A View of the World Through the Thoughts and Lens of Scott Kasper

Letter to Boards of Education

Dear Boards of Education:

I am the parent of three school aged children, two of whom have Type 1 Diabetes and I want to take a moment to educate you about a growing concern that I have about the health and well being of the students in your classrooms. Perhaps you don’t know, but November has been designated as National Diabetes Month, and November 14 was World Diabetes Day. The designation of this month is based upon some staggering statistics that, in my opinion, are not being taken seriously by our educational system – the place that our children spend the vast majority of their waking hours – and you are helping the problem grow worse.

According to statistics published by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the American Diabetes Association there are currently an estimated 18.2 million people in the US who suffer from Diabetes…that’s 6.3% of the total population. Further, they estimate that in the next 15 years another 44 million people will be diagnosed. Of those, as many as 3 million have Type 1 diabetes and more than 15,000 kids will become newly diagnosed in 2011…that’s one out of every 500 children under the age of 18. Among those 3 million kids are two of my three sons, Matt and Jake…and they’re in your schools!

So why am I picking on the schools? To be honest, I am perplexed and I need your help. In 2003, New Jersey (where I live) launched its Healthy Choices, Healthy Kids Campaign. Among the standards set in that campaign are the following:

  • Foods of minimal nutritional value may not be served, sold or given out as free promotion anywhere on school property before the end of the school day.
  • All forms of candy may not be served, sold or given out as free promotion anywhere on school property before the end of the school day.

To any parent concerned about the health of their children, these standards ought to seem reasonable. However, for some reason nobody is paying attention and I want to know why. So, I have a few questions:

1. Why are my children allowed to spend their lunch money on candy, ice cream and soda, all of which are prominently displayed and sold in my children’s school cafeterias?

When my kids are at home they don’t get to have these things as routines snacks. They are reserved for special occasions and are not part of the daily diet. In fact, my kids love when we have freshly cut fruit and veggies on the table when they get home. I wonder whether our society would solve the ever-expanding (pardon the pun) problem of childhood obesity if these choices were systematically eliminated from their lunchroom options. If the school took a stand and eliminated 100% of this stuff, what would be the harm, and who would have the gumption to actually complain about it? The life a a kid with Type 1 Diabetes revolves around so many factors…candy and treats at school should not be one of them!

2. Why does nearly every day need to be a “special day” in the classroom, where parents are permitted to send in cupcakes, cake, brownies, candy and other  “treats” that have little or no nutritional value?

I’m not sure about you, but I see no need for my child to have cake and brownies at morning snack time, followed by a Pepsi and an ice cream taco in the lunch cafeteria an hour later. When I was a kid, we exchanged Valentines Day cards with our classmates and I would come home with a stack of notes asking, “Will you be my valentine?” My kids, on the other hand, came home with a bag of candy (contents shown in the photo below) that weighed nearly 2 pounds last February…it’s just not necessary! I must say that we are fortunate this year, because Jake’s teacher gets it and the junk in the classroom has been toned down.

Note to school systems: Please don’t call parents and complain that our children are hyperactive and out of control in the early afternoon and then seem sleepy and aloof by the end of the day when you have just provided them a week’s worth of sugar to rev their engines shortly after which they crash…it’s the system’s fault, not ours and not the kids!!

3. Why have seven (7) years gone by and no significant changes have been made based upon the aforementioned Healthy Kids recommendations?

It seems odd to me that my children learn about the Food Pyramid in health class, yet in the very building where they are taught about the relative nutritional value of their food choices, they are able to make every bad choice that just about any kid would make when their parents aren’t around. How ironic that my kid could take a test in health class and potentially get it wrong, when the poor food choice behaviors are being reinforced by the schools at lunch…right before that test.

Please understand, making these changes will not cure the Type 1 Diabetes that impacts my children…I know that. I’m also not blaming the schools for my kids’ disease. However, it is a huge, yet preventable, problem when my son has a blood sugar of 500 at the end of the day – which may easily have impacted his performance in the classroom – because he bought an ice cream and did not take any insulin to cover it. You see, Matt is a teenager and given a little freedom he does not always follow the rules and we do not know that he has done stuff like this until we download his pump and ultimately find that his HbA1c has gone from 7 to nearly 10 (yup…embarrassed to say that happened last year)!!!. That’s why we need your leadership and your help!

So, in honor of Diabetes Month and World Diabetes Day, I am asking you to please help make our schools a healthier place for our children. Please pay attention to the 2003 recommendations. Please help my kids avoid having the long-term complications of a life with Diabetes that include heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, neuro-vascular disease, and more. Please become a partner with parents in educating and reinforcing healthy life-styles by fostering them in your buildings every day. If you can help me do that, I’ll stop picking on the school systems! Thank you.

Sincerely,

Scott Kasper, on behalf of many concerned parents

Oh – by the way – if you’re a concerned parent feel free to share a link to this entry with whomever you think might listen!!

