The elementary school classroom. It’s a wonderful and joyous place filled with energy and dedication from teachers. It’s also filled with so many opportunities for children to be influenced by their peers, and at a very young age. It’s shocking how many days each week I hear about what the other kids eat for lunch, and worse, what the school serves in their cafeteria and for the kindergarten class snack. As if that isn’t enough, I approach every holiday with trepidation because I know inevitably on Halloween my children will come home with candy, in the winter they come home with gingerbread houses (complete with twizzlers, marshmallows, and other candy) for a “Thanksgiving” Feast there are treats, for a Christmas Feast there are treats, on Valentine’s Day they come home with treats, on Easter they come home with jelly beans, and on top of all that, even when the teachers try to abide by the school’s policy of “no sweets” for birthdays (they encourage children to pass out pencils or erasers for birthdays instead of treats…YES, we parents LOVE this) but they STILL come home with a handful of hershey kisses! Really. This happened last week. Maybe it’s because there was a Sub. Anyway, I just bite my tongue. I bit my tongue a few months ago when a parent, yes, a parent, passed out candy on the playground right there on school property, just 5 minutes after school let out. Okay, I’m done venting now. I realize I can’t control what other people do, but I can control what I do at home and that is probably why it pains me to see what occurs at school. Did I mention I can’t even take my kids to a basketball game or a school play without the snack bar selling nothing but soda and candy? Somehow I wish the schools would help to reinforce the healthy habits we teach at home instead of contradict them. I choose to focus on what I CAN do to help the cause. I can jump at the opportunity to donate class snacks, and hope that together my own children can provide some positive, healthy influence on their peers.
I know, I know, schools are the same everywhere (well, everywhere except Baltimore) and they are subject to USDA regulations. What? Oh, the regulations that are in place by our government because they’re supposed to protect us. Why do public schools follow these regulations so closely…Oh, because of budgeting of course. Schools would rather do everything they can to get their governmental reimbursements instead of actually doing what is right to keep our children healthy. Then they somehow twist around their explanation to make it seem like they are keeping my taxes lower by budgeting for their cafeteria food. Lots of laughs. In reality, I’m not as concerned about my own kids as I am concerned about those kids who come from families that actually pay for things like breakfast and lunch at school. Our school has chocolate chip muffins and “fruit by the foot” on the menu. It’s true. Don’t these decision makers understand that our children’s health is more precious than the 20 cents of savings they gain by choosing artificial dyes and unpronounceable ingredients in the packaged food they are serving our children? (If you haven’t seen my article on the dangers of food dyes, please click here.)
Some schools who actually do lead the way in eating products of nature rather than products of the American food industry have partnered with local orchards and local community supported agricultural groups. Those schools serve healthy food, locally grown, healthy fruits and vegetables. So with that, instead of adding a green dye to a “non” food product to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, I’m channeling my inner leprechaun and spent the morning slicing fresh fruit…hoping maybe others will follow suit and find their own pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I find my pot of gold every day…each time one of my little ones flashes a smile my way. What are you waiting for? Go ahead, go buy some fresh fruit and share that pot of gold at the end of your rainbow with your child’s classroom!
Here is a link to the little plastic cups. I bought them at a local restaurant supply store (some take-out restaurants serve salad dressing in these little cups). You can order them on Amazon for less than $10 by clicking on the picture/link.