Food Fight

Food Fight
Publisher Name
Fitzroy Books
Age Range
Release Date
June 27, 2023
Ben Snyder is ready to start middle school. He’s smart, athletic, and has two best friends. But his super picky eating, which has never been a problem before, is about to get in his way. Suddenly everybody’s on his case about what he’s eating and what he’s not—his old friends, new friends, weird lab partner, a girl he’s crushing on, and a bully—and he finds himself in a social free fall, sliding toward the bottom of the middle school food chain. Even worse, an upcoming three-day field trip sounds too awesome to miss but has a horrifying menu. As he prepares for the trip, Ben learns there might be more to his picky eating than he ever realized. Armed with new information, he plans to avoid the bully along with every single meal. But when everything starts to go wrong and epic hunger threatens to push him over the edge, Ben must decide how far he will go to fit in—and if he has what it takes to stand out.

Editor review

1 review
Super Picky Eater
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Ben is excited about entering middle school with his friends Nick and Josh, especially since he has gotten on a travel soccer team. However, there are challenges when he enters the Wild West of middle school-- the lunchroom. Josh is usually a well liked kid, but he's determined to put together a "squad" of at least ten kids so that there is some social protection or cool factor attached to them. Ben would fit right in except for one thing; he only eats ten foods, and his lunch every single day is a plain bagel, mini pretzels, and piece of chocolate. When Darren, who is a dirty soccer player and didn't make the team, gives him a hard time about it, Ben tries to laugh it off, but Darren is relentless. It doesn't help that Ben's own father has given him problems for years. It's not that Ben just doesn't like food, he gags if he is even around certain strong smells like coffee. His father makes frequent comments that he needs to "snap out of it", and even tries to get Ben to eat a simple chicken and rice dish for dinner instead of buttered pasta. Ben's mother is more understanding, but very concerned about an upcoming school field trip to the historical Abner Farm. She makes a deal with Ben that if he attends two counseling sessions to try to find ways to cope with his food avoidance, she will try to get his father to back off. Ben finds out that he probably suffers from ARFID (avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder), but would rather just keep things under wraps instead of letting everyone at school know. The Abner Farm trip looms large. In addition to living in tents, students will be eating historical food like succotash, and there's no way that Ben can eat that. At first, he thinks he just won't go, but then there is Lauren. He has a huge crush on her, but so does Darren. Darren is constantly picking at Ben. When the kids hang out, he notices that Ben doesn't eat pizza. He makes fun of him and Olivia, Ben's lab partner and super smart student who has an unfortunate past. Olivia is kind to Ben, and even helps him take a "supertaster" test. He even causes a brief rift between Ben and Lauren when Ben decides to run for vice president and Lauren runs for president of the sixth grade. Deciding that he can't let Darren and Lauren go to Abner Farm without him, he decides to go, and even leaves the granola bars his mother wants him to take behind. He figures that the flapjacks on the menu are close enough to the pancakes he will eat, and plans to survive on those. It's harder than he thinks, although he manages to help out with meals and avoid most of the foods that trigger him. He manages to get by, and the wise Olivia even brings him a granola bar, but Darren keeps finding ways to bother him. When a bag of candy bars is found in Ben's duffle and he faces being thrown out of camp, he finally admits that he has a severely restrictive diet, thus the food cannot be his. Darren's antics come to light, and Ben's friends are able to be a little more understanding of his condition.
Good Points
This was an excellent blend of realistic school concerns and a health problem, and contains the absolute finest writing about bullying I have ever seen. Bullying is not necessarily fights and swirlies and wedgies. It's kids picking at each other under their breath, "joking around" with nicknames, and manipulating people around them to also look askance at another student. The lunchroom and science class scenes are perfect, and we all know kids like Olivia who just don't quite understand students around them and don't tempter their actions, and get treated poorly as a result even though they are good kids. There are some really excellent scenes, like Lauren oversalting fries to the point that Ben can't eat them, and then offering them to Darren saying "They're terrible. They would be perfect for you." Ben offers Lauren his travel soccer warm up when Darren bumps Ben and spills food on Lauren: there's SO MUCH in that scene! Modern children have a lot of anxiety about overnights with other children even if they don't have identified disorders, so the trip to Abner Farm is a great inclusion. The framework of this, with standard middle school circumstances that are completely impacted by how Ben is treated about his eating, is quite brilliant. The best part? Ben isn't really bothered by eating just ten things. He is bothered that other people are bothered. Isn't that most of middle school in a nutshell?

Having dealt with students who will only eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chocolate chip granola bars, chocolate milk, and bananas, I know that Ben is an absolutely true to life character. I do sort of wish there had been more about the counselor, as well as some coping strategies (is Ben at least able to take vitamins?), but this is still very well done. There are not as many books about various eating disorders with boys as the main characters (Vrettos' Skin and Pollen's The Year I Didn't Eat both focus on anorexia), but this is a great book to offer middle grade readers who want to gain an understanding of how others might deal with food issues. Highly recommended.
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