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89 responses

  1. This is a common theme at many schools. Strong leadership is required to get sugar and unhealthy choices out of our schools but most leaders, to all of our detriment, fear upsetting the apple cart. Our schools are teaching the wrong health messages. Because of the glaring health, economic and environmental consequences of “junk”, we have started Healthy Kids Healthy World. We are volunteers trying to raise awareness and educate kids and the community a little bit at a time. I am happy to say that when we interact with the kids, they get it – and they tell their friends and their parents. It’s slow, but it’s progress.

    November 18, 2010 at 9:51 am

  2. Interesting! I know in PA the bday parties are a thing of the past, at least around here. They have to send in healthy snacks or nothing. And vending machines are turned off during the school day.

    November 18, 2010 at 11:11 am

  3. Nice post…congrats on being FP!

    November 18, 2010 at 11:11 am

    • Yummy Food, for Yummy Posting, 🙂

      November 19, 2010 at 2:40 am

  4. This is a sad reflection, but one that is so true. We know there is a problem, we know how to fix it and yet no one is able to? I don’t understand, either…

    I teach my kids to make healthy choices while at home, but I know as well as anyone that while at school, surrounded by peers and tempted by treats, they’re doing what any child would do.

    And I can’t blame them. I only blame us, the adults, who can’t seem to fix the problem.

    November 18, 2010 at 11:12 am

  5. Teri

    You raise really good points. Jamie Oliver did some specials this past year about the food in public schools and how it is contributing to childhood obesity and diabetes…

    I read somewhere that this will be the first generation of kids that does not outlive their parents. SAD!

    Teri

    http://yourlifesentence.wordpress.com/

    November 18, 2010 at 11:21 am

    • Jamie Oliver did that special in Huntington, WV…about 45mins away from where I live.

      November 18, 2010 at 6:54 pm

  6. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. It definitely puts things in perspective and raises awareness.

    http://www.runtobefit.wordpress.com

    November 18, 2010 at 11:27 am

  7. THANK YOU for writing this. This is such a difficult topic, but you’re right, it’s the parent’s right (and the child’s as they get older) to choose when treats should be consumed, and the law should be upheld, cupcakes and candy should be saved actual parties, not in-class celebrations. Making these kinds of treats so readily available makes it harder for kids to refuse them, and sets them up for a whole host of problems.

    Great post, and happy WDD

    November 18, 2010 at 11:28 am

  8. Where are you in NJ? I’m in Bergen County and our school is VERY strict about these things. We have had two special assemblies about nutrition already this year. Sugar cannot be listed as the first ingredient in any snack, class treat or packed lunch item. The kids are required to have water bottles and no juice. I’m thrilled!

    My problem is not with the policies but with the inconsistencies. While the rules are strict for parents and classrooms, the cafeteria still serves high-carb, low-nutrient breakfast items WITH SYRUP at least once a week. In my opinion, pancakes and French toast sticks should never be the main meal at lunchtime. But they’re serving it on a regular basis!

    We had a special PTA meeting to discuss the initiative you mentioned in your blog. Ironically, the class with the most parents in attendance received a pizza party as their reward. RIGHT. You can bet all those kids whose parents came to hear about good nutrition did not receive a whole-wheat, veggie-laden pizza for lunch. No, it was a processed, grease-dripping, thin-crusted slice that Jersey if famous for.

    I agree with you — Where is the follow-through?

    November 18, 2010 at 11:30 am

  9. Very interesting comments. Many people will share your concerns about the dangers to our children’s health, but don’t the manufacturers bear some responsibility also?

    November 18, 2010 at 11:39 am

  10. I would be just as angry as a parent. It’s hard to fight against the money schools get from coke, pepsi, and frito lay give to have their products in those cafeterias.

    November 18, 2010 at 11:54 am

  11. Auteur Pour le Diable

    Great post. Being a Type 2 diabetic, I have gone through this as my children went through preschool. Now the school they are in seems to be on the right track, but could do so much better.

    My hope is that more people put things like this out there and get involved/mad and stop things like Bloomberg naming a Coca-Cola board member as schools chancellor and finally get this country’s kids educated from an early age in all facets of life.

    November 18, 2010 at 11:54 am

  12. That’s a really big problem. I am a patiend of pancreatitis. I have been one since I was 5. Now, I am 12 and realize that one of the major factors of my recurrent attacks was my love of chocolate and there was no one to stop me from doing so. 90% of all the chocolates I have eaten in my life were bought or eaten in school.

    Pranav Garg,
    http://thepranavgarg.wordpress.com/

    November 18, 2010 at 11:55 am

  13. mustlovealways

    Really great post, this is a huge problem, and I so agree with you!

