1.20.2011

Snack Time

When my daughter came home from her first day of Senior Kindergarten last September, I was greeted with excited chatter, a very non-linear recap of her morning, and the requisite backpack full of correspondence from the school. Calendars, notices, order forms and permission slips littered the tabletop, but as I was sorting through the papers, something I was not expecting confronted me.

It was a short note, printed on bright pink neon paper – the elementary school version of high priority communication. I read the note:

Dear parents,


We have a student in our classroom this year with severe allergies, and therefore, in addition to not sending any food with nuts, we ask that you refrain from sending snacks with dairy, eggs or soy. Please send only fruits or vegetables for snack every day.


Thank you,


Your daughter’s school

I read it twice. No nuts we were used to – as far as I know, nuts are strictly verboten throughout our entire school district – but now no soy, eggs or dairy? Fruits and vegetables only? I quickly did a mental inventory of what my pantry looks like during the year, scratching snacks off the list.

No cheese and crackers. No cheese. No crackers.

No yogurt.

No banana bread. Or zucchini bread.

No homemade muffins – a snack staple last year.

No baked goods at all.

Fruit.

Or vegetables.

I’m lucky – my daughter likes a good variety of fruits and vegetables, and will be happy with grapes or apple slices or carrot sticks or cucumbers. And I think it’s great to expect healthy snacks to be sent, but even for lucky me, this felt limiting. And boring.

I wondered what the moms of more picky eaters were going to do. There was no way that I would want to endanger any child in the classroom, and having to send healthy, whole foods is hardly a sacrifice a parent should complain about, but still, this felt like an extreme measure.

We’re a few months into the school year now, and we’ve gotten used to the grind again. And although I had my misgivings, school snacks have not caused me one iota of stress. On the contrary, it has positively reinforced all of our efforts to eat well.

Each evening, I ask my daughter what she would like for snack the next day, and I appreciate the opportunity it gives me to review the contents of my produce drawer – my daughter most often has the choice of a wide variety of foods (Carrots? Apple slices? Cucumber? Tiny tomatoes? Grapes? Red pepper and hummus? Baby orange?), but if the choices are getting low, I have no recourse but to plan to stock up on more fruits and vegetables. It’s satisfying to hit the farmers’ market or even the just the grocery store, and fill my basket with colourful, fresh foods.

Having all this beautiful food on hand also means that we are a) more likely to eat it and b) more likely to substitute it for less healthy choices. All of our snacking habits have improved. It’s hard to insist that your children snack on only fruits and vegetables and then munch on a bag of chips yourself after they’re asleep. (Hard; not impossible. I’m working on it.)

And it’s good to know that my child’s day has been a virtually sugar-free one, and that if I really want to blow my children’s socks off, all I have to do is add a spoonful of Nutella to some sliced strawberries after dinner and they think they’re eating the best dessert in the world.

So kudos to the school administration for implementing such rigid snack rules. You are inspiring my daughter to make better food choices, and she, in turn is inspiring us to do the same.


What is your school's snack policy? Have the rules gone too far?

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15 comments:

  1. Oy, that IS a strict policy. I'm quite sure my middle child would starve to death, or survive on a snacktime diet of bananas and melons, the two exceptions to his general distaste for all of nature's bounty.

    I can totally see why they tightened up the rules, and it's not hugely insurmountable for one snack a day, but what happens when that child is in full days and eating lunch at school? It seems unreasonable and unhealthy to eliminate what amounts to three of the four food groups.

    By the by, I just found out that some parents have been given permission to send actual peanut butter for lunch in our Grade 1's class. No in-class allergies, so the teacher said it was okay. This seems dangerously permissive to me, and I can't bring myself to do it even if middle son would happily eat PB for lunch and both snacks every day.

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  2. So far, this seems to only be a kindergarten policy, but there could be classroom-specific rules in older grades. I could definitely see it as being a problem if eating meals at school everyday.
    The only time I felt put out by this policy was when the parent of the child with allergies tried to cancel the special pizza day snacks the kids get every few months. Happily, the school admin would not cancel, and the child was ordered a special snack that she could eat, in a separate area.

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  3. The girl's preschool/JK had an identical rule regarding snacks because one little boy was severely allergic to a number of different foods. It was easy and so fine - and L got to go to school as a result. It's only one snack in a half day program.

    The girl's in a full day SK that is meat-free and nut-free for lunch and snacks. And again, it's not that onerous - only 5 meals out of 21 per week.

    Part of being in a community is making adjustments so it is accessible to all, whether for health or religious reasons. Not a bad lesson for our kids to learn!

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  4. Does this also fall under a litter-free umbrella? I try to reduce waste as much as possible anyway, but it would make it so much easier to be able to have a supply of little apple sauce snacks or raisin boxes on hand in a pinch.

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  5. In JK last year, we weren't allowed any nut or wheat products. So most of the time I do fruit/veggies or cheese. This year, C keeps telling me that he can bring crackers (& such) and I keep conveniently not hearing him. I like it better the other way.

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  6. As the mother of a boy who was once allergic to: wheat, dairy, eggs, all nuts, shellfish and strawberries, I can understand the need for this policy and appreciate the parents who followed it. I was also very frustrated with the parents who ignored it, on purpose, because they felt their need to supply their child with an egg-based snack out weighed my son's life. Change is difficult but when this is one snack out of a full day of eating.....really? Really???

