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Healthy School Overstepped the Mark?

Healthy School

Many schools are working hard these days to become a Healthy School.

They encourage children to make positive choices to maintain a healthy lifestyle. From the air they breathe, to the exercise they enjoy, to the food they eat - schools work together to promote better choices. To raise awareness, to give support and guidance.

Some schools offer encouragement to get children walking to school as apposed to jumping in the car. Not only is this great for health benefits but for the environment too!
Lessons can sometimes focus on being aware of the food groups and eating a well balanced diet.

There is a particular focus on getting parents on board. But what does your setting have in place to do this? How are you working to support parents? 

Professionals work hard to support and develop a child's learning and well being. A Healthy Schools aim is to involve parents and carers by enabling ongoing two way communications between home and school, connecting them both together in an active way to support holistic education.

I welcome Melinda Tankard Reist, who tells us about her friend who was the receiver of the note above.

My friend’s 3 year old was sent home with a note about the ‘chocolate slice’ that was put in the lunchbox for dinner. The slice was homemade with love and had been enjoyed during the celebration of her brother birthday. As part of their family tradition, leftovers go to school the next day.

My friend and her husband ironically both have degrees in health science. They have eight lovely children together and their 3 year old is child number 7.

My friend felt devastated when this note came home and was upset that she had broken the rules. She logged into the schools website and had a quick check on the schools policy and discovered she actually didn’t break the rules which specified no ‘processed’ cake, biscuits etc.  

Intrusive. The condescending sad face on red (‘Stop!’ ‘Danger!’) paper.  Makes the child feel Mommy and Daddy must have done something very wrong to get a sad face from my teacher.

I support healthy eating, I’m into fitness and health for myself and my 4 children. I understand the importance of healthy eating policies. But surely there is a line. I totally get that teachers work hard to carry out school policy, but not all are trained dietitians. I am concerned about where this approach takes us.  

I have heard of cupcakes being sent home which had less sugar and calorie content than the approved mueslie bar. I have heard stories of a child who stopped eating any chocolate cake telling her Mom ‘I can’t eat chocolate cake because it will make me fat’.

My biggest concern is where shaming around food takes us. When children see food as’ good’ or ‘bad’ it can set them up for eating disorders. Some eating disorder specialists I work with say messages around obesity are contributing to food anxiety and contributing to disordered eating behaviours in children.

Healthy School Fail

We have been having an interesting debate over on our Facebook Page about this situation:
We have heard from lots of parents who are horrified by this letter and have agreed that it has overstepped the mark.

"This makes me laugh because they criticise the parents choice of lunch box food, yet offer a dessert with a school dinner which is usually something like cake and custard or ice cream which is unnecessary but that’s fine! 😡  I bet the staff rooms have a biscuit tin full of crap. Perhaps the teachers should lead by example and have their lunch choices checked by the lunch box police."

"My reply would read, "Thank you for your concern, but her doctor says she is healthy with the way I currently feed her, so I do not plan to make changes. When you become her doctor you will be qualified to make recommendations regarding what is healthful for her. Until then you are not qualified to make those decisions."

"They have lots of time at home to eat unhealthy foods. The foods that some parents are sending are full of unhealthy food colouring and sugars which doesn’t help your child to learn to their fullest at school. Some of these “treats” are also making children lose focus at school. The school has ever right to say no to these treats as the child is in their care."

"Vilifying sweets and not allowing your children to ever have a treat is just as bad as letting them eat junk too much. Deprive them and they'll just gorge on it later when they have the chance. Teach them moderation, healthy choices vs treats and that it's ok to have a treat once in a while."

"Yikes. Enough with shaming parents. If you have something to say, catch them on the quiet and find out what’s going on. We don’t know other families’ situation until we try to find out. If their whole lunch box was junk then you could suggest a little fruit etc. But relationship first. You know they are going to eat that slice of cake as soon as they’re out of there anyway. I get the children in my class to eat their fruit first, then their sandwich. If they have room left they can eat whatever else they have."

We heard from a teacher - 

"As a teacher of PP children, I do find it sad to see (at times) so many pre-packaged foods in my students’ lunchboxes. And whilst I praise healthy options, fruit or veg choices; and tell the children how delicious their homemade sandwiches, slices, biscuits look, I could NEVER send a note home like this. Firstly it’s not my business; and secondly I don’t have time! I barely have time to eat my own lunch or even visit the loo! So, no note like this from my busy classroom!!"

You can see the post over on Facebook here.

Some schools can be stricter than others in various matters but all of them write policies to reflect their ethos.

When signing your child up to join a school, you are presented with a welcome pack. The pack contains all the relevant information and policies to read up on. You will often need to sign and return paperwork to the school giving your consent to follow the school rules and policies that have been outlined to you.

Is it this point where you should raise concerns with the school? Should you opt to find an alternative school if their policies don't suit your beliefs?

What are your thoughts? How would you feel if your child came home with a letter like this?

Should we be focusing on the healthy choices and praising children and their parents for a balanced diet lunch box or should we ban all treats and focus on the negatives?

Have you had a similar experience perhaps? Has your child been stopped from eating something from their lunch box because it doesn't comply with their Healthy Lunch Box policy perhaps?

We would love to hear from you.

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  1. Although the note could be made to 'look' different, I agree with the school, the reason being schools have the responsibility of not just one or two children but a whole lot of them. When parents break away from the trend and a child gets something that is not too great for their health/teeth etc. (No matter how lovingly it has been made, chocolate is chocolate) it is often the rest of the children who point out the discrepancy and object to it. Now as a teacher, how do you explain a matter of tradition and a matter of homemade chocolate to a group of 3/4/5 year olds? For them chocolate is chocolate. And since children are equipped to understand the difference between once in a while and never, for them chocolate will always be unhealthy even when they indulge in it at home or elsewhere. As a society, it's because of this inability of children to not be able to differentiate that we need to divide food into two distinct categories: healthy and not healthy or junk food. Same goes to self care, there's: Good touch and Bad touch. No in betweens. So we come back to the moot point. Schools need to follow certain rules for the benefit of their students. What drives parents to break them?

  2. It's great and a good step taken by the school. I would too. And If i receive such a note i make sure i rectify it and follow the school guidelines ...awesome

  3. I agree with the school of course. There is a reason they ask pupils not to have unhealthy snacks at school. First reason is that the child can influence their peer's eatting habbits. The second reason is of course for health reason. The post say the child is only 3 years old? There will be many other 3 years old drooling over that chocolate slice which is not fair! You say chocolate slice is not processed? It is well processed! Fruit is one of few foods that is not processed. I must add there is a reason these rules are in place. Not every parent has the common sense regardless their education and not everyone with common sense has the education. Why do you think there are so many over weight kids and kids with tooth decay as young as 3 around!!! I can't even begin to digest this but children as young as 3 have had tooth extractions due to tooth decay! Blame idiot parents who give them juice and junk food! We need to teach the next generation to eat healthy and simple food otherwise the demand for variety of processed food will go up every year and we pass on bad habits to next generation.

  4. I do understand both sides. If I was the parent and I liked the school otherwise, I would just not send items that would result in the notice. My child can eat those things at home.
    I pick my battles and we do have an epidemic of childhood obesity on the rise.
    Schools will not be perfect, but glad they are trying because some parents do not understand nutrition the way you do.


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