    Coem visit my blog, cashmerelove.wordpress.com

    Love, Martha<3

    November 18, 2010 at 12:00 pm

  14. This problem with what schools feed kids is itself an illness of our educational system that is both chronic and epidemic. Thanks for the post

    November 18, 2010 at 12:06 pm

  15. well written and informative…although makes me want to home school my eventual children, assuming i have some!
    http://dearexgirlfriend.com/

    November 18, 2010 at 12:08 pm

  16. I have to disagree, why do you, schools and everyone else and their brother always think they should be allowed to dictate what my kids can and cannot eat ?

    I have just about had it with people telling me my son or daughter cant eat a PB&J sandwhich because this child has this issue or that allergy.

    I am totally fine with my kids eating m&m’s or cupcakes.

    My kids are 100% healthy, not overweight, eat healthy, good grades, they outrun everyone on the track, no ADHD, just normal healthy kids.

    I dont give my kids lunch money, they work for it, so they do not buy much junk food, if any at all. They know that 15 sodas equals a thursday night of rock climbing.
    But who are you to say that they should not have the option of buy a Pepsi ????

    November 18, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    • I agree with CircuitDad’s assessment.

      Do we really want our government dictating everything we can and cannot have or do? Should we really let a minority of people dictate what a majority of people can or cannot have or do?

      It’s one thing to make adaptations and accomodations, it’s something else to mandate wholesale changes one way or the other. There has to be a balance.

      In an effort to provide what you see as an equal opportunity for your children and other diabetics free of all temptations amounts to a lack of freedom for everyone else involved. While junk food is certainly not “good” for you, that is for the individual and the family to determine, not you. And as for peer pressure and what and how your children eat, that’s up to you, and should not be left up to someone else. You’re the parent of your children, not your neighbor, not your children’s friends, not the school, not the government.

      The more I see the government dictating how a child should be raised and educated irrespective of and to the detriment of the parent’s authority all in the name of tolerance and equality, the less inclined my wife and I are to enroll our children into the public education system.

      I have a degree in education, my best friend is a public school teacher and my wife works at a public elementary school, so I’m not just talking out of complete ignorance.

      Though all three are adults and two situations are non-governmentally related, it’d be like the vegetarian I know at church or the young woman on a very specific diet both forcing the church to only allow specific foods at any and all church functions so that they may partake. Or for the adult who works at a school and is daily bombarded with snacks and junk food. Should that person require that the principal disallow any further parties and snacks brought by teachers for each other to share?!

      November 18, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    • Bag your lunch. Don’t scold an actual concerned mother for making a sensible request using civil language and facts. Maybe parents trying to do the right thing could be good for children.
      Furthermore, the part about health education counteracted by junk food promotions is hardly something a real parent argue in defense of. This is not someone denying your right to vote or breed. This a mother asking for a better educational environment that we all pay for. Your kids can still go to the store after school, we won’t care if you don’t care.

      November 18, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    • First off, great argument!

      Children definitely are able to and should make healthy choices on their own without the guidance of you or anyone else! They are also completely immune to media influences. Who’s to say schools even have the right to attempt to teach health education let alone education at all? And heck! This has absolutely nothing to do with obesity rates in the U.S., the increased rate of heart disease, and why healthcare professionals and everyone of the like is putting such a great emphasis on preventative healthcare.

      Kudos.

      November 19, 2010 at 11:54 am

    • First off, great argument!

      Children definitely are able to and should make healthy choices on their own without the guidance of you or anyone else! They are also completely immune to media influences. Who’s to say schools even have the right to attempt to teach health education let alone education at all? And heck! This has absolutely nothing to do with obesity rates in the U.S., the increased rate of heart disease, and why healthcare professionals and everyone of the like is putting such a great emphasis on preventative healthcare.

      Kudos.

      November 19, 2010 at 11:55 am

  17. Hi there,

    As a supply teacher in Canada, junk food has become a great in-school fundraiser. Whether it may be hot dog days, taco lunches, pizza days, lollipop fundraisers… it’s hard for the school to stop when they raise so much money!
    In no way am I supporting their choices, I think this completely reflects your concern. They tried to introduce healthy options, but you’d be hard pressed to find a child who has ordered the salad over a pizza dog.

    Something needs to change!

    November 18, 2010 at 1:03 pm

  18. I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment (and appreciated the strong writing). Pop and candy vendors buy their way into our schools, purchasing scoreboards, equipment, etc. in exchange to have their machines in our schools. We’re literally selling the rights to our kids’ health.

    Congrats on Pressed.

    Chase McFadden

    http://SomeSpeciesEatTheirYoung.com

    November 18, 2010 at 1:10 pm

  19. This has been pretty much school policy since the 80’s. When I went to school, we had candy and snacks for just about everything – Valentines, birthdays, holidays, etc. HOWEVER, we also had education both at home and at school about eating healthy. Nearly all the time. In form of movies, classes, etc.

