Feeding the Childhood Obesity Crisis at School?

Candy at school? Yes.

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.

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?

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?

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?

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