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:
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.
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 banana bread. Or zucchini bread.
No homemade muffins – a snack staple last year.
No baked goods at all.
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?