    As a sociology major, I’ve noticed that education about healty eating is failing on BOTH ends. What happens is this:

    1. The school doesn’t put emphasis on healthy eating due to the lack of money, time and pressure from the parents. They only take notice when the government makes it an official month or something.

    2. 90% of the parents don’t seem to educate their kids at home about eating healthy. Or they don’t emphasis the seriousness of it. Most kids I’ve talked to never hear about WHY candy is bad, or HOW much is too much. Most kids are also made independent very early in their lives, so they are allowed to make their own choices in eating.

    I understand your frustration, and I have a few suggestions:

    – Get parents of the school together and tell them your concerns. Discuss this with other parents at every opportunity. Without a large support base, schools tend to ignore the concerns of individual parents. It’s how the system has worked for five decades.

    – Educate your kids to educate other kids. That will get the kids whose parents are sending treats to class to tell their parents to stop sending treats to class. And if kids turn down the soda machine, eventually it becomes a liability instead of an income source.

    – Last, write a letter to your district representatives. They can sometimes put pressure on the school through government means, which works. You’d be surprised how many schools change policy because a few local politicians get involved.

    Trying to regulate diets through law is extremely hard to enforce at any level. In fact, it may even create animosity from parenst who don’t want to participate. Take action on all fronts – don’t leave it up to the schools to fix themselves.

    November 18, 2010 at 1:11 pm

  20. I am a parent of two, and we have family history of diabetes, although neither of my children have been diagnosed I’m still concerned. My oldest is due to start kinder next fall, the first thing I did was check out the school’s lunch menus posted on thier website. I wanted to know how good or bad lunch was going to be. He loves fruit and yogurt, and I hope that I have taught him well enough to make good food choices. It will be an uphill battle for sure. Treats, typically chocolate, are reserved for treats – not meal replacements. I do love to bake and do so from scratch. My kids love banana muffins and pumpkin waffles 🙂 I will certainly ask his teacher if homemade treats are acceptable. Thanks for increasing awareness!!!

    November 18, 2010 at 1:29 pm

  21. Thanks for the information and venting. It gives parents something to think about as they send their kids to school and the cafeteria.

    November 18, 2010 at 1:41 pm

  22. Jay

    If parents don’t agree with the lunches being served pack them one. This isn’t some rant about parents shirking responsibility; just follow the thought process. If all concerned parents make kids brown bag (don’t give them $ either) it then school lunch consumption drops. If it drops enough schools may actually notice, or not.
    The point is that your kids can’t get their hands on that crap. This might effect change, it might not, but is probably more effective than protesting an institution that clearly doesn’t give a rat’s ass.

    November 18, 2010 at 1:51 pm

  23. I don’t have kids, but I do have an opinion: I think it’s pathetic that some school systems attempt to make money by placing soda and junk-food vending machines in the schools. I don’t even find this appropriate in high school.
    Would I have bought stuff from the vending machines at that age? Yes. Would that have made it okay? Nope.
    It’s sad that children are being sold out so that schools can make quick cash. Eating habits can last a lifetime, good or bad. And what parent wants to daily undo the damage done by kids thinking “If I can buy it in school, it must be okay”?
    -Jen
    http://sasfiction.wordpress.com

    November 18, 2010 at 2:12 pm

  24. Eileen

    I recommend reading “Food Politics” by Marion Nestle. In the book, she explains that companies like Coca Cola pay large sums to schools that allow their vending machines. Despite concern for the health of their students, school systems often give vending rights to junk food companies because they desperately need the extra money.

    November 18, 2010 at 2:25 pm

  25. My fiance is a 6th grade teacher and I have been appalled over the years at what both school staffs and parents (including the PTA itself) find as “acceptable” fare for children. One PTA did special lunch runs for the children K-6, giving them choices such as “a double cheese pan pizza from Pizza hut or a double pepperoni pan pizza,” or “a double hamburger or double cheeseburger from McDonald’s.” They would actually ask the teachers to take away from class time to do things like collect money and take orders more than once a week for these things. Here they are, putting all this effort in to feed the children junk when all the while the standard in-school lunches and snack options are sub-par (he is in a poor district to boot.)

    These poor kids are being sent to school with a 2L of soda and a family sized bag of chips, saying that is “lunch.” It is no wonder that when it comes time for PE, they can barely run a lap — that “food” is NOT fuel. How can they grow, concentrate, thrive, without real food?

    That being said, I like to think that his students are fortunate in that he takes the time to talk about diet and exercise, despite the fact the district doesn’t actually ask him to. We are vegans for health/moral/ethical reasons and this of course sparks a conversation in his classroom every year. When there are class parties, he hates seeing all the “food” they bring in and will always provide healthier alternatives that are sometimes even more popular than the other items! I hope that with time we see solid reform in public schools and private schools alike.

