At the end of summer concert in my local park system last night, the amazing Jonatha Brooke asked us if we’d seen a video that had gone viral called “Hot Cheetos & Takis.” The video, she told us, was created by a group of kids in a summer program, and it was something that needed to be seen.


So this morning, I took a look at “Hot Cheetos & Takis” by Y.N Rich Kids, a group from the North Community YMCA Beats & Rhymes Program in Minnesota. Jonatha was right, this video needs to be seen. (As I write this, it's been seen by more than 1.4 million viewers on YouTube.)



How awesome is that? Now, I know the kids are rapping about junk food. Sure it would be great if they could make something similar called “Fresh Hummus & Carrots,” but they didn’t. (Perhaps with the proliferation of spoof videos like “I’m Farming and I Grow It” or “Farm It Maybe,” someone will make a healthier version soon.)


What they did do was spend the better part of their summer making this incredibly creative video. The Washington Post noted it “is endearing, if a bit concerning to childhood obesity prevention advocates.” I say if childhood obesity prevention advocates can’t find the good in this video, they’re not seeing all there is to see.


Look at what these kids accomplished. They wrote really catchy lyrics, and when I say they, I mean the kids. They wrote the rap with little adult help. They sang. They danced. They rode their bikes. They were outside. There isn’t a couch, a video game, or a video game reference to be found anywhere in the song.


The kids are exhibiting what’s known as “free range” behavior. They’re independent. They are on their bikes, riding in the street without an adult (and oh no! without helmets!), taking their allowance to the convenience store to buy what they want.


Of course, that’s just in the video. In reality the kids are in a summer program where they are supervised, but independence and the freedom to move is what they imagine. In it, they have freedom to be on the streets, freedom to spend their money how they want to, freedom from being under the constant supervision of adults. This is the childhood that I had, and the one I try to give my children.


When I hear my 13-year-old son asking his friends over Skype on a beautiful sunny afternoon if anyone wants to go for a bike ride, there is often a resounding, “no.” Some of the kids would rather stay in, play video games, and hang out “virtually.” Some of them, I suspect, haven’t been let off the leash yet by their parents to go further than a block or two on their bikes.


So when one says yes, and my son and his friend come into the house at about 2 pm and tell me they rode their bikes a few miles to get lunch, I don’t give the a hard time about what they chose to eat. My son and his friends will get the Fresh Hummus and Carrots when they’re in my house. If they are choosing to get out of the house, ride their bikes, exercise the freedom that 13-year-olds should have to explore, spend their own money on a little junk, stop back at my house to check in and tell me they’re going back out into to the woods to explore, I’m fine with that.


Just like I’m fine with this video because it’s about so much more than crunchy junk food. It’s about what kids really wish their life could be like.


What’s your take on “Hot Cheetos and Takis?”

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Look past the junk food in 'Hot Cheetos & Takis'
Sure, these kids are rapping about snacking on junk food, but put that aside for a moment and look what they’ve accomplished and what they picture childhood a