    Because there were times my son had to eat out in the hallway by himself because another child brought in a snack that had something he was allergic to and that was the best way to ensure his safety. So...you know...it's not hard enough not being able to eat a list of about a 1000 foods...but now you have to go sit out in the hall by yourself too.

    Anyhoo....that's my rant. He's "outgrown" some of his allergies and life is a bit easier but he's still an epi-pen carrier.

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  7. @Sharon - the thought of your son eating alone in the hallway is enough to make sure I never complain about accommodating a child's needs again.

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  8. I wish our school would enforce only fruits and veg. In preschool parents were supposed to bring fruit for snack and there was a steady stream of goldfish and bday cupcakes. People seem to think if food is nut free that it is good for you.
    I try to enforce a fruit and veg diet because honestly, if you make that your priority i think that is the only way your kids end up getting close to what they should be eating. My kid could eat meat, white bread, crackers and cheese all day.

    I feel badly for the kids with allergies who don't get to eat what the other kids are eating.

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  9. WOW-your attitude is so refreshing, I love it! I am so used to people feeling entitled and put-out these days, I was expecting this to be a rant post. In our school, I have seen kids bring Doritos for snack - without consequence. The schools policy is to educate not enforce and yet I do not see many of the teachers/staff working to eliminate the doritos in the schoolyard...anyhow I think I am just fed up with everyone (um, but you)today! ggrrrr...

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  10. Our only limitation is no nuts, which I'm pretty sure is nearly universal in public schools.

    Our child's teacher asked us to send a small, healthy snack. She suggested fruit or veggies. She told the children not to bring snacks in packages at the beginning of the year. But, inevitably, other kids do. And since they're allowed to share, this means that my daughter often passes up her apple in favour of someone else's (nut-free) granola bar.

    I appreciate having the freedom to send yogurt or cheese and crackers, but it kind of irks me that my efforts to choose healthy food are undermined.

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  11. Hi Karen - I was LIVID when I heard. Went to the school and was all...the other kid broke the rules and my SON has to go sit out in the hall? He felt like *he* was being punished.

    Now that he's only allergic to nuts and shellfish, it's definitely gotten easier. But I will never complain about any food limitations because of allergies.

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  12. @Amber - good thing about only being allowed to send fruits/veg? Nobody shares ;)

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  13. In kinders, our school assigns parents each a week to be the snack parent for the class, rather than having each child bring their own every day. It's actually quite nice not to ave to worry about it for most of the year, and makes for some fun planning with your kiddo what you would bring for the week.

    Beyond the nuts, I think we had a child who was allergic to oranges and strawberries or something like that, so it wasn't too restrictive, but the guidelines requested a fruit or veg with each snack, cut up for the kids already. So we might bring cheddar cubes and grapes, or wheat crackers and pepper slices, something along that line.

    Misterpie enforces healthy snacks in his room, so that if a child brings something unhealthy, it stays in their backpack. His school has a snack programme, too, though, so a few days a week, the school provides fruits or veg as part of that snack.

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  14. As a pediatric dietitian (and mother), I have major concerns about this! Yes, children do need to eat more fruits and vegetables in general. But... their small stomachs, active bodies, and developing brains also need good sources of carbohydrates and fat throughout the day. Fruits and vegetables are nutritious but so quickly digested that they may leave kids with little to run on for the hours up until their next meal.

    Kids can meet their nutritional requirements with 80% or so of their intake and the remainder is for energy and pleasure. There is room in their daily diets for treats and parents, not the school, should be the ones to decide what and when to give these. I understand excluding the allergenic foods in this class... but why would they impose a "fruit and vegetable only" rule, unless there was an ulterior motive: ie: teacher or administrator believing that sticking to fruits and vegetables only for snacks will keep kids at a healthy weight? I know that the opposite may be true: if kids are deprived of calories, carbohydrate and fat, even for a few hours through the day, they may eat beyond their needs at other times of the day.

    The school should aim for a more balanced approach, and allow other foods to be included: how about hummus and pita with the vegetables? Why can't parents choose to give their kid potato chips: they are egg, nut, soy and dairy-free? With the current plan, they risk having a group of hungry students, with reduced attention spans, irritability, and fatigue.

    Or how about more supervision at snack time to ensure the kids don't share?

    I understand my viewpoint might not be a popular one, as our culture is highly attuned to the obesity epidemic (and yes, I have counseled numerous obese children and teens and have also worked in eating disorders). I don't believe the obesity problem in children is due to allowing them to eat normally at meals and snacks and fill up on nutritious food (which includes sources of fat), I think one of the sources of our weight problem is due to our culture of food restriction and fear of weight gain leading many to restrict fats, carbohydrates, and all-around satisfying foods.

    What's wrong with a bag of chips on occasion, huh?

    .... just my 2 cents.

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  15. That is a strict policy, but I can understand it.

    In the past, if a child in my class brought something that someone else was allergic to, it was the child who brought the food that had to sit in the hall, not the child that was allergic. Especially in the situation where peanut butter was brought because if some was left on a desk or table, it could trigger a reaction.

    My son has a severe peanut/nut allergy and a milder allergy to eggs and the thought of school (he is only 2) is a little stressful because of the unknown.

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