    November 18, 2010 at 2:35 pm

  26. Well done. I’m in real estate now but I worked in a high school for 18 years. In New Zealand the big companies like Coca Cola provide fridges and sponsorship and no doubt other incentives to keep their products for sale in the school.

    November 18, 2010 at 2:37 pm

  27. dylancrazy08

    I am a teacher, and I totally agree. You know what is worse, in the state I teach in, Breakfast in the classroom has been created, and the “breakfast” is totally full of carbs. Not to mention they heat it up in plastic before serving it to the kids….

    November 18, 2010 at 2:41 pm

  28. The elementary lunchroom looks like just a bunch of brown soggy microwaved carbs. It scares me.
    http://lifebehindthemakeupcounter.wordpress.com/

    November 18, 2010 at 2:42 pm

  29. tdbwd

    I’m amazed at the number and passion of the responses here. It’s good to see that so many people care about something that’s going on in schools.

    One person commented that she feeds her kids nutritiously at home, but she understands that they probably won’t be able to resist the temptations of junk food at school. I wonder — if we accept that children won’t be able to resist the lure of candy at school, the peer pressure to eat it because everyone else is, why do we expect them to resist the pressure to take drugs and engage in other harmful activities so prominent in schools and so promoted by peers?

    Maybe the system of education we have, devised not by parents but by politicians, social activists and industrialists, is not what we really want. Maybe we could come up with better ideas for how we educate and rear our children. Surely, we’re at least that smart and creative, not to mention adequately motivated.

    November 18, 2010 at 2:54 pm

  30. The more I see the government dictating how a child should be raised and educated irrespective of and to the detriment of the parent’s authority all in the name of tolerance and equality, the less inclined my wife and I are to enroll our children into the public education system.

    November 18, 2010 at 3:04 pm

  31. Shanna VanNorman

    I totally agree. And as a recent mother I must say it’s been a topic of discussion several times. Should I enroll my daughter in public school where she’ll be inclined to eat unhealthy food among other unhealthy habits and teachings? I’m concerned.

    You are what you eat and while I don’t preach, I do practice good eating habits within my household and hope my daughter picks up our habits with our example.

    Keep writing and enlightening.

    Please take this quiz to find out what fear, if any is holding you back in life:

    http://bigbangbang.wordpress.com/2010/11/16/whats-stopping-you/

    Best,

    Shan

    November 18, 2010 at 3:17 pm

  32. Thanks for writing this post and for your activeness. Type 1 diabetes runs heavily in my family. My sister was diagnosed at 17 years old and my younger cousin in FL was just diagnosed at age 12. My family shares complaints with the school systems in New Jersey and Florida as well.

    I don’t know when the school sytems will get the message that they are really hurting our youth by providing them with so much waste.
    I hope it’s soon or I’m afraid we will see a lot more illness and obesity.

    November 18, 2010 at 3:23 pm

  33. Shoba

    Wow.,

    i saw your post on Freshly Pressed and the picture compelled me to look at your post…I am so struck by the words that you have completely taken out of my mouth! Every parent has the responsibility to make sure that their children`s food habits are healthy and good and to make sure that these choices are not left as “choices” at school. When my children last year we NOT allowed to take any form of peanuts as snack as three children in the class had a ‘nut allergy” I dont see why when there are children with such concerns as Type 1 Diabetes , all forms of candy/soda/and any form of unhealthy foods specially high in high fructose corn syrup should not be banned, at school cafetarias…It is a sad situation. Is there some form of memorandum that parents can raise and send to any board that takes it up for consideration??

    Shobha

    November 18, 2010 at 3:43 pm

  34. Considering the school systems are not make an avid adamant attack on the issue, we need to move on to simply teaching our kids not to eat such foods as these. Doing this could solve a life-long problem as well

    November 18, 2010 at 4:04 pm

  35. leeleegirl4

    Not all school districts have ignored this law. All the NJ districts I’m familiar with have gone above and beyond the legal minimum requirement for healthy foods. We had things like bananas, carrots, and pretzels for Halloween and sweets cannot come in most days at all. If you are going to complain. please get your story straight first. I think you will be more productive bringing the issue to your BOE at there next meeting instead of writing a mouthy blog on bringing sweets into school. And pack lunches for your kids if you are really concerned.

    November 18, 2010 at 4:15 pm

  36. Rob K

    I am going to preface this comment by stating that I am an elementary teacher (though not in NJ) and that my views are as follows:

    While I do agree that the educational system is partly to blame for the epidemic of absolutely awful diets of many kids today, it is foolish to think that it is solely the educational system that is responsible for the eating habits of our kids. Both parents and schools play a role in helping kids make healthy choices.

    As you stated yourself in your second point, nearly every day seems to be a special day in which kids are lavished with high sugar baked goods and treats, but it’s not the school system that provides these treats. Parents choose to bake for their kids’ classes, and this is an issue that you need to take up with other parents if you are concerned. Otherwise, teach your kids NOT to take these treats and instead reach for a piece of fruit or vegetable sticks(not an easy task, mind you).

