Friday, February 19, 2010

Go ahead. You can do it.

I've mentioned before my concerns with school food programs, and some of those concerns are now hitting closer to home.

I made all of Girly's baby food, and while I certainly don't make everything that goes in her mouth, I try hard to at least buy things with the fewest ingredients and ingredients that I can pronounce.

When I signed up for daycare, it didn't even occur to me to ask about a food program for the bigger kids. I really didn't even know it existed for a long time - I just assumed I would pack and send her food, which was fine. Slowly, her teachers started hinting ... "You know, you don't have to bring her food. You can, of course, but you don't have to." I finally relented when she moved to the next room. It was sure easier for me not to have to pack two meals each night, and I thought there was value in her learning to eat at a table with her peers.

We are now a few months in, and I kept having these nagging annoyances. Her lunches were fine, generally comparable to what I would serve at home. Breakfasts were so-so, but snacks were terrible most days. And by terrible, I mean Little Debbie and crunchy treats that come in foil packages.

I don't think I am being a Pollyanna about this. Granted, I care more about what she eats than many parents, but I also try to be (reasonably) practical. She gets nibbles of sweets at our house, but they are generally things I have made. I don't want to restrict any food group, because I fear it will only result in a revolt at some point in the future. Moderation is key.


She is 14 months old. She doesn't have any older siblings. We don't have those foods in our house and she has no idea what they are. She will eat anything you put in front of her. Why can't it be a little healthier?

I thought I could just grin and bear it, but then I decided I really couldn't. I avoid confrontation at all costs, but all of my complaining at home was fruitless (pun intended) if I wouldn't talk to the school about it. I nicely asked for a meeting to get more information.

The directors of her school were very nice and turns out, I was making inaccurate assumptions in many cases. Yes, she gets processed snacks, but she also eats wheat bread, and only frozen veggies, and only fruit canned in juice. There is a lot of fresh fruit on their menu, probably more than in most places. I was pleasantly surprised.

They were also very responsive to my concerns and agreed to serve cereal in her room when the older kids are having packaged snacks. I am happy with the compromise. I'm glad I said something.

I realize that it is a luxury to spend so much time pondering what my child eats. Probably 99% of the parents in the world don't have that luxury. Probably 99% of the parents in Girly's school don't care either, but that is OK. I said something because I care about my child, but I care about the others, too, and I can't help but think it is good for them all. (Don't agree with me? Ask Mrs. Obama!)

Oh, and on the way out the door from my meeting, I casually asked, "Have you ever thought about having a garden?" Oh, funny you should ask! I am now the proud parent in charge of the summer garden and pole bean teepees. Oh yes I am.

Stay tuned ... should be interesting.

Also, if you care about this topic and want a few more places to get riled up, take a peek:
Fed Up: School Lunch Project
Better School Food
Processed Kids
La Vida Locavore
Chef Ann: The Renegade Lunch Lady
Two Angry Moms
Jamie Oliver's TED Prize Wish: Teach every child about food

Also, write your legislators regarding the Child Nutrition Act at Time for Lunch. It is important. A lot of things are important right now, and there are needs everywhere. I wish people could focus more on the big picture ... obesity is a major problem and healthcare costs will bankrupt this country. Sooo ... am I the only one who sees the obvious connection to what we feed our children and the importance we place, as a country, on healthful food? Maybe I am being Pollyanna about this, but that's the way I see it.

Off soapbox.


Bets said...

I'm not the healthiest eater by any means ... but I'm appalled by what my students bring for their snacks each day. Our snack is used to break up our afternoon since we have first lunch at 11:00am AND to give them some brain food to keep learning the last part of the day.
Just today I saw an entire bag of popped popcorn, Fun Dip and a container stuffed with powder donuts. Ugh.

Wait until she gets to elementary school ... the treats that kids bring for birthdays & holidays are beyond ridiculous!

Carrie said...

Good for you! I am anxious to hear how the garden turns out...with pics. They are some really great resources for preschool gardens. TSA wrote a grant for one a couple of years ago and there was tons of info! Happy planting!