Michelle Obama, Can You Hear Us?!? We Need Help Getting Junk Food Out of Our Schools!!
|February 27, 2014||Posted by Stacy under Cupcakes, Improving school food, Junk food in school, Making change, Wellness policy|
I always planned on having healthy kids. I breastfed. I made homemade baby food. As my children got older, I tried hard to serve fruits and veggies at every meal and limit processed snacks. It wasn’t always easy, but I did the best that I could to instill good eating habits.
Then my kids entered school.
When my oldest child started Kindergarten, I was amazed to find junk food on the menu. He was going to school to learn about reading and math, not donuts and Froot Loops! Every week, it seemed he was given cupcakes, cookies, candy, ice cream and other junky treats at a class party, as a reward, as part of a learning activity, or to raise money for the school.
For the past two years, I have been working hard to change all that. I’ve done everything from talk to my kids’ teachers and principal to promote ideas for healthy class parties to serve on my school district wellness policy committee. Yes, I have seen signs of progress. Yes, I’d do it all again. Yes, I will keep up the fight. But I can’t help but question: Why is this MY job?!?
Though it may feel like it sometimes, I’m not alone in wanting my children to eat healthy at school. A lot of parents are concerned about junk food in their kids’ school classrooms, hallways and cafeterias. While some choose to look the other way, others are standing up and fighting for the health of their kids. Not because they want to or because they have nothing better to do, but because it seems to be their only option.
Sadly, parents who suggest swapping cupcakes and candy for fruit kabobs aren’t always received with open arms. All too often, their concerns are dismissed or ignored. Some experience unreturned emails, others blank stares and still others outright hostility. One mom that I know was told by her school principal to stop contacting parents and staff in an effort to campaign for student wellness. So much for grassroots efforts!
As for those wellness policies required for every school participating in the National School Lunch Program? They’re a great idea–and I know that they have tremendous potential. But not if a school district intentionally creates one without teeth—or a school principal refuses to abide by (never mind enforce!) her own district’s rules designed to protect the kids. Unfortunately, it is happening every day, all across our country.
Never in my wildest dreams did I expect it to be this hard to get my school district on board with the healthy concepts being promoted by Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! intiative and others. The new United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) rules for healthier school meals, snacks and wellness policies are a big step in the right direction for our nation’s kids. But, unfortunately, there remain too many loopholes and not enough accountability.
Every day, I hear stories about Kindergartners being given soda pop at class parties. I hear about students being rewarded with candy bars and Slurpees. I hear schools being described as “Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.” I hear the despondent pleas of parents who are worried about obesity, diabetes and anaphylactic shock.
Michelle Obama, Can You Hear Us? We Need Your Help!!
As Let’s Move! celebrates its 4th anniversary, I am grateful for all our First Lady has done to help make America’s schools healthier. It was her Let’s Move! campaign that inspired me to help start a wellness committee at my kids’ elementary school two years ago. I’m thrilled that she’s made school wellness a focus, and she deserves huge praise for her efforts. Earlier this week, I nearly teared up when I heard about her new proposed rules intended to curb junk food marketing in schools. I know that these are all tremendous steps with the potential to improve the health of countless kids.
But, please, First Lady Obama, don’t stop there! Soda, candy and other unhealthy foods and beverages continue to flow freely at many of our schools. We need to start holding schools accountable for creating a culture of good nutrition and health. We need to provide funding so state agencies can ensure that school districts are in compliance with wellness policy requirements. We need to include rules for classroom food and school fundraisers. Because they DO compete with the federally reimbursed school meal program–and because it is the best thing for our kids.
As she said earlier this week, “Our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren’t bombarded with ads for junk food. Because when parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits at home, their work shouldn’t be undone by unhealthy messages at school.” Yes, but we also need to make them healthy places where kids aren’t bombarded with junk food. There’s still much more that can be done to make sure that ALL kids have their best chance at a healthy future.
What to Do If Your School Wellness Policy Isn’t Being Enforced: A Guide for Parents
Getting Junk Food Out of School: How Your School Wellness Policy Can Help
Taking a Stand Against Junk Food in School–Why It’s Hard But We Need to Anyway!
Rant of the Day: Please Stop Feeding My Kids Junk Food in School!
If you’re fed up with junk food at your child’s school, it’s time to start making some noise. Please share this post on Facebook and Twitter, or leave a comment below and let your voice be heard!