Please Don’t Call Me a Food Nazi–I Just Want My Kids to Eat Well at School!!
|May 31, 2012||Posted by Stacy under Healthy classroom treats, Improving school food, Junk food in school, School food|
Lobbying for healthier school food may sound like a no-brainer. After all, who could possibly object to improving the quality of the food being served to our kids? But with that said, the idea isn’t always very well received. In fact, parents, teachers and school administrators who propose swapping double-fudge brownies for apple slices are often met with resistance or sometimes even become targets.
Yes, that’s right: The term “Food Nazi” is often tossed about in reference to us more nutrition-minded parents. Proof in point: A recent article in Philadelphia magazine, entitled, Food Nazis Invade First Grade by Vicki Glembocki, which describes the parental uproar—and intentional breaking of the rules—after birthday cupcakes are banned at a South Jersey elementary school.
A number of my mom friends say they’ve experienced the backlash. “I’ve been accused of being overly restrictive, uptight, even elitist (apparently, fruit is a status symbol these days!), says Sally Kuzemchak, a registered dietician and fellow blogger who proposed a “fruit-only” snack policy to parents of the kids on her 7-year-old’s soccer team. Then there’s “Mrs. C” (whose real name is being withheld to protect her from being attacked by a mob of angry moms), publicly labeled a “helicopter parent” at her then 3-year-old’s preschool after she grumbled about a school gardening project that involved filling flower pots with crushed Oreos and gummy worms.
The Smart Food Initiative, a group of six moms fighting for healthier food in Central Oregon’s Bend-LaPine School District, also has felt the heat. After pushing for fewer treats, they were referred to as Food Nazis in their local paper. And in her article “Lunch Wars: A call for healthier kids’ meals in the cafeteria” on Babble.com, Amy Kalafa describes how she earned the title of “granolahead” for favoring carrots over cupcakes.
Blogger Bettina Elias Siegel of The Lunch Tray agrees that “parental push back, especially when it comes to birthday treats, is a real issue.” In her home state of Texas, the government legislature actually passed a “safe cupcake amendment” (a.k.a. Lauren’s Law) to protect the right of parents to bring in sweets on their kids’ birthdays. “I personally know one parent who was vilified at her children’s school when she dared question the birthday treat practice,” she explains.
Likewise, in a recent piece titled “Is the ‘Obesity Lobby’ Winning?” on Grist.com, writer Tom Laskaway touches on “the ease with which terms like ‘nanny state,’ ‘food police,’ and ‘snobbery’ get thrown around in even the politest company when food restrictions get discussed.”
OK, I think you get the picture. But it all makes me wonder: What’s the real issue here? Why does the proposition of changing the way we feed our kids tend to inspire a visceral reaction? Or is it really the notion of denying kids of some treats that causes some parents to get riled up?
I’ve thought about it at length, and here’s what I’ve come up with: It’s personal. What you eat (or feed your kids) is as individual as religion, politics and the decision to circumcise. I really don’t think parents would have the same reaction if we were talking about, say, switching from chemical-based to “green” cleaning products at school. There is something about the subject of food that makes some people go bananas.
Some parents also feel that attempts to control what can and can’t be eaten on school grounds impinge on their personal freedoms. In a FoxNewsRadio.com story about a cupcake crackdown at one Greeley, Colo., school , an incensed mom is quoted as saying:
They’re dictating what I can send with my child for lunch—what I can give them for a treat at a school party. I don’t believe that’s right. It’s my child. I should be able to feed them whatever I want. They’re not raising my child. They’re not paying for their orthodontic bills. They’re not tucking them in at night telling them they love them. But yet they’re telling me what I can and can’t feed my child?
She also refers to the school officials who enacted the ban as Food Nazis. Sigh.
Other people have the attitude of “let kids be kids”—which means allowing them to have their cake and eat it, too. I suspect this viewpoint is often associated with a person’s own childhood food memories. After all, many of us think back fondly on the joy of running for the Good Humor truck, blowing out the candles on a birthday cake, or sharing a bag of Cheetos with our best friend. We want our kids to experience the same thrill. And there’s only so long that they’ll be able to indulge before they inevitably start worrying about belly bulges and cellulite.
In her Real Mom Nutrition blog, Sally K. discusses how providing children with sweets and other yumminess is the way some parents show their love. And they, in turn, love watching their child’s face light up when they see a plate of pink frosted princess cupcakes or bite into a Rice Krispie treat. As Vicki Glombecki concluded in her Philly mag “Food Nazi” story, “Sending in birthday treats [to school]…made me feel like a good mom.” When school officials, teachers or other parents propose stripping them of this parental right, they, quite understandably, can get pissed.
Fortunately, I’ve never been called a Food Nazi—at least not to my face. I do get the occasional jab for my distaste of food dyes and other artificial stuff. And I feel like some people worry that my kids are being subjected to a childhood without donuts and Doritos (but it simply isn’t true—they do get their fix, just usually not from me!). We eat sweets and packaged snacks all the time; however, when I’m the one doling them out, they are usually on the more wholesome side. But please don’t condemn me for it. I just am doing what I feel is best for my brood–just as you’re doing what you feel is best for yours.
Why do you think is behind the “healthy” feeding backlash? Have you ever been criticized for preferring “natural” foods or hesitated to speak up about junk food in school out of fear?
MORE GOOD STUFF ON SCHOOL BITES:
- Junk food is cool: So what’s a parent to do about it?
- Can I have cotton candy?!? Tips for handling all those junk food requests