As someone who is a vocal advocate of healthier eating, litterless lunches and strong school policies – both in my family life and in my work – I think things are beginning to get out of hand. The new measures at our schools to “enforce” healthy eating are being done without consideration or logic, in my opinion.
Some schools in the GTA have the authority to take away what they deem to be unhealthy food, leaving kids not only hungry, but also shamed in front of their peers.
Who is defining healthy? Where is the education? What are the rules? What message are we sending our kids when school fundraisers and class parties celebrate the very food teachers and school staff are reprimanding them for having in their lunches and snacks?
We need to start with the schools not feeding kids “junk” in the first place: Fundraising with conventional cookie dough and pizza lunches, school BBQs featuring factory-farmed and processed meats, high-sugar in-class snacks, classroom birthday celebrations with cakes made from conventional white sugar, white flour, and questionably sourced dairy, eggs, and everything else – these are only some examples of where we’re feeding our kids bad food and sending them one message, but then expecting them to know better.
We must empower parents by giving them the basic guidelines of dos and don’ts, so that our kids are getting consistent information for the sake of their confidence and health and safety.
We need to teach and inspire kids (and parents) to make better choices, or the best ones they can! We need kids to get into the kitchen at home – and even better, we need to teach them cooking skills and nutrition in school — as a mandatory course.
To keep in mind as we judge other people lunches: Cookies are NOT unhealthy – it’s the ingredients that make up the cookie that count. Chocolate can be part of a super healthy meal, or a completely toxic one. If a teacher confiscated my kids’ organic, fair-trade cookie or chocolate bar, I would be incensed – and not just because it’s made with nourishing whole foods, but because it’s not up to them what’s healthy or not. Like with anything else we learn, don’t label things, don’t judge a book by its cover, ask questions, and use the answers.
We need to recognize and respond to the reality that many families need education, resources, and access! Shaming parents, shaming kids while at school, and banning or removing things does not encourage self-esteem or critical thinking – and I’m pretty sure that is one of the reasons we send our kids to school!
Who is in charge of eating healthy? YOU ARE. We all are. Let’s all demand better and smarter for our kids.
Read and share these resources:
PACKAGED NUT-FREE/ALLERGY-FRIENDLY SNACKS. Well labelled, well packaged snacks and real food always have a place in my pantry – and in my kids’ lunchboxes. We’ve linked to the company’s allergen statement on each snack for you if they had one, and we otherwise checked by communicating directly with each brand.
PETITION: URGE THE GOVERNMENT OF ONTARIO TO MAKE AT LEAST ONE FOOD & NUTRITION COURSE COMPULSORY. Students should be empowered to make the best choices, not shamed for making the wrong ones. Let’s give them the knowledge and skills they need to prepare healthful, affordable meals at home.