What Does It Take to Become an Official State Snack?

Health benefits, cultural significance, and a couple of elementary schoolchildren with a taste for the democratic process.

National Journal
Marina Koren
May 7, 2014, 7:35 a.m.

Snacks are ser­i­ous busi­ness.

And when one spe­cif­ic snack — yogurt — came up for con­sid­er­a­tion for New York’s of­fi­cial snack food, law­makers had a lot of ques­tions.

“Did the spon­sor con­sider rais­ins as a po­ten­tial of­fi­cial state snack?” asked one sen­at­or dur­ing an hour-long de­bate by the New York state Sen­ate. “Per­haps pret­zels? “¦ What if the pret­zel was dipped in yogurt? “¦ Cheese­cake?” An­oth­er wondered if people who are lactose in­tol­er­ant might be of­fen­ded. A third made a last-minute ap­peal for the car­rot cook­ie.

Com­mit­ment fears hung in the air. “I don’t think I can vote to make yogurt the of­fi­cial state snack,” one sen­at­or said. “I don’t think we should rush to judg­ment on yogurt to­night.”

The cham­ber even­tu­ally voted 52-8 to make yogurt the of­fi­cial state snack. The bill, which heads to the State As­sembly for ap­prov­al, provides this reas­on­ing for the pick:

Yogurt is a healthy food that tastes great and is a good source of pro­tein, cal­ci­um, vit­am­in B-2, B-12, po­tassi­um, and mag­nesi­um, all nu­tri­ents that are an im­port­ant part of a good diet. Yogurt is also an im­port­ant eco­nom­ic driver across our state; in fact New York is now the No. 1 pro­cessor of yogurt in the coun­try.”

New York, in­clud­ing at least one of its sen­at­ors, also has a vo­cal love af­fair with the Greek yogurt com­pany Chobani, whose main pro­duc­tion plant is loc­ated up­state.

Not any food can just be­come a state snack — it has to mat­ter to the res­id­ents who con­sume it. Here’s a list of oth­er states with of­fi­cial snack foods, and what it took for them get there.

The re­cipe for suc­cess, it seems, in­volves health be­ne­fits, cul­tur­al sig­ni­fic­ance, and, sur­pris­ingly, feisty ele­ment­ary-school kids.

Utah

For Utah, health be­ne­fits were not at the fore­front of the de­bate over its own state snack in 2001: Jell-O. Rather, it was a his­tory of wide­spread con­sump­tion by res­id­ents. Here’s a sampling of the le­gis­la­tion’s reas­on­ing:

WHERE­AS, Jell-O® brand gelat­in was in­tro­duced to the coun­try in 1897, just one year after Utah was ad­mit­ted to the Uni­on as the 45th state;

WHERE­AS, Utah has been the No. 1 per cap­ita con­sumer of Jell-O® brand gelat­in for many years;

WHERE­AS, Jell-O® is rep­res­ent­at­ive of good fam­ily fun, which Utah is known for throughout the world;

WHERE­AS, Salt Lake Magazine pro­claimed Utah “the Jell-O® State” in a cov­er story in 1996;

WHERE­AS, Jell-O® brand gelat­in re­cipes, which of­ten in­clude ba­na­nas, apples, marsh­mal­lows, pret­zels, car­rots, and grapes, are a tra­di­tion­al fa­vor­ite at fam­ily, church, and com­munity din­ners throughout the Bee­hive State.

The next year, one of the souven­ir pins cre­ated for the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City de­pic­ted green Jell-O.

Illinois

The Prair­ie State de­clared pop­corn its of­fi­cial snack in 2003, beat­ing out Dor­i­tos and Chee­tos. The move came as a sur­prise to some. Illinois is among the lead­ing pro­du­cers of pop­corn in the U.S., but at the time only ranked fourth in acres of pop­corn ex­pec­ted to be har­ves­ted, be­hind Neb­raska and In­di­ana.

But, as the Chica­go Tribune ex­plained back then, Chica­goans love their pop­corn:

If you doubt Amer­ica’s de­vo­tion to pop­corn, just stand for a while and watch the lines that al­ways snake out of the Gar­rett pop­corn shop on Michigan Av­en­ue. They don’t need ads. You walk by, you smell it, you get in line.

With a hot-air pop­per and no but­ter, it’s al­most diet food. Drenched in but­ter, it’s a heart at­tack in a bag.

The ba­sic trin­ity — car­a­mel, plain, cheese — re­flect a sort of com­plete cycle of life. There’s a ker­nel of wis­dom here, in the sweet, the salty, and the sa­vory. One leads to the oth­er, then back again. Per­fect.

Trouble sprang up for Illinois’s fa­vor­ite snack a dec­ade later. The fed­er­al “Smart Snacks” pro­gram, which will place re­stric­tions on school snacks start­ing this fall, could pro­hib­it cheesy, candy-flavored, and oth­er un­healthy types of pop­corn.

