Recently I heard someone say "and today we ask the age-old question— should children have free access to the pantry and fridge?"

What? First, that's not an age-old question. An age-old question is something like — what do you most regret about your younger years? (Where do I begin?)

What are the greatest lessons you have learned from life? For one, family and friends are so important and I'm still learning.

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How old do you feel? Sometimes 20, sometimes how I imagine an 80-year-old would feel.

An age-old story, tradition, or problem is one that has existed for a very long time.

I'm pretty sure letting children help themselves to food is not an age-old problem — I certainly wasn't allowed and I'm sure my parents weren't allowed when they were kids

Imagine it. Families with six, seven or, in my mother's family's case, eight children, all helping themselves to food.

By the time meal times came around there would be nothing left.

My children certainly weren't allowed and neither are my grandchildren.

Children have no sense of enough is enough. If there are biscuits in the cupboard they are going to either take a handful or go back several times until the packet is empty.

Actually, sometimes I don't know when to stop eating — especially if you put a plate of sausage rolls in front of me


What makes it even worse is that today's pantries look a whole lot different to my childhood cupboards.

There weren't packets of chippies, muesli bars filled with sugar, or anything really considered snacks in our cupboards. We did have biscuits but they were not freely available. We had to ask.

There was no point going in the fridge unless you wanted milk or sometimes, if we were lucky, cordial.

No fizzy drinks for us.

Perhaps this free access to food is partly to blame for the number of obese children in New Zealand — that and the fact that after eating all these snacks the children sit and look at a screen instead of going out to play tag, bull rush, climb a tree or ride bikes.

Parents need to know what's going in their children's mouths, their health and wellbeing is their responsibility.

Yes, times have changed and as George Orwell said: "Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it."

But in order for the next generation to grow into healthy adults the generation before must make sensible decisions for them.

Speaking of generations and food — I had the pleasure of meeting a group of men in a different generation to me. Well, most of them.

The All Saints Church Men's Breakfast Club meets in Taradale once a month.

Such groups form the heart of our communities. They have working bees at the church and help others of their generation do odd-jobs around the home.

But the thing that impressed me the most about this group was the way they cleaned up after breakfast.

I thought women were efficient but you should have seen these men's moves. Tables were cleared, wiped, dismantled and stored, seats were moved, floors cleaned and dishes done — all in a flash.

Sorry guys, your secret is out — you can do it.

• Linda Hall is assistant editor of Hawke's Bay Today.