I made it the night before I needed it, carried it to school and during snack recess I served up plates of fruit. I had pineapples, strawberries, blackberries, and grapes arranged in a geometrically pleasing pattern of a star. (Unfortunately I did not take a picture of this one, but above is another sample of a fruit mosaic) I will attest that out of 24 kids in the class, 24 kids took a plate of fruit. I gently encouraged most kids to take at least two different types, and many even asked for a little bit of everything. At the end the entire tray was cleared of fruit and I felt good feeding the kids something healthy. It was slightly more time consuming than buying a tray of unhealthy muffins from the supermarket, but much better for the students.
For Valentine's Day this year, I took my friend's awesome idea (see here) and made these very cute crayon hearts.
Daughter #2, whose school doesn't celebrate Valentine's Day felt left out of the fun, so asked if she might give them out for her birthday in lieu of a healthy snack. I agreed and we made these together. (It also happened to coincide with letter "P" week, where kids are invited to bring things that start with the letter P...hence the card.)
All these projects were homemade, took a bit of time, but I think the end result was so wonderful and I was happy that I was able to do such things for Daughters and all of her friends.
On the flip side of all of the Valentines and healthy treats from me came a pile of candy from Daughter #1's school on Valentine's Day. The party was tame, no treats, just the simple passing of Valentines with no party food, but still the bag of candy bothered me. (The fact that quite a few of the treats in the bag were peanut based, which would have done both Son and Daughter #2 a great disservice notwithstanding.) Daughter #1 knew she wasn't going to be able to eat it, so asked if she might share pieces (the non-peanut ones) with her brother and sister. I said yes and offered to trade in the rest of the bag for a brand new t-shirt. She agreed and then I got rid of the candy.
Daughter #2, although she goes to a school with a pretty strict wellness policy, has come home sharing about how she ate this cupcake and that chocolate brownie and all sorts of things that I don't want her to eat without my full knowledge. If she has a treat at school, I want to be aware so that I don't offer her a treat at home. And it got me to thinking, that I want to be the one who gives treats to my kids, not anyone else. I want to be the one empowered to make decisions about what goes into my child's body, not someone else's.
It even becomes MORE difficult when I consider Son's situation as he enters school next year. He will be left out of every single celebration if I do not provide him separate treats on the side. He will miss every single cupcake and every single cookie, which actually doesn't bother me as a parent, but it is something that I know will make him sad. I can certainly bake him foods that he will be safe with, but even that just seems unnecessary.
I actually think that we should begin considering a NATIONAL policy where food, outside of the lunch you pack your child or the lunch provided by the school is NOT allowed. (This is not my idea, but the idea of health and wellness experts who are studying what is happening with the health of children as they attend school.) The celebrations at school should be non-food based. I want to be the one who controls what goes into my child's body; that is my right as a parent. I want to be aware of what he or she consumes and be empowered to make decisions about what they will eat later in the day. Lest anyone think that this is because my children or fat or unhealthy, it is not the case. (All three of my children are well within the average range of BMI.) This is about how celebrations and food at school has become a focal point and it isn't really where we want to be focusing our attention. Simply removing the extraneous food is a simple, black and white solution that I think will have wonderful effects beyond just health.
As a former teacher, I remember how kids acted after having sugar during break. Classes became far more unwieldy, students far more jittery and less focused. To bring the attention BACK to the lesson took more work, more time, and ultimately took away time from teaching. As it is, the United States has far fewer days of school than most of the westernized world, and to be spending part of the time trying to reel children in simply does not make good sense. Removing the excess food and sugar would be a simple solution.
In discussing this with friend, she commented, "You're going to upset a lot of people. This sounds so strict and military. Why can't we just have healthy snacks? Why can't the food just be limited to healthy foods?"
It is a good point, but once you start allowing some food, then people begin stretching the boundaries of what the definition of healthy means. Many people consider muffins to be "healthy" but aren't aware that muffins have just the same amount of sugar as a cupcake (minus the frosting.) Granola bars are often touted as healthy, but with sugar clocking in at sometimes 19 grams, that's not anywhere near the levels we want to give our kids.
In addition, when you take into account the sheer number of kids with mild to severe food allergies, simply eliminating food is the safest for them. Son has respiratory problems when he is near milk. If he ingests it, forget about it - the day is over for him. I know that some may consider my argument as biased since I do have a son with allergies, but I am as passionate about this as a cause for Daughters as well. I do NOT want them to have any treats at school. I want to be the one who gives it to them. I want control over how much, how often and what things goes into my child's body, and in a school environment that we have right now, this is not possible. Here are a list of a few things that absolutely infuriate me that have happened in schools in either Daughters school or schools in our area.
A mother handed out Happy Meals to the entire class as a "birthday treat" from her daughter.
A melted chocolate fountain was brought to class so that kids could dip fruit in chocolate. (this was in Daughter's 3 year old class, and I was NOT happy.)
Teachers passing out candy as incentives to get students to provide an answer.
Teachers offering rewards of candy as incentives for good behavior.
Donuts and ice cream being sold either RIGHT before school or RIGHT after school as a fundraiser.
I'm all for eliminating ALL extraneous foods, including food fundraisers. I'm sure I'm going to get a lot of people against this idea or thinking that I'm overly crazy or extreme. But I know that there will be some out there who may see the logic in the idea (it's not a new one by the way - I'll post resources as well) and think about how this idea may become a reality someday. In the meanwhile, when it is a celebration, consider sending something that is either healthy or not even food related. You'd be surprised at how many kids find themselves enjoying something outside the traditional idea of "treat."
I know that many will have opposing views on this and I'm open to comments and discussion. I'd love to hear other points of view and any concurring sentiment as well.
And just to bring some levity back to the blog...
A goofy bear mosaic I made for Daughter #1 when she had her teddy bear picnic. He looks pretty silly, no?