Texas

For the Lone Star State, des­ig­nat­ing tor­tilla chips and salsa as its of­fi­cial snack food in 2003 was a no-brain­er for a num­ber of reas­ons, in­clud­ing tra­di­tion:

Like the square dance, the gui­tar, and the rodeo, tor­tilla chips and salsa are deeply rooted in Texas tra­di­tion and en­joy pop­ular­ity throughout the length and breadth of the state; stocked in count­less kit­chens, they are brought out for sol­it­ary re­fresh­ment and for so­cial gath­er­ings of vir­tu­ally every de­scrip­tion and level of form­al­ity.

Sci­ence:

In ad­di­tion to their tra­di­tion­al im­port­ance as a food­stuff, pep­pers, onions, and to­ma­toes have played a sig­ni­fic­ant role in Texas folk medi­cine, and their value in fight­ing ill­ness is be­ing in­creas­ingly re­cog­nized by mod­ern sci­ence.

And the eco­nomy:

To­geth­er with corn, these three plants also play a not­able eco­nom­ic role in the state; in re­cent years, onions have ranked as the No. 1 cash truck crop in Texas, while corn has ac­coun­ted for about 5 per­cent of the state’s ag­ri­cul­tur­al eco­nomy; na­tion­wide in 2000, Texas ranked 1st in the pro­duc­tion of jalapeño pep­pers, 4th in the pro­duc­tion of onions, and 16th in the pro­duc­tion of to­ma­toes, while a 2002 re­port ranks the state 10th in the pro­duc­tion of corn.

South Car­o­lina

Boiled pea­nuts were de­clared South Car­o­lina’s state snack in 2006 be­cause they have been a staple there since the early 20th cen­tury. These days, the legumes can be bought just about any­where in South Car­o­lina — in stores, road­side stands, base­ball games, and this on­line cata­log.

His­tor­i­ans claim the prac­tice of boil­ing pea­nuts began with Con­fed­er­ate sol­diers dur­ing the Civil War. Re­becca Orchant de­scribed the taste of boiled pea­nuts in the Huff­ing­ton Post last sum­mer:

Ima­gine if edam­ame tasted like pea­nuts and were fre­quently eaten with hot sauce. The pea­nut softens, some­times to mush if you like them like that, some­times just on the bor­der of crunchy and tender. Pur­ists will prob­ably balk at this (most boiled pea­nut-lov­ing South­ern­ers in­sist on wa­ter and salt only), but we’ve ad­ded every fla­vor­ing to boiled pea­nuts we can think of, from Old Bay to Ta­basco sauce to smoked paprika to curry powder.

Of course, no suc­cess­ful state snack cam­paign would be com­plete without a couple of med­dling kids. In New York, the idea to make it of­fi­cial with yogurt came from fourth-grade stu­dents from Byron-Ber­gen Ele­ment­ary School. In Illinois, the pop­corn pro­pos­al came from second- and third-grade stu­dents at Cun­ning­ham Ele­ment­ary School in Joliet. And in Texas, a group of third-graders from Mis­sion pushed for the le­gis­la­tion. Kino Flores, their loc­al rep­res­ent­at­ive, took up the is­sue, ex­plain­ing that it was “not a waste of time but rather a worthy way to in­volve young­sters in the demo­crat­ic pro­cess.”

Demo­cracy has nev­er tasted so good.

Utah

For Utah, health be­ne­fits were not at the fore­front of the de­bate over its own state snack in 2001: Jell-O. Rather, it was a his­tory of wide­spread con­sump­tion by res­id­ents. Here’s a sampling of the le­gis­la­tion’s reas­on­ing:

WHERE­AS, Jell-O® brand gelat­in was in­tro­duced to the coun­try in 1897, just one year after Utah was ad­mit­ted to the Uni­on as the 45th state;

WHERE­AS, Utah has been the No. 1 per cap­ita con­sumer of Jell-O® brand gelat­in for many years;

WHERE­AS, Jell-O® is rep­res­ent­at­ive of good fam­ily fun, which Utah is known for throughout the world;

WHERE­AS, Salt Lake Magazine pro­claimed Utah “the Jell-O® State” in a cov­er story in 1996;

WHERE­AS, Jell-O® brand gelat­in re­cipes, which of­ten in­clude ba­na­nas, apples, marsh­mal­lows, pret­zels, car­rots, and grapes, are a tra­di­tion­al fa­vor­ite at fam­ily, church, and com­munity din­ners throughout the Bee­hive State.

The next year, one of the souven­ir pins cre­ated for the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City de­pic­ted green Jell-O.

Illinois

The Prair­ie State de­clared pop­corn its of­fi­cial snack in 2003, beat­ing out Dor­i­tos and Chee­tos. The move came as a sur­prise to some. Illinois is among the lead­ing pro­du­cers of pop­corn in the U.S., but at the time only ranked fourth in acres of pop­corn ex­pec­ted to be har­ves­ted, be­hind Neb­raska and In­di­ana.

But, as the Chica­go Tribune ex­plained back then, Chica­goans love their pop­corn:

If you doubt Amer­ica’s de­vo­tion to pop­corn, just stand for a while and watch the lines that al­ways snake out of the Gar­rett pop­corn shop on Michigan Av­en­ue. They don’t need ads. You walk by, you smell it, you get in line.

