My Kids are Back at School, and Healthy Changes are in the Air!
|September 7, 2012||Posted by Stacy under Making change|
I love cupcakes. Really, I do. But if you’ve been following my blog from the beginning, you know that I took issue with the number of times they appeared in my kindergartner’s classroom last year. And as long as I’m being THAT mom (as my friend Sally at Real Mom Nutrition likes to say), I’ll admit that all the candy, cookies, brownies, Rice Krispies treats and ice cream kind of bothered me, too. At school pick-up, I almost came to expect my son’s face smeared with blue frosting or his shirt covered with chocolate crumbs.
I’m definitely cool with the occasional treat at school, but to me, this was way over the top. How would the kids ever learn good eating habits when they were being given sweets left and right? What ever happened to moderation? Why weren’t they even being offered healthier stuff? I wasn’t just being The Crazy Cupcake Lady; I knew other parents and teachers felt the same way. Concerned and frustrated, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
After learning that my son’s elementary school didn’t have a Wellness Committee, I thought it a good place to begin. So I spoke to the school principal and the Parents Auxiliary (P.A.) about forming one. When I last blogged about it, I had gained the support of the P.A. but was waiting for the principal to sign off. Keep reading to learn what happened—along with some other promising developments.
A new School Wellness Committee
After waiting weeks to meet with the principal (understandably busy with important end-of-year stuff), I finally got my chance in the middle of June. To my relief, he was totally on board with the notion of encouraging healthier food in the classrooms. The Wellness Committee was officially a go! I will be helping organize it with another mom (and former teacher) who shares my passion for healthy living. Among our duties: putting together a healthy newsletter for parents (the principal’s cool idea!) and helping to initiate new “Food and Fun” classes to introduce students to all sorts of wholesome foods and teach them just how yummy they can be (more about them in a future post!).
A carefully worded note to the teacher
The school year kicked off this past Tuesday. And since there is no official policy when it comes to shared food on birthdays and at classroom parties, I got proactive. I wrote a quick note to my son’s new teacher to broach the idea of encouraging healthier snacks and treats. I also asked about doing collective birthday parties once a month rather than celebrating each child’s birthday individually. I included a copy of a recent study showing just how many added calories kids consume during classroom birthday parties.
When I picked up my son at the end of the school day, I found an envelope addressed to me (in perfect teacherly script) in his school folder. Inside was a note that said:
“Thank you SO much for your letter and concerns about sugar consumption! I had planned to celebrate b-days by the months and will send a letter home encouraging healthy snacks. I agree with sending a strong message about eating nutritious foods and limiting sugar.”
Can I just say how much I love her? (And I must credit Chris from Spoonfed: Raising Kids to Think About the Food They Eat–a lovely and inspiring blog about educating children about the benefits and joys of eating wholesome food–for giving me the idea of writing the letter.).
A strong message in the school handbook
Later that same day, I took a minute to peruse the school’s new Parent/Student Handbook. That’s when I made a great discovery. Whereas the previous year’s handbook barely touched on classroom treats, this one had a very clear message:
“In school, we prefer nutritious snacks such as fruits, vegetables, unsweetened juices, etc. This would apply to classroom parties and birthday celebrations as well. Please check with, and respect the requests of, the teachers when planning to bring in classroom treats. We would also like to see a reduction in the high-sugar treats brought in for parties and birthday celebrations. Please consider treats others than cupcakes and cookies.”
As I’ve said in the past, all schools that participate in the federal school meal program are required to have a wellness policy. However, research has shown that policies that use weak and vague language and don’t require action are less likely to be implemented. While the above statement in my son’s school handbook is a suggestion not a mandate, I feel the wording is strong and specific. A step in the right direction!
A principal who values healthy eating
I got lucky: Our school principal happens to be someone who places a premium on good nutrition. He recently went on a health kick, dropped weight, and realized how good he felt. As a former teacher, he’s also intimately familiar with how downing a giant frosted cupcake with a juice box chaser can affect kids’ behavior and ability to focus in class.*
Week 1 take-away
It remains to be seen how things will play out during the school year, but I do feel like the tide is starting to turn. At least people are beginning to pay closer attention to the issue. Bottom line: Parents can be very powerful advocates. The more we band together and fight for change, the better things could be for all of our kids. So don’t be afraid to be THAT mom. I’m sure getting the hang of it.
*If the principal at your child’s school doesn’t seem to want to address the issue of junk food at school, then head up the totem pole. There’s a great chance you can find one school board member or member of the administration who will agree with you and be willing to take on the issue.
Are you happy with the food situation at your child’s school? If not, have you thought about doing anything about it?