Healthier popcorn at my kid’s school!

Once a month, parents at the school where my son is in first grade put on a Popcorn Day.

They wheel out a popcorn cart and fill up little white bags of popcorn for every kid, teacher and staffer in the school. It’s an enormously POPular event (sorry). My own kid typically eats a handful or two of the popcorn at school and brings the rest home, to nibble that evening and the next day, even.

I nibble it sometimes, too, and always think, “Wow, this tastes so fake!” And chokingly salty.

Last month, I got recruited to help pop and bag the corn.

I read the ingredients on the premeasured sacks and was, as I expected, horrified:

Gourmet popcorn [V: whatever that means], Salt, Artificial Flavor [V: which we know from Fast Food Nation probably consists of thousands of words of chemicals itself], Yellow #5 Lake, Yellow #6 Lake. Oil Section: Sunflower Oil, Artificial Butter Flavor [V: See above “flavor” note], Beta Carotene (color), Soya Lecithin (an emulsifier).

The bag had a little note boasting that the stuff oil contained only “1g saturated fat per serving compared to 8g saturated fat per serving of coconut oil Naks Pak.” Great! Industrial vegetable oil PUFAs instead of the brain-healthy medium-chain triglycerides that would be the most beneficial thing about giving this to growing children, nutritionally speaking.

I couldn’t contain myself any longer (than about 90 seconds) and started ranting to the other parents about how fake this stuff was. “We should use natural coconut oil,” I said. “I know where we could order it by the bucketfull. And we should find a farm around here and order locally grown corn that we know is GMO-free.”

I braced myself for all the reasons I was about to hear about why none of this could happen, why everything had to remain exactly as it was, forever.

Then to my happy amazement, these are the responses started coming from the other parents:

“And butter! We should melt real butter and sprinkle it on.”

“We need to get some buckets and utensils for measuring and for storage.”

“Clear it with the PTA, tell them what you’re buying and they’ll reimburse you.”

“How about sea salt? Let’s use sea salt!”

And my favorite: “I like where this is going!”

That was in January. Now we have everything in place. One parent went thrift-store shopping and got measuring stuff and mouse-proof corn storage.

I ordered two gallon buckets of expeller-pressed coconut oil from Tropical Traditions. Not certified organic, but grown without pesticides and mechanically pressed from fresh coconut flesh, rather than extracted from dried coconut using solvents. I had intended to get virgin coconut oil, but learned on the TT site that (1) expeller-pressed oil has less coconut flavor, and (2) expeller, or mechanical, pressing is a traditional method of deriving oil from the coconut.

I talked to a nice lady at Wisconsin Gold Harvest, a popcorn farm about 30 miles away, who directed me to a store near my house where I could load up on their product.

Another parent bought two pounds of butter.

Tomorrow after dismissal, we’re gathering for the trial run to get any kinks out of the system.

And guess what. All this natural, healthful, local stuff winds up costing about half what the convenience packs with the unnecessary fake ingredients.


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