Last night was Back-to-School Night at my son’s elementary school. Families crowded through the doors to visit classrooms, the library, the gym, and the science room – by far the most popular with Buttercup the hamster, two aquariums of fish, two parakeets and the guinea pig Violet and her new baby. Teachers passed out important papers about homework, the new report card, parent-teacher conferences and school snacks.
School snacks. According to the handout I brought home the state requires school districts to form a wellness committee that focuses on “health and nutrition education as well as physical activity for students”. In that effort, our district has mandated all snacks and birthday/holiday treats be store-bought and individually wrapped in order “to protect students with food allergies, prevent spreading illness and foster better nutrition.” The handout listed suggestions of “healthy” snacks like packaged apple slices, fruit cups, baby carrots, and the list goes on.
My reaction was this: Now our children, many who do not have any connection to our food production system, will learn that an apple comes sliced in a sealed plastic bag with a little tub of caramel dip on the side. That carrots are deep orange in color, uniform in size and shaped like a mini-hot dog. Think that’s a stretch?
What color of cow produces chocolate milk? I’ve been pen-paling with students through the Farm Bureau’s Adopt-A-Classroom program for six years, and I’ve heard the sincere answer, “A brown cow.
That is no fault of the child or his/her parents whose lives may not include a direct connection to food production. I don’t know that it can be blamed on any one thing or person; however I do believe in our societal effort to combat childhood obesity; our school’s wellness ways could actually hinder the movement to healthy living.
I don’t have any founded research on which to base my argument that growing your own food will foster healthy eating. I’m a mom of two (ages 6 and 4) and have learned their willingness to eat broccoli lies in their connection to the food. Every spring we plant a vegetable garden. The kids help – to the best of their ability – to plant, water, dig, weed, mulch and squish bugs who like our veggies as much as we do. This summer, my personal reward came when I sent them to the garden to harvest broccoli for dinner. Normally, not a vegetable voluntarily touched at the table, their excitement over displaying the product of their hard work trumped any upturned noses. Broccoli was eaten with pride. There is something to be said about literally having a hand in growing our food.
If healthy snacks are on schools’ menu, then I propose we till a small school-yard garden, plant some carrot seeds and maybe an apple tree. I have a hunch those snacks would satisfy so much more than a child’s appetite.
Grand Prairie Farms