As the room mom for my daughter’s class, the responsibility of planning the annual fall party had fallen on my shoulders. I had spent weeks discussing details with the teacher and coordinating with the parents of the classroom for supplies.
The party I arranged was going to be very simple: a craft, some group games, and outside play. As I relayed the information to the parents, almost every single one of them emailed back with the same question: “What about a snack?” Because the party was right after lunch and a handful of the children in the classroom had serious, complicated allergies, the teacher and I decided there wasn’t a need for a snack during the party.
It would be more hassle than it was worth, and they’d be so busy having fun, they wouldn’t miss the candy.
The parents revolted. They were pissed.
After seeing the outcry, I relented. We would serve a snack, and I’d take care of providing an allergy-friendly option for all of the children.
On the day of the party, I arrived carrying bags laden with craft supplies and paper products. As I unpacked my supplies, the teacher greeted me and said, “It seems you have quite a feast planned!” as she pointed to a table in the back of the room.
Every inch of the table was covered with packaged food that the parents of the classroom had donated to the party.
Bulk-sized bags of chips and candy. Cupcakes. Store-bought cookies. Goodie bags overflowing with Halloween candy. Soda, juice boxes, and large jugs of fruit punch cluttered the table.
For a one-hour party. For little kids. With no care given for well-known classroom allergies. Seriously, parents?
Why is it so hard to simply throw a party for kids and not serve gargantuan amounts of junk food? Food that will inevitably be wasted because kids are picky and much more interested in playing silly games and having fun with their friends.
Parents, I’m going to say this so that even the people in the cheap seats can hear me: Vast quantities of food are not necessary at every single classroom event.
Speaking as an allergy parent, my kid has a number of allergies to common food products, and in some instances, certain foods could kill her if she ingests or comes into contact with their allergens. And she’s not the only one. There’s typically a small handful of allergy kids, with varying severity, in each classroom.
But let’s not let the fact that food at a class party could kill a kid deter us. Am I right?
Listen, I’m not precious. I know food is necessary and even loads of fun at times. And I know there’s food out there in the real world, so our allergy kids need to learn to be self-aware. I also know many of you think we should segregate kids in some way, so nobody ever has to be mindful of what ingredients they are bringing into the school. Believe me, I’ve seen the comments sections.
Well, if you can’t get on board with keeping allergy kids safe, let’s discuss the latest statistics on childhood obesity. Shall we?
Childhood obesity affects 17% of U.S. children, and according to the CDC, 12.7 million children are obese. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index, the measure for determining whether one is overweight or obese, of 95% or greater. Almost one-fifth of our children are obese, and while there are many factors that contribute to childhood obesity, the CDC points out that “balancing energy or calories consumed from foods and beverages with the calories burned through activity plays a role in preventing excess weight gain.”
Put simply, our kids are eating more and moving less, and we have to start somewhere if we are going to combat children who are at risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and chronic illnesses like asthma. Cutting excessive snacks, especially those of the processed, sugary variety, seems reasonable.
As if keeping allergy kids safe and combating childhood obesity aren’t reasons enough, consider celebrity food chef Jamie Oliver’s new research report, compiled by his Jamie Oliver Food Foundation and in collaboration with AKO Foundation. According to his website, their report is the “first comprehensive review of English foods.”
The report findings are not the least bit surprising, either. A need for school healthy zones, better education of the school workforce about nutrition for school-aged children, and stronger reporting of nutrition statistics for school kids were just some of the points raised in Oliver’s report. Oliver’s foundation found that there are “alarming concerns about the unhealthy food environment at secondary schools, compromising pupils’ ability to make good food choices.”
“And we’ve proven the simple point that we need to help kids apply food knowledge in the real world, and we need to support our dedicated food teachers. We must stop giving our kids contradictory messages. Most of all, if we want healthy children, we need to make all schools healthy zones. Full stop,” Oliver says on his website.
And perhaps most damning?
Oliver points his fingers at school bake sales as a huge obstacle in getting kids to make healthier eating choices. “Pupils told us that, when sugary drinks, super-sized cookies, and ‘chip only’ options are available, it made it hard for them to select healthier alternatives.”
What’s that you say, Mr. Oliver? When classrooms are filled with chips and cookies and candies during every school party and celebration, kids aren’t gravitating toward oranges and grapes?
I know that treats are fun, and I subscribe to an “everything in moderation” mentality, but kids today are bombarded with snacks at seemingly every activity: during scout meetings, soccer practice, youth groups, school parties, and evening school activities. They expect snacks for every damn thing, and parents are signing up for snack rotations for a 45-minute soccer practice. What happened to bringing a water bottle, then heading home for dinner?
The snacks have gotten out of control. Enough with the freaking snack bags.