US Schools Getting a Snack Food Makeover

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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.

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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.)

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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.

This entry was posted in Celebrations, Childhood Diabetes, Childhood Obesity, Education, Health, Healthy School Kids, Obesity, Parenting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to US Schools Getting a Snack Food Makeover

  1. Given the recent article in the NY Times about addictive junk food (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html), I’m not holding my breath about the food companies coming around. I love your point about the parents who educate their kids on food choices can only control so much. I’m afraid it’s going to take quite a while to convince the majority of parents that sugary, junk-y snacks are not appropriate for children (or themselves, for that matter). Thankfully, it’s very hard to predict radical shifts in opinion/behavior so maybe I’m wrong!

  2. Great ideas on alternative birthday celebrations! I LOATHE store-bought cupcakes and said as much one day. Then, I felt horrible because I knew the room mom was only doing her best. You don’t know what you don’t know. Anyway… what gets me the most is that they say you can’t send in homemade (i.e. healthier) treats b/c of nut allergies or the possibility that the food you make may come into contact with nuts. Yet, the CRAP they have you purchase at the grocery store is just horrendously awful, yet dons the words, “made in a facility where nuts are processed.” UNbelievable. When I was a kid, we had… are you read for this? FRUIT break. Yep, FRUIT! Not fruit loops or fruit roll-ups. REAL FRUIT. Whether it was a lemon or dates or whatever, it was so much fun to see what everyone else brought because we tried to get creative (that was my first experience with pomegranates–5th grade!).

    Thanks so much for your continued fight against the monster called snacks. Most moms don’t know and/or don’t care, as I was told when I mentioned the apples I brought were organic. “Oh, I don’t care.” Really? How about when your child has reached their toxic load due to all of the pesticide residue? Then, will you care? Ok, I’m done now. Carry on! 🙂

  3. Denise says:

    You are my hero! The sugar and junk is out of control. If it’s just not available then kids will make a healthy choice. I get really tired of being the perceived bad guy and constantly saying no you can’t have that, no dessert you had treats at school, tossing half their goodie bag sugar away or getting upset when the junk just appears in the mouth at school pick up. Maybe schools could implement a smoothie b-day treat policy and no goodie bags. Here in Guam the schools allow birthday parties during lunch! Talk about loading them up w/ junk and then expecting them to focus. I’m all for healthy snacks; pita chips and hummus, granola, popcorn, fruit, tortilla chips and salsa, cheese cubes and fruit Popsicle, nuts and cereal bars. We can make it happen! Sounds like a cookbook idea! As a Mom I am always looking for good snack options.

    • Thank you fellow food fighter mom! I’m sick of being the bad guy too…but that doesn’t happen so much anymore because even my kids see that it is just too much! I tell them to never worry about candy and sugar because its around every corner and just a day away until they’re confronted with more. Appreciate your comments!

  4. Oh my. The teacher who suggested donuts for birthdays “due to nut allergies” clearly knows nothing about nut allergies! 🙂 Great post and I agree wholeheartedly. You are so right that the new rules won’t address the snacks brought by parents–and this happens IN SO MANY PLACES: school, church, sports, after-school clubs, on and on and on. I started a movement on my blog called Snacktivism, which encourages parents to advocate for healthier snacks (or, crazy idea: NO SNACK) at home, school, sports, and elsewhere. I hope you’ll check it out because you seem like a Snacktivist through and through! I look forward to following your blog.

    • I will check it out! I told my girls just this last Sunday, when I said no to a doughnut, that if I said yes every time they would consume 52 doughnuts a year…on top of the 28 birthday doughnuts at school. That’s a total of 80!

  5. caseyhinds says:

    Loved what you had to say about selling healthier food! Here’s what we are doing in Lexington KY. Glad to find another fighter. http://kyhealthykids.com/2013/02/20/better-bites/

  6. Jennifer Johnson says:

    I agree. I teach my daughter daily about correct portion sizes, healthier choices, etc. but would love to see it supported more in the schools. I look at the school lunches and agree with you that they need revamping and those treats that come in! The children eat those and not my apples, carrots, etc. I try to work with the other parents, and they don’t see the big picture. Thank you for everything you do to get our message out and educate parents, schools, and our leaders.

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