Well-Intentioned Food Police May Create Havoc With Children’s Diets

Harriet Brown:

Earlier this year, our small Midwestern school district joined the food wars, proposing a new policy that would discourage all food in classrooms, ban nuts and sugary foods and do away with vending machines.
So much for peanut butter sandwiches, snacks for kindergartners and birthday cupcakes.
Like the policies put in place by school systems around the country, this one was driven by anxiety — about food quantity, quality and safety — and by the ever-increasing pressure for children to look a certain way and to weigh a certain amount.
Unlike the earlier “mommy wars” or the “war on drugs,” which centered around simpler black-and-white divides, the 21st-century food wars are fuzzier, though the feelings run just as deep.

5 thoughts on “Well-Intentioned Food Police May Create Havoc With Children’s Diets”

  1. I love this article. The food police make me very nervous. Yes, I think they have a good point and many of their suggestions are great. BUT! For younger kids bake sales, birthday treats, classroom parties all are celebrations that bring people together. Carrot sticks just don’t do that. Older kids can easily just leave school for their pizza and chips and may or may not return. I think it is really sad that most middle schools have cut the part of healthy living teaching cooking skills. I suspect that for many kids the worst eating they do is in the first couple hours after they go home to an empty house.
    I wish we could get school staff to show the same enthusiasm for the arts. At my son’s school at least, there has been an awful lot of time and money found for fruits and vegetables this year and no one could find time in the schedule for the band classes that were promised to the kids.

  2. I agree with Brown that eliminating the extra slice on Pizza Hut days was excessive.

  3. While I have three children that eat fruits, and their favorite dish, if asked, is Mom’s Cesears Salad, love to eat and will finish the crust and all on a sandwich……I must say after spending a few days at school during the “Pizza Hut Day” I was shocked at how much pizza was thrown in the trash. I came home and let my children know I was not willing to pay for an extra slice if it went in the trash. They assured me it was eaten…….but I know our principal has paid out of pocket for the needy children’s extra slice since they would otherwise not get one and I can say many of those ended up in the trash. Once again… LUNCH TIME IS TOO SHORT AND SO IS RECESS. WE NEED TO DITCH THIS EVERY MONDAY AFTERNOON OFF AND OFFER OUR CHILDREN MORE MINUTES AT LUNCH AND RECESS!!!!!!! If the administration really cares about the students health this would be the number one thing they would do, but MR. Matthews and the union will not budge on this sacred cow. I present this idea over and over they all shake in their boots over the idea that Monday’s will no longer be days of development. Where else does this occur…..seriously?

  4. One of my biggest complaints about the school day has been the shortness of lunch. Many days my daughter does not have enough time to eat her lunch and brings it home again. Not only doesn’t have enough time to eat, but she is required to eat lunch in her snowsuit during the winter (because it would take “too much time” to go back to her locker between lunch and recess). I can’t imagine a better way to make kids obese than to teach them that they need to eat really quickly every day.
    I would support almost any proposal that could lengthen lunch–learning to eat appropriately is actually a serious life skill that has gone badly wrong in the current system.

  5. The following letter appeared in the NY Times in response to Harriet Brown’s article:
    “To the Editor:
    “Re ‘Food Police’: Would Harriet Brown like ketchup or mustard with her lunch tray?
    “Commenting on the decision to limit elementary school students to one slice of pizza, Ms. Brown writes: ‘if equity is the issue, I’ll eat my lunch tray.’
    “At our school, the decision, made at a parent-teacher meeting, was 100 percent an equity issue. It came months before the school district made its announcement.
    “Why did we do this? Are we the dreaded food police? Not at all.
    “We did this because over 60 percent of our students receive reduced-price lunches; they need help buying that first slice of pizza.
    “A big reason we send our daughter to a public school is to give her an opportunity to learn with children of all economic and ethnic backgrounds. She is also learning that sometimes one needs to be compassionate and think about how one’s actions affect friends and classmates.
    “Kristen Nelson
    Madison, Wis.”
    If such a discussion as the letter-writer describes took place in a PTO group at a Madison school, I find it very troubling.
    What kind of “compassion” is this–not eating in front of the pooor and hungry? I doubt there is a middle-class family in Madison that serves their 11-year-old a single slice of pizza at home. All this letter-writer is saying is that the poor kids can’t have enough pizza for lunch, and we’re not going to do anything about it.
    If we’re not willing to see that all children can have a second slice of pizza at lunch, I’d be happy to see the Pizza Hut sales and marketing to our children eliminated from the schools. Pizza Hut undoubtedly makes enough profit on the brand recognition they are buying to spare subsidized pizza slices for poor kids. If they don’t care to do that, let’s dump them.
    I am unhappy at being told that poor children won’t get what any child in the older elementary grades would consider enough to eat, and that someone else will decide for my (very thin) child that consideration for her classmates means she won’t get enough to eat, either. That this is what passes for “equity” in Madison schools is shameful.
    Kay Cahill

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