out to their friends.
Now I just hope their moms don’t send me a letter.