If the US government were the fashion police, the only makeover attempt for improving the school food culture, for my family, would be a new shade of lipstick.
Let me explain.
I am very thankful and appreciative that any effort is being made to improve school food. And although it’s a step in the right direction, I’m afraid it won’t be enough to scratch the surface of our digital scales. The Obama Administration is “making an effort to combat the expanding waistlines” of school children by making the paid snacks offered at schools more “healthy.” (This is in addition to the improved requirements of offering more fruits and vegetables on the trays of hot lunches across America.) This is the most progress we’ve seen in decades.
However, my family doesn’t do hot lunch. We’ve never paid for any school snacks. And we still have a huge problem. These new efforts still don’t address the overabundance of allowed treats brought in by parents or teachers for parties, events, and the big one…birthdays.
This school year at orientation, our teacher told the parents that due to a nut allergy, “just bring doughnuts” in regards to birthdays. I’ve given my kids doughnuts twice in their life…once to try them and once for their first sleepover. Yet this teacher was telling me that my daughter was to eat 28 more doughnuts in the next 9 months. The system has holes.
Hopefully, there will be continued improvement from this administration and the next- especially when it comes to sweets. I believe birthdays should be celebrated in school–just differently. Some schools might adopt a Birthday Month Club where everyone whose birthday falls in the current month gets a trip to the library for a treat and some extra fun. Other schools might adopt to have special priviledges for the birthday child. Others might have a special birthday chair where their peers serenade them with song. When I was little, the birthday student had to crawl through a long line of everyone’s legs, if there was gym that day, while our classmates hit us on our backside! It was literally a human spanking machine! It was weird, fun, scary–but memorable. Not just another cheap additive-filled cupcake from a low quality bakery of a large grocery store chain.
I can tolerate sweets at class parties for various celebrations throughout the year. (However it saddens me of the corruption of the homemade valentine mailboxes by obscene amounts of red and pink candy… apparently, the sweet sentiments of a valentine aren’t enough anymore.)
But it would be a great relief for moms like me who can avoid random instances like the time when a mom handed the class a Rolo wrapped to resemble a pencil on the first day of school…without my permission. The teacher must have deemed it acceptable to do so.
The snack food industry is worried that schools will ban their products if these new healthy snack rules go into effect. I have little pity for their bottom line when it comes at the expense of my children’s health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this is the first generation that is expected to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Snack companies need to recognize their social responsibility and create more healthful snacks. They may even enjoy higher profits. Even I would consider giving my daughter money for a healthy snack at school…and I’ve never purchased any snacks. Just think of the possibilities of this untapped market.
In an article by Fox News, the Dept of Agriculture hoped parents would teach their children how to eat healthy at home as well. My kids are taught everyday by us and it’s just not enough. There are so many parents who think nothing wrong of letting their kids, and other people’s kids, have sugary treats everyday. I should know–I’m on the front lines of this war on sugar and junk food, which i share in the pages of my blog, http://www.junkfoodjournal.com.
Schools are worried that by banning candy, fundraising efforts for sports, band uniforms and field trips would be squashed. The solution is simple: sell a healthy product–say, popcorn. If that doesn’t work, maybe it will force people to be more creative and think outside the box on how to raise the money. Now THAT is education.
About the Author: Amy Baker Wambold volunteers her spare time for free to further the mission of the Jamie Oliver Food Revolution as an Ambassador. Her blog, http://www.junkfoodjournal.com, encourages readers to celebrate in a more healthful way with kid’s parties and urges parents to track our children’s weekly sugar intake.