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“Sugar Invasion”: Excess Snacks Sour Children’s Four-Day Walk

Every year, hundreds of thousands of Dutch children spend four evenings trekking through nearby parks or woods, aiming to inspire a new generation with healthy living. However, Amsterdam councillors are concerned that the Avond4daagse – the four-evening walk – has been derailed by a “sugar invasion.” Instead of a healthy stroll, the event now features a 5km or 10km stretch filled with “non-stop Twixes, licorice laces, vegan pig gummies, happy cherries, Chupa Chups, crisps, ice creams, cookies, cola, Red Bull, and other sugary drinks.”

Formal questions submitted to the council executive by the CDA Christian Democratic Alliance and PvdD Party for the Animals highlight the trend as “problematic” and call for action.

Rogier Havelaar, head of the local CDA, reflected on the changes over the 28 years since he participated at age 12. “This is a lovely tradition where children spend four evenings walking. Although the fourth evening was always a kind of party with sweets from people along the walk, in recent years, from start to finish, it’s non-stop snacking,” he told Dutch News. “A sweet or two is fine, but this has gotten out of hand. We are asking the municipality to incentivize healthy eating.”

He noted that while schools organize pitstops for participants, some focus on handing out cucumber sticks, others give out sweets. “There is nothing wrong with a sweet or two, but 5km of nothing but sweets…it’s a sugar invasion,” he added. “Many municipalities are discussing with schools and organizers how to make this event healthier.”

The Avond4daagse is coordinated by the national walking association KWbN with a mission to get as many children as possible moving and to give them an unforgettable party. It involves 500,000 Dutch children annually, with efforts to promote healthy eating through the JOGG organization. “Over-consumption of sugar is a social problem, and it’s good there’s more attention to this and more knowledge about healthy living,” said spokeswoman Mariëlle Vissers. “In the information we provide to local organizers, we emphasize making it as healthy as possible, such as asking local farmers for apple sponsorships instead of snacks or suggesting parents buy non-sweet presents.”

The event originated from evening walks organized during the Nazi occupation in World War II and evolved in the 1980s into a children’s challenge. “We still have some adults who walk,” said Vissers. “One man is doing it for the 77th time. He walks every year because he thinks it’s a great way to keep moving.”

This cherished Dutch tradition, many believe, should take a healthier turn.

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