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Just Say “No” to Food Rewards in School: A Must-Read Guide for Parents

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A cou­ple weeks ago, I received an email from a con­cerned mom want­ing to tackle the issue of food rewards at her child’s school:

I’ve been read­ing your blog this morn­ing and just wanted to say thanks for all you’re shar­ing here. I’m cur­rently build­ing my own case against food rewards in class. I wrote a let­ter to our super­in­ten­dent about the con­cerns I have with the use of food rewards in the school and now she wants to meet to talk about it. I don’t want to blow this oppor­tu­nity to make a valid case to the pow­ers that be. Do you have any expe­ri­ence tak­ing on the school about this issue? Any advice as I head into this meet­ing? Thanks!”  ~Lisa

Funny that she should ask! For those who haven’t been fol­low­ing my blog from the begin­ning, here’s a lit­tle back­ground: Last win­ter, I grew frus­trated with all the class­room par­ties and food rewards at my son’s ele­men­tary school. I decided to approach the school prin­ci­pal about it—but before doing so, I did my home­work. I wanted to have all my ducks in a row before talk­ing to him. Like Lisa, I really wanted my voice to be heard and knew that this was my best shot. Based on my research and what I’ve since learned , I put together these tips for Lisa, who met with her super­in­ten­dent and prin­ci­pal last week (and I’ll let you know how it went in a minute!):

1)     Check your school dis­trict well­ness pol­icy In accor­dance with the Child Nutri­tion and WIC Reau­tho­riza­tion Act of 2004, all school dis­tricts par­tic­i­pat­ing in the fed­er­ally funded school meals pro­gram must have a writ­ten pol­icy that addresses nutri­tion and phys­i­cal activ­ity. With very lit­tle effort, I found a copy of ours on the school district’s web­site. Arm­ing your­self with the “offi­cial pol­icy” (and I sug­gest print­ing it out and hav­ing it avail­able to show school offi­cials!) will show that you’re pre­pared and that your request is in line with the district’s stated goals. In other words, you’re not some crazy anti-sugar crack­pot—you merely want the school to live up to its promise.

2)     Keep it pos­i­tive Lest you rub peo­ple the wrong way or be branded a trou­ble­maker, start by offer­ing some glow­ing words about the school. Tell the super­in­ten­dent how much your child loves it or praise a cer­tain part of the cur­ricu­lum or a favorite teacher. When you’re ready to get down to busi­ness, be sure to phrase your request in a pos­i­tive way: Say some­thing like, “I’d love to see the school encour­ag­ing healthy rewards as out­lined in the dis­trict well­ness pol­icy” instead of “Teach­ers shouldn’t be giv­ing out candy!” or “I don’t under­stand why the class is being rewarded with junk food!” Put your­self in your superintendent’s shoes and try not to say any­thing that will offend him or her.

3)     Build your case Pre­pare a few talk­ing points on the down­sides of food rewards (for exam­ple, they can heighten kids’ desire for sweets, teach them to reward or com­fort them­selves with food, and inter­fere with their inter­nal hunger cues, etc.). In your meet­ing, be sure to make the link between food and behav­ior. Kids have more trou­ble focus­ing and behav­ing in class after down­ing a lot of junk or sugar. The last thing edu­ca­tors want is unruly chil­dren who are too hyped up to pay attention!

4)     Rally the troops Try to find like-minded par­ents to back you up. Power in num­bers! If they won’t come with you to the meet­ing, ask them to send an email—and even offer to draft it for them. A lot of par­ents who may care about this issue may just be too busy to take an active role. If noth­ing else, at least tell the super­in­ten­dent that you’ve spo­ken to other par­ents who share your opinion.

5)     Offer solu­tions School offi­cials are busy peo­ple with lots on their plate. So make the idea of mak­ing changes as easy as pos­si­ble for them! Come in with ideas for non-food rewards that could be used in place of treats and candy. (100 Days of Real Food—one of my absolute favorite websites—recently put out a list of that is so cre­ative and com­pre­hen­sive that I’m just going to send you there for a print­able copy.)

Full post including a follow-up on Lisa's efforts originally published on School Bites: http://school-bites.com/just-say-no-to-food-rewards-in-school/

Stacy Whitman is the author of the blog "School Bites: One Mom's Crusade for Better Nourished Kids at School (and at Home!)". After getting fup with the food situation at her son's elementary school she took action and started a wellness committee.


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  • commented 2015-12-08 11:51:15 -0500
    With this event, the Coalition aims to draw attention to the Lower 9th Ward’s “food desert” status and the Coalition’s community efforts, while encouraging more people in the community to join, and to raise funds for the Coalition’s first project. By bringing people together for the grocery store experience, food, fun and dialogue, we will be able to spotlight the need in this segment of New Orleans – a city known as a food capital in this country, yet many residents do not have access to fresh, affordable food.
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  • followed this page 2015-02-21 08:28:15 -0500
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