    I’m directly quoting you here: “Please don’t call parents and complain that our children are hyperactive and out of control in the early afternoon and then seem sleepy and aloof by the end of the day when you have just provided them a week’s worth of sugar to rev their engines shortly after which they crash…it’s the system’s fault, not ours and not the kids!!”

    This is exactly the attitude that I was hoping not to find in this open letter. While I understand and appreciate your concern for the health of your own and other people’s children, you cannot place all blame on the school system. Yes, some schools provide kids with a multitude of terrible food choices, but parents are providing the money with which the kids will buy according to their own whims. Teachers do what they can in educating students about healthy eating (though I have to admit not all are good role models), but parents absolutely must be reinforcing the healthy eating ideals at home. Too often parents seem to think that the rearing of their children is the responsibility of the education system. In reality, they’re YOUR kids, not the system’s, so teach them appropriately at home and work together with the teachers at your school to tackle this very serious issue.

    In short, kids are allowed to spend money on these terrible snacks and junk foods because PARENTS enable their kids by providing money, but no guidelines on their choices. Every child may be impressionable, but in the end, they are still individuals with CHOICE, and it is up to us as educators AND parents to help them make the right ones.

    Respectfully and with shared concern,

    Rob K.

    November 18, 2010 at 4:18 pm

  37. My area (San Jose, CA) is much better about lunch options and treats, thank goodness.
    However, as a former elementary school employee, I was always bothered by all the parties, which occurred frequently and not only involved sweets (now limited) and a mess of trash, but took up valuable class time. There are better ways to teach about the celebration of holidays!

    November 18, 2010 at 4:19 pm

  38. Although encouragement from the school is good, the individual families, teachers, and students make the final choice. I have to agree with your point about teachers letting children eat a bunch of sugar and then complaining that they are hyperactive. They should be able to have a no sugar in class rule.

    November 18, 2010 at 5:04 pm

  39. Bravo! As I was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic in my early 20s, snacks in schools was never really an issue. Though back then, I don’t recall the availability of much of the crap that’s available now. I always had a packed lunch – there was no school cafeteria where we could purchase items. We could purchase milk on some days. And the odd Friday, there would be pizza day. Once or twice out of the school year, we might be exposed to a bake sale, but those were at Christmas, and perhaps the play day. I remember we did a lot of playing and running around, and no one really worried about childhood obesity. Truly, were those the good old days? If so, how did we go so far backwards in terms of children’s health in less than 20 years? Should we not be moving forward into a healthier and more active lifestyle for our children? School is no place for sugary snacks and drinks – school is for learning. Teaching kids about nutrition should be a number one goal, especially in those early years. It’s just as important as reading, writing and mathematics.

    It’s very difficult to point the fingers at any one group in particular – there are many at fault here. Perhaps we should all stop playing the blame game, and start working towards a shared solution that will benefit those need it most…the kids.

    November 18, 2010 at 5:27 pm

  40. Noelle G.

    This is so true, and I’m glad you’re spreading awareness! I was a high school student myself only a few years back, and I remember just how often sugary and unhealthy foods were provided as rewards or for special circumstances. People would share cupcakes on their birthdays, and teachers would provide soda and cookies the day after the exams. And the funny thing is – we go to school in the earliest part of the day! If a party took place in one of my early classes, I’d find myself drinking soda and eating cupcakes as early as 8 or 9 in the morning, something that would never happen at home.

    As a high school student, I knew enough about eating healthy and caring for myself to limit the number of sweets I consumed, but younger kids aren’t going to show the same restraint when faced with sugary snacks in school. If we’re not going to eliminate sweets entirely, we should at least start with the younger grades, for the development of good habits is the most important thing.

    Thanks for sharing!

    November 18, 2010 at 6:14 pm

  41. really good post! and congrats on being freshly pressed

    http://enjoibeing.wordpress.com/

    November 18, 2010 at 6:15 pm

  42. Pingback: Letter to Boards of Education (via Scott Kasper Photography) « Carla Pax

  43. As a diabetic myself, I shared this on my Facebook profile.

    November 18, 2010 at 6:55 pm

  44. Why not just teach your child not to eat them even when not in your presence?

    November 18, 2010 at 6:56 pm

  45. This is interesting. The schools here in WV (at least this county) have children bring their own snacks.

    November 18, 2010 at 6:58 pm

  46. I retweeted this on FB and Twitter. I don’t have kids, but I remember the menu at school very well (8 years ago). It was all artificial and junk.

    November 18, 2010 at 7:06 pm

  47. Hmm…the responses here are very interesting.

    I agree with the majority of this post. But I’m also going to attempt to break even here.

    Speaking as a teacher AND a student (albeit over the age of 12, obviously), the blame does need to be evenly distributed, or at least explained.