With a hot-air pop­per and no but­ter, it’s al­most diet food. Drenched in but­ter, it’s a heart at­tack in a bag.

The ba­sic trin­ity — car­a­mel, plain, cheese — re­flect a sort of com­plete cycle of life. There’s a ker­nel of wis­dom here, in the sweet, the salty, and the sa­vory. One leads to the oth­er, then back again. Per­fect.

Trouble sprang up for Illinois’s fa­vor­ite snack a dec­ade later. The fed­er­al “Smart Snacks” pro­gram, which will place re­stric­tions on school snacks start­ing this fall, could pro­hib­it cheesy, candy-flavored, and oth­er un­healthy types of pop­corn.

Texas

For the Lone Star State, des­ig­nat­ing tor­tilla chips and salsa as its of­fi­cial snack food in 2003 was a no-brain­er for a num­ber of reas­ons, in­clud­ing tra­di­tion:

Like the square dance, the gui­tar, and the rodeo, tor­tilla chips and salsa are deeply rooted in Texas tra­di­tion and en­joy pop­ular­ity throughout the length and breadth of the state; stocked in count­less kit­chens, they are brought out for sol­it­ary re­fresh­ment and for so­cial gath­er­ings of vir­tu­ally every de­scrip­tion and level of form­al­ity.

Sci­ence:

In ad­di­tion to their tra­di­tion­al im­port­ance as a food­stuff, pep­pers, onions, and to­ma­toes have played a sig­ni­fic­ant role in Texas folk medi­cine, and their value in fight­ing ill­ness is be­ing in­creas­ingly re­cog­nized by mod­ern sci­ence.

And the eco­nomy:

To­geth­er with corn, these three plants also play a not­able eco­nom­ic role in the state; in re­cent years, onions have ranked as the No. 1 cash truck crop in Texas, while corn has ac­coun­ted for about 5 per­cent of the state’s ag­ri­cul­tur­al eco­nomy; na­tion­wide in 2000, Texas ranked 1st in the pro­duc­tion of jalapeño pep­pers, 4th in the pro­duc­tion of onions, and 16th in the pro­duc­tion of to­ma­toes, while a 2002 re­port ranks the state 10th in the pro­duc­tion of corn.

South Carolina

Boiled pea­nuts were de­clared South Car­o­lina’s state snack in 2006 be­cause they have been a staple there since the early 20th cen­tury. These days, the legumes can be bought just about any­where in South Car­o­lina — in stores, road­side stands, base­ball games, and this on­line cata­log.

His­tor­i­ans claim the prac­tice of boil­ing pea­nuts began with Con­fed­er­ate sol­diers dur­ing the Civil War. Re­becca Orchant de­scribed the taste of boiled pea­nuts in the Huff­ing­ton Post last sum­mer:

Ima­gine if edam­ame tasted like pea­nuts and were fre­quently eaten with hot sauce. The pea­nut softens, some­times to mush if you like them like that, some­times just on the bor­der of crunchy and tender. Pur­ists will prob­ably balk at this (most boiled pea­nut-lov­ing South­ern­ers in­sist on wa­ter and salt only), but we’ve ad­ded every fla­vor­ing to boiled pea­nuts we can think of, from Old Bay to Ta­basco sauce to smoked paprika to curry powder.

Of course, no suc­cess­ful state snack cam­paign would be com­plete without a couple of med­dling kids. In New York, the idea to make it of­fi­cial with yogurt came from fourth-grade stu­dents from Byron-Ber­gen Ele­ment­ary School. In Illinois, the pop­corn pro­pos­al came from second- and third-grade stu­dents at Cun­ning­ham Ele­ment­ary School in Joliet. And in Texas, a group of third-graders from Mis­sion pushed for the le­gis­la­tion. Kino Flores, their loc­al rep­res­ent­at­ive, took up the is­sue, ex­plain­ing that it was “not a waste of time but rather a worthy way to in­volve young­sters in the demo­crat­ic pro­cess.”

Demo­cracy has nev­er tasted so good.

What We're Following See More »
TAKING A LONG VIEW TO SOUTHERN STATES
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Source:
‘PITTING PEOPLE AGAINST EACH OTHER’
Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
3 days ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Source:
THE TIME IS NOW, TED
Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
3 days ago
WHY WE CARE

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Source:
CHRISTIE, BUSH TRYING TO TAKE HIM DOWN
Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Source:
7 REPUBLICANS ON STAGE
Carly Fiorina Will Not Be Allowed to Debate on Saturday
2 days ago
THE LATEST

ABC News has announced the criteria for Saturday’s Republican debate, and that means Carly Fiorina won’t be a part of it. The network is demanding candidates have “a top-three finish in Iowa, a top-six standing in an average of recent New Hampshire polls or a top-six placement in national polls in order for candidates to qualify.” And there will be no “happy hour” undercard debate this time. “So that means no Fiorina vs. Jim Gilmore showdown earlier in the evening for the most ardent of campaign 2016 junkies.

Source:
×