Vertically challenged, full-time mama of two children; a boy and a girl. Wife to a husband who knows me too well. Past work experience includes interactive marketing, public relations, and teaching. Self-proclaimed worrier and over-thinker. Loves the sun, cookies & cream ice cream, and lounging on the couch with a good foodie magazine.

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Feeding the Childhood Obesity Crisis at School?

I recently read an article by Yoni Freedhoff titled, “Why is Everyone Always Giving my Kids Junk Food”?  As I read it, I felt like I was reading my thoughts.  It got me fired up.  And it made me wonder how many other parents felt the same.

Raising children with healthy habits becomes more difficult as they begin attending school and participating in extracurricular activities.  They become part of the fabric of our culture, and as it turns out, our culture is obsessed with stuffing little children with sugary treats.

When my son attended preschool and Pre-K, I was shocked to see what parents would bring in for birthdays and special school days.  Not only would I discover that he had eaten cookies, cupcakes, pizza, and donuts for birthday celebrations, but then children began bringing in treats for their weekly sharing assignment.  M & M’s for the letter M?  Sure.  Cotton candy for the letter C?  Yep.  Skittles for S?  You get the picture.

Candy at school? Yes.

Candy at school? Yes.

 

As we experience Kindergarten, the same trend has continued.  Even though the teacher’s parent handbook requests that birthday treats be healthy and small, most parents still find the need to bring in sugary snacks.  One student brought in huge doughnuts for his birthday, which were shared during snack time.  You can imagine that my son wasn’t as hungry during lunch as he usually is, after just ingesting an adult-sized fried ring of dough.  I have to tell you that I was upset.  Why don’t parents listen?  We want our kids to, but many parents just don’t follow simple directions.  I digress.

I understand having treats at birthday parties and holiday celebrations.  I get that.  I love a good cookie just as much as the next person.  I just think that school isn’t the appropriate place to have them.  I find that it wastes so much instruction time and feeds them empty calories that just aren’t good for them.  Today as I picked up my son, I saw students walking out of school holding gigantic glazed donuts and others with suckers in their mouths.  It doesn’t seem to be the right message as we try to teach our children healthy habits and attempt to put a stop to childhood obesity, which at this point is an epidemic.

Donuts at snack time!

Donuts at snack time?

 

In Freedhoff’s article, he speaks about the negative reactions he receives from other adults when he questions or complains about this disturbing trend.  “Oh, it’s just ONE cookie,” or  “One candy cane won’t hurt.”  I’ve heard the “it’s only one” comment as well, and if it were JUST one then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.  There are times when there are three birthdays in a week and on Fridays they sell popcorn at recess; the endless supply of sugary, processed foods doesn’t ever end.  As parents, administrators, and teachers, where do we draw the line?

A few weeks ago the 100th day of school was celebrated.  For some reason, in addition to all the counting activities they did, root beer floats were also served to the Kindergarten class.  I was shocked.  Many kids, including my own, have not had a sip of soda and I was disappointed to find out that it was offered in class during snack time.  Soda for five and six year olds??  How is that a great idea?  Again, I was upset.  My son just opted for the ice cream and I was glad that he didn’t imbibe in the bubbly stuff just yet.

What are your kids eating at school?

What are your kids eating at school?

 

When I think of learning and special school days, I just don’t think food needs to be a part of that.  Kids can be rewarded with all sorts of other things and I think we need to take a hard look at the messages we are sending to the next generation.  If there are cakes and candy at every turn, this will become normal to them and I would hate to see that happen.  In the long run, it doesn’t benefit them one bit.

There are teachers with “no treat” policies, but they are few and far between.  What do you think?

What has been your experience?  How do you feel about the constant barrage of food and snacks at school and sporting events?

Other posts you might enjoy:

 Why I Love Doc McStuffins

Finding the Right Preschool for your Child

Hop to It: Books for Spring

 

 

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Comments (7)

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  5. Jennifer D. 03/06/2013 at 3:49 pm

    I read that same article and was nodding my head in agreement. As a kid in the 70’s I don’t remember taking treats for birthdays. I am not sure when that all started, but having a daughter in 3rd grade I know it is expected now. As she has gotten older, I have noticed the increase in all the crap being pushed at her. She goes to a gymnastics meet and someone gave her a bag of candy as a reward. Really?! I threw it away and guess what, she doesn’t even know it is gone. I have sent treats in the past but have tried to send healthy items and I always ask the teacher about food allergies. I have also been her classroom parent since she was in Kindergarten and as such am in charge of the holiday parties. I keep a balance of healthy and treats when we have the parties. We have fruit, carrots, string cheese, pretzels, popcorn, and then mini cupcakes and/or cookies. I loathe the juice boxes but those are again expected. She is getting ready to start soccer and I am going to be the one volunteering again to be the team mom. I don’t want someone else in charge of what snacks get brought because too often it is junk.

    I was just thinking today about what to send for her birthday next month. Found a watermelon cut into a pirate ship and filled with fruit. That would be cool :)http://www.flickr.com/photos/48350878@N08/7680012014/in/set-72157630874307244/

    As far as taking away from instructional time, I feel like if it is really taking that much away then the administration needs to ban birthday treats. The parents will flip. Our kids always do theirs at the end of the day, like the last 20 minutes.

  6. The Atomic Mom 03/06/2013 at 1:51 pm

    I’m a teacher, and I HATE (yes, that strong of a word here), HATE the constant stream of food centered activities, food as a reward, food, food, food…blach! It does take away from instruction time, it distracts, it disrupts, it is unnecessary! If you want to have a birthday for your child, invite people over to your house. Not to mention, not everyone’s parents want to, or can bring treats to class, and that really does make kids feel left out. Feeling “in” is important when you are little.

    As a mom is scares the heck out of me, because I have a child with severe food allergies. I worry that he will be tempted, not know how to say no, not understand what he is being served etc, etc, etc. and that we will end up in the hospital. Our elem school does have a no peanut and tree nut policy, and that does make me feel a bit better, but I don’t expect a parent who does not have a food allergy kid to understand how careful they have to be or to even care.

    As a woman it frustrates me beacuse we have this sick relationship with food as a society. I have been trying to unlearn 40 years of bad “food as a reward” habits and it kills me some days. I realize we have to eat to live, but we should not be living to eat, or using food as a reward, a crutch, a coping mechanisim. I am weary by Easter, because I feel like from October and Halloween, there is some food centric holiday every 4-6 weeks! Enough already!

  7. Erica Fehrman 03/01/2013 at 9:50 pm

    My son’s public school has a no-food policy in the classrooms. Sometimes I lament the kids’ loss of birthday treats like I had as a kid, but reading this makes me realize how out of hand things must have gotten before that policy was enacted. Of course, allergies play a part, too.