Is It OK to Tell Parents What to Pack in Their Kid’s Lunchbox?
|October 10, 2013||Posted by Stacy under Healthy lunch, Healthy school snacks, Healthy snacks, School lunch|
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the strongly worded guidelines on snacks packed from home in my twins’ back-to-school packet. (See Kindergarten Teachers Cracking Down on Junky Classroom Snacks). “Please send something with your child that is healthy,” it read, followed by three definitive words.” Absolutely no CANDY.”
I shared the news on my School Bites Facebook page, and people cheered. Only one reader questioned the junky snack crackdown: “Honestly, even as much as I am ‘pro-healthy snack,’ that letter would bother me. I get the intent, but the “we will be checking” [students’ snacks/lunchboxes] thing will turn people off. There are parents that will do it just to spite.”
Not long after, I spotted this headline on the New York Times Motherlode blog: Dear Parent: The Lunch You Packed Was Nutritionally Inadequate.
“I have been scolded for including yogurt, which ‘your daughter doesn’t like’ (she chose it — what do you want me to do?),” KJ Dell’Antonia wrote in her piece. “I have been chastised for not following the ‘no candy rule’ (I thought a single Hershey’s Kiss was a healthy dessert choice). I have had my husband stay my hand when I suggested including a mini-can of soda in a Friday lunch for a treat for a child who was having a tough time at preschool–‘Are you kidding me? They’ll throw us out!’”
Mmmmmmm, yes, she does have a point.
THE SCHOOL LUNCH POLICE
Sad to say, but some kids’ home-packed lunches are so nutritionally lacking that some teachers and schools are taking it upon themselves to step in. I’m talking lunchboxes packed with highly processed packaged foods that are high in salt and sugar and bereft of nutrients–hardly the kind of sustenance that a child needs to stay healthy, calm and focused in class.
Personally, I don’t have a problem with our kindergarten teacher’s snack mandate. I view it as an effort to keep kids well fueled for learning and life. But I do wonder if it is, in fact, a school’s place to tell a parent what kind of food to pack. My guess is that the kindergarten teachers in my twins’ school are sick of watching kids misbehave after eating the wrong things, or feel a responsibility to help guide parents into making better choices. Rather than impose strict rules (which are almost certain to anger some parents), however, could there be a less in-your-face approach?
I still remember when my oldest child’s kindergarten teacher sent home a note asking parents to refrain from sending in sugary treats like frosted muffins. While I very rarely packed cookies and other sweet treats in his lunchbox, I had included a single cream-cheese frosted carrot mini muffin (made with whole-wheat pastry flour and applesauce) that week. While I wasn’t being specifically targeted, the teacher’s note did make me feel embarrassed, criticized and, yes, a little defensive.
Bottom line : If schools ARE going to attempt to dictate what kids can and cannot eat, then they better be sure that they have a solid understanding of nutrition. All too often, suggested “healthy” snack lists in schools include foods (like Goldfish crackers and pretzels) that are highly processed and of questionable nutritional value. In the end, I guess the question is: Who gets to decide which foods are acceptable and which aren’t?
What’s your feeling? Is it Ok for schools to tell parents what they can and cannot pack in their child’s lunchbox? Comments, please!!