    In this letter, I agree with the primary point and passion: this needs to stop. If the mandate was passed, it should be acknowledged, point blank, end discussion. For those of you who are saying ‘I’m tired of government trying to control my schooling’, I don’t want to hear your complaints later down the road when your kids are 15-18 years of age, expanding exponentially. It starts early, and saying ‘it’s fine now, they’re just kids’ is not an excuse. My stepmother stood firm on this belief, and I couldn’t stand it, my younger sister couldn’t, and my younger brother hated it the most. We are now 24, 14, and 16, respectively.

    The teacher earlier in this post, however, also has a valid point: in cases where the belief is not being upheld, that is a reflection on the upbringing within. If your kids are enjoying fruits and veggies at home, it should, at some point, reflect outside of the home. I respect the passion of this letter, but with that statement you have decreed that one of the following is true: either your kids are consuming these foods when you’re not around (which means there needs to be a better reiteration in the home), or they are not (which means you’re now speaking on a generalized term-and that’s perfectly fine).

    However, criticizing the writer’s attitude about complaining phone calls makes no sense to me-again, it’s a valid point; you just loaded children full of M&Ms, 100 Grands, Butterfingers, ice cream, pizza, sodas, some other slop (be honest-most of the cafeterias serve some form of ‘slop’), and then expect them to sit still. Then again, when I was young we still had recess, thus an outlet for the newly acquired energy. It didn’t change the fact that we were getting scolded for falling asleep in class after, induced in what we called a ‘sugar coma.’

    The other big factor is this: where a lot of parents are complaining that the government is trying to control what they are or are not consuming, these are the same kids that will appear a few years later with problems. I have a friend still in St. Louis that is a victim of this same idealization-and is a Type II diabetic. It took her 3 years of grade school plus all of high school to finally control her eating habits such that it wasn’t detrimental to her health. It gets difficult to uphold when everyone else around you is depicted in some sugary paradise, swimming in sprinkles and inhaling chocolate, no one has stopped you before, and now all of a sudden it’s off limits. That, I find, is unfair to the kids. You’re too lazy to uphold healthy eating habits at home, yet you don’t want us to remind you of the childhood obesity epidemic, diabetes diagnostics skyrocketing, and the string of other health problems that spur? Look in the mirror-you don’t want us to tell you what you’re doing at current is wrong and could lead to potentially dangerous outcomes. My youngest cousin, at age 11, is a victim of this thinking. My uncle didn’t want her in a public school that was ‘too strict.’ They put her in one that catered all the same carb loaded, sugar infested, fat inducing foods that everyone is catered-all because ‘my kid is just fine and she eats M&Ms all the time.’ Don’t be shocked when they get to college and operate on Mountain Dew. She just turned 11-and is about the size of several watermelons plumped together. My uncle freaked out-he didn’t understand why or how it was happening-it wasn’t before. His solution was to put her in dance class, where the teacher noted she was always tired, never wanted water (always reached for some juice or sugary drink), and after seeing other girls leap freely as though they barely tried, gave up; all because she went to school and had these foods, then went home and it was reinforced with overly large portions and again-carbs, sugars, starches, oils, etc. (I’m speaking as an African American woman-don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my grandmother’s food…but at some point you have to realize indulging in it will be the death of you, regardless of how good that super creamy, milk injected butter cream noodles barely moving in sauce Mac and Cheese is!)

    My closing point is this: I do agree that the government should be less involved in my personal affairs, especially raising my children. However, when you realize that this then falls on YOU being responsible, and thus not turning around and complaining “My poor little girl is fat and I don’t know why!” is when they will BE less involved. They’re taking into their hands because the votes (or voters) don’t lie, but sugar coat a very concrete truth-you didn’t feel like it;now that they’re making it required, you don’t feel like abiding either.

    It is with that, that this letter brings me great joy. It also makes me very happy that there are still parents out there who don’t just take a stand, but are urging others to follow their lead. I salute you!

    It’s ok if the foods are there. I won’t deny that. But having some control over it would be appreciated. Our cafeteria cook was an aunt of one of the students-and her rule of the cafeteria was this: balance your meals, or you aren’t getting one; “I’m not letting you just grab ice cream and cookies and s*** and not getting any of this meat or vegetable!”

    I did mention I was born and raised in the heart of St. Louis, right? I can still hear her voice…also saying ‘well, the parents GAVE THEM the cupcakes who are we to stop them?’ Responsible adults, that’s who. Maybe the times really are different-I remember when this was even passed to the babysitter, and if they violated the rules and gave kids sugar and such, they were replaced!

