I'll admit: When it comes to children's nutrition, I can get up on my soapbox with the best of them. But I’ve also found that it’s a lot more satisfying to do something. I’ve also found that people take your complaints (let’s call them "constructive criticisms") a lot more seriously when you have possible solutions—and more importantly, have the willingness to act on them.
At the start of the school year, I was at my son’s elementary school one morning during breakfast. They serve fresh fruit every morning, usually apples or oranges. As I sat with my son, I noticed that while a lot of kids took fruit, hardly any of them ate it. The reason seemed pretty obvious: Peeling an orange is hard work, especially when you’re six. And most of the kids are in some stage of losing or growing their front teeth, not ideal for biting into a hard apple.
So I watched the fruit go straight into the garbage. And I got irritated.
Then I switched gears. I approached the cafeteria manager and (very politely) asked her about the fruit. Was it possible to serve sliced apples and oranges instead? No, she said she didn’t have time — and any leftover sliced fruit on the serving line would have to be trashed. I understood. But what if, I asked, someone sliced the kids’ fruit for them once they had taken it? And what if I organized it myself — and it didn’t create any extra work for her or the cafeteria monitors?
And with that, the Fruit Ninjas were born.
The Fruit Ninja Program is a group of parents at my son’s school who take turns circulating around the cafeteria in the mornings, asking kids if they’d like to have their fruit sliced. We sign up for shifts of 1-2 parents each morning, and we use a separate room off the cafeteria to cut the fruit (we deliver it to the kids in paper trays).
The students love it. The first morning of our program, I looked around the cafeteria and saw kids eating oranges instead of throwing them away. When bananas are served, we open or slice them by request too (some kids like sandwiching them between mini pancakes). And the morning we sliced fresh pears, a little boy came up to me and said he loved his pear—the first one he’d ever eaten.
What makes this successful? Parents willing to donate a half-hour of their time in the morning. And a principal and staff who care about wellness and are willing to try something new.
I won’t stop getting up on my soapbox from time to time. Because sometimes, it feels good. But turning a reaction into an action—that feels way, way better.
Sally Kuzemchak is a registered dietician and runs the blog http://www.realmomnutrition.com.
Post originally published on 11/14/2012 at Real Mom Nutrition blog: http://www.realmomnutrition.com/2012/11/14/anger-management-turning-a-rant-into-action/