Junk Food Junkie

My mother’s grandmother, Nana Nally, lived with her family and cared for her and her siblings while her mother (my grandmother) made her way as one of the first working mothers.

Nana Nally was an Irish immigrant and made homemade bread for the family a few times a week. Store bought bread was a rarity and a treat according to my mother.

My how far we’ve come.

This week, my children’s elementary school sent home a letter announcing new procedures regarding food for classroom celebrations. I had heard through the parent grape vine that the change was coming, but I wanted to wait for the letter to try and understand the specifics.

They are now asking that parents/guardians to contribute a small, voluntary financial donation towards the purchase of celebratory items. The teachers will now be responsible for procuring party items etc.

The reasons cited for the change are:
safety measures for students with food allergies,
proportional food offerings,
greater ease with preparation of the celebration for teachers.

What about this policy is easier on teachers? Most classrooms have at least 1 parent chomping at the bit to be involved in the classroom in some way. Coordinating food for a celebration is a perfect use for a parent. This new policy now demands more of a teacher’s time outside of school hours to shop for the food. It also shifts liability from the parent providing the food to the school.

According to Mr. Principal, the teachers find managing food for parties to be a challenge. I know for a fact this is not a universally true. However, If an individual teacher prefers to manage the classroom celebration, I think they should be allowed to do so. I seek out specific teaching styles for my children to best suit their educational needs and I think teachers should be given the option to run their classrooms as they see fit. In my opinion making this a unilateral, unfunded procedure is wrong and disrespectful to those teachers who welcome parent involvement. Kids need to learn that life is not consistent. Teachers, like future bosses have different working styles and it is crucial that children develop the skills to adapt to their environment.

As someone who deals with food allergies, (both mine and my husband’s) on a regular basis, that argument holds no merit with me. I read labels like some people read best sellers. NOTHNG goes in my cart without prior careful scrutiny. Have you read some of the things in prepared food from the grocery store? Even something as straight forward and “healthy” as a veggie platter with dip can have substances in it I can’t pronounce and that my husband can’t eat. Trust me, store bought doesn’t automatically make it better.

Whenever I coordinate food for parties, my first question is are there any known allergies in the classroom and we’ve had a few along the way. I’ve communicated the issue to the parents bringing food and we’ve never had a problem. We are fortunate that we have a scant few kids in the school with allergies, and I am painfully aware of how dangerous even a whiff of peanuts can be to some kids, but I view food allergies as an opportunity to educate students and parents alike. This is part of teaching tolerance for difference. Sometimes, you have to forego something you like for the benefit and safety of others. Food allergies exist in the real world and everyone needs to adapt.

When discussing proportional offerings, the subject of childhood obesity came up and how teachers must model good behavior. I agree that obesity is an issue in this country and in our school, BUT, we also must be wary of other eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. I’m not a believer in the abstinence works mentality. It is crucial that we not demonize food one way or the other. I think it is far better to model balance and self control. These celebrations are rare occurrences that happen 3, maybe 4 times a year? Children need to learn balance and personal responsibility. The message should be junk food is okay once in a while as a special treat, but it must be balanced with healthy food.

During my exchange with Mr. Principal he stated that it was his hope to eventually eliminate all food based celebrations (i.e. birthdays etc.). I sincerely hope it never comes to that. I would much rather have my kid eat a cupcake with partially hydrogenated oils once, than play with a lead laced little toy purchased from the dollar store for days on end.

I have debated this issue at length with Mr. Principal and we have finally decided to agree to respectfully disagree. He is known to be a brick wall and that school runs his way, or no way. It is a policy that works well with respect to discipline, but I think it fails with respect to this issue.

I plan to express my concerns at the district level (and told Mr. Principle this). I’ve already accepted that this policy will not change, but my hope is to stem the tide of insanity.

Excuse me while I go eat a Ring Ding and some Ho Ho’s for lunch.

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