    To those who generate anger from this letter/post: choose your words carefully; saying ‘they’re fine NOW’ doesn’t guarantee they will be later. When that point hits, I’ll have to say the same thing I did to my uncle: I’m sorry you feel this way, but it’s your own fault. I’m also speaking from experience-at 19, I realized eating pizza, ramen, hot pockets, juice wasn’t the correct way to stay healthy. I reversed my habits-and so can you. My advise-don’t let the habits build in the first place…

    November 18, 2010 at 7:58 pm

  48. Jim Hagen

    Your very first question: Why are my children allowed to spend their lunch money on candy, ice cream and soda, all of which are prominently displayed and sold in my children’s school cafeterias?

    Well, your children are “allowed” to do a lot of things out in the big bad world, like bully people, smoke, take drugs and kill small animals. But I would hope that you train them not to do those things. Take some responsibility.

    Second, with respect to parties in the classroom, how hard is it (and we’ve done this) to tell the teacher what the situation is and have her encourage kids to bring healthy things or at least create an environment where your kids aren’t pressured.

    Constitutional amendments aren’t necessary.

    November 18, 2010 at 8:11 pm

  49. Hear, hear, hear!

    I work as a college administrator involved in food service, and I wrestle with these issues at that age, too . . . although caffeine becomes the toxic substance of choice at that age (well, other than alcohol, but we don’t sell that on campus) more than sugar does.

    Few things pain me more professionally than watching young kids swilling those awful sugar and caffeine laced energy drinks, or (worse) energy shots that get sold in our campus stores . . . so awful, so addictive, so unhealthy.

    November 18, 2010 at 8:12 pm

  50. A very well written letter with proper concerns expressed. Every parent should be concerned about the school environment in which their child or children spend most of their week. Proper nutrition is the foundation for a healthy adulthood. Junk food is just that-plain junk.

    Thank you.

    As I was getting ready to post this, Fox’s BONES just came on with a super-sized giant chocolate bar being offering to an eager group of children, but as the adults began to cut the bar to distribute it to the waiting children, a body was found in the candy bar. As one of the main characters said-I’m definitely off chocolate.

    Let’s see if we can get school cafeterias and vending machines off junk food. Homemade goodies and bake sales will be a different challenge to face.

    November 18, 2010 at 8:36 pm

  51. toggpine

    For awhile the middle school had vending machines that served pint bottles of milk in the commons with the other junk foods and sodas. It was always low on milk when I saw it. I asked about it, and my son said they filled it every day or so. A few months later when I was there for a band concert the machines were gone. The only beverage machines in sight were Coke or Pepsi. I asked him about the milk machines and he didn’t know why they had been removed. Hmmmm. Could it have been that the milk was cutting into the soda profits?

    I think the schools should have healthy choices for meals. I also know they have budgets to keep to so that the school lunch doesn’t cost $10 a plate either. I hope they can figure out how to make whole grains, fruits and veggies appealing to kids instead of flopping a cheap pile of carbs, sugar, and fat with a dash of salt on the the tray to fill them up without doing them any good. Our daughter will be a brown-bagger when she finally reaches the school lunch age. Not that it means she will eat what is in the bag, but I can hope. Especially since she won’t have the cash to spend on the other stuff.

    November 18, 2010 at 8:37 pm

  52. Congrats on being FP’d!
    This is a great topic…
    As a writer of a “pro-health” blog, I would like to see kids in schools eating better, but getting kids to make good choices is not the school’s responsibility–it’s the parent’s. (and let’s face it, many parents don’t have a clue when it comes to healthy eating)

    It IS, however, the school’s responsibilty to provide healthy choices for kids. if all they have available is candy and pizza, then it’s a problem.

    As far as the parties go, I would think that is each teacher’s choice–what to do and if a snack is involved.
    I wish your kids the best!

    November 18, 2010 at 9:02 pm

  53. Our catholic school in South Australia has solved this problem by having no canteen and students only being able to order lunch from the local shop. They are not allowed to order junk food. Also they are encouraged to bring healthy snacks from home. We are a nut free school as well, because this is becoming a big problem.
    Good luck!

    November 18, 2010 at 11:18 pm

  54. hoshinokachi264

    Its kinda scary that these rules would be posted yet all the things they say children won’t have access to they do.

    I went to public school in the state of MD. I remember when they pulled all of the cookies and hostess cake stuff out of the school and made it so that in order for kids to get fries they had to buy a meal. But the meals were basically fake ass meat that in my opinion would have as much nutritional value as the fries.

    Since I’m in college now, and I live in NYC, I have a lot of access to healthy foods and I get a lot of exercise because I have to walk every where.

    But it scares me that kids are still eating this stuff, or can buy it if they want to. I mean theres only so much parents can do with educating their children not to eat all the fake shit but kids don’t always remember that when they’re hungry.

    I’m sorry I don’t have answers to your questions but I hope that this can be resolved for you soon. Your kids are the ones suffering from the bad decisions the ‘adults’ in charge are making.

    November 18, 2010 at 11:52 pm

  55. “Note to school systems: Please don’t call parents and complