I’ll admit that I’m very particular when it comes to the foods my kids eat. I’ve learned not to be too restrictive, because it’s important how to teach them to make their own choices and how to incorporate treats and other foods they love into their diets. My oldest is 8, and so far, I think we’re doing pretty well. My kids don’t feel deprived that they don’t eat fast food on a weekly basis, and they don’t mind when I add kale or other leafy greens to their favorite smoothies.
I always assumed that school would be a place that would support my healthy eating efforts. What I’ve found is actually quite the opposite: by far, school is where my kids get the most junk food. Almost every special event revolves around food, whether it’s candy for doing well on a test or ice cream for selling the most magazine subscriptions. Here’s one example of the lunch served for “field day”, (an event that celebrates physical activity): a hot dog, bag of chips, a “Ho-Ho”, a soda and a slushie. I wouldn’t mind so much if the hot dog came with a piece of fruit, so the meal had at least some redeeming quality. I understand kids like treats, and I understand it’s just one meal. But meals like this are just totally over-the-top for me. Last year my daughter came home feeling sick because she was not used to having so much sugar at one time.
One of my “campaigns” this year was to swap chips for apples in the hot lunches served once a week. I was successful, but was surprised at how much resistance there was to my idea. Some people said the kids wouldn’t like it, they deserved treats now and then, it was too expensive, etc. It’s important to point out that I’m not sharing these stories to cast the school in a negative light. I think this is how it is in most schools across the country. My kids go to a great school and I believe they are getting a quality education. I’ve just found that teachers and administrators have bigger things to worry about (like budget cuts, state testing, etc.), so changing food culture falls low on the priority list- especially when they don't get a lot of support from parents.
I am surprised that my opinions as a parent are definitely the exception. Most parents I talk to aren’t worried about the food their kids are eating at school, or at least not enough to speak up about it. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with my profession, and the fact that I see what years of bad nutrition can do to someone (both physically and mentally.) I just think it’s important to focus on the whole child, (which includes their health and wellness), so that they establish healthy habits that carry on for the rest of their lives. In a perfect world, the school would support my efforts to feed my kids a healthy diet instead of frustrating them.
I don’t think kids are missing out on anything if they get a pencil or even just a “Great job!” when they do something well. Schools could use special meals as a way to introduce new foods (or at least good-for-you ones) to reinforce the idea of eating to make you healthy and strong. The apples were just my first step in changing the mindset of parents and staff at our school. Hopefully I can continue making more positive changes one step at a time in my little corner of the world.
Have you ever had issues with the food being served at your kids schools? How did you handle it? Do you think my concerns are reasonable? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
More From SparkPeople