100 Days of Junk?
Recently my son's class celebrated the 100th day of school. (Don’t ask me why this is suddenly something to celebrate, but boy was he excited.) The kids all did 100-related projects—mine made a poster with 100 ninjas—and in preparation for the day's festivities the first-grade teachers sent home a note:
“In honor of the 100th Day of School our class will be making a 100th Day Snack Mix. They will be counting out 10 each of 10 snacks, totaling 100 snacks. We are asking if each family can contribute one item from the list below…”
Fine. That’s a nice idea, don’t you think? But check out the list of suggested items:
- Goldfish (cheese, chocolate, or cinnamon)
- Gummy Bears
- Chocolate Chips
- Unsalted peanuts or other nuts
- Miniature Marshmallows
- Mini Pretzels or Sticks
- Jelly Beans
WHAT? They were asking us to send in junk food, so each kid could have 100 pieces? My son, of course, volunteered us to supply the gummy bears—he almost never gets to eat them, so having the school ask for them was too good an opportunity to pass up.
I almost went along with this. Told myself, Eh, he doesn’t eat much junk on my watch—getting it elsewhere occasionally won’t hurt him. But then my Facebook feed started to explode with links to this blog post from US News: Why Is Everyone Always Giving My Kids Junk Food? Written by Yoni Freedhoff, an MD who specializes in weight management, it’s about how it seems that the “it’s just one” excuse has snowballed into a non-stop deluge of treats being handed to our kids. We parents, whose job it is to help our kids learn to make good, healthy choices—which includes having treats sometimes—are being cut out of the equation.
The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. The cafeteria provides chocolate milk alongside the plain, so naturally my kid chooses chocolate. He’s in awe of several classmates, who get a six-pack of Oreos every day in their lunchboxes (and yes, they share with him). He’s delighted when he gets a lollipop as a prize from his teacher. Just last week, he could barely contain his excitement while describing the treasure hunt the art teacher was organizing for his class: The treasure box would be filled with candy. (This turned out not to be true. He nearly cried.)
On the playground, I often find myself grumbling with the other moms about how much truly awful food the kids get officially, from the school. We sit around flapping our gums, but don’t actually do anything.
So I emailed his teacher, to ask if we could start offering non-food incentives. I told her that getting my kid to eat real food becomes almost impossible when he hears from his teacher that candy is not only ok, but a reward for good behavior—after his parents, she’s the primary authority figure in his life. I acknowledged that when it comes to things like sending in gummy bears, it was my responsibility as the parent to refuse, and I apologized for waiting until the 100th day to say anything. I think I was tactful and respectful about it.
She responded with a lovely, open-hearted note offering to ban sugary snacks outright from the class. I think that’s going too far—birthday cupcakes seem perfectly reasonable to me—but we’re continuing to talk. I have to say, I adore her for not being defensive about this, for being open to discussion.
What’s the situation in your kid’s school? How do you handle it when other people offer your kid junk food?
Adapted from a post that originally appeared on Feed the Parents, Debbie Koenig's blog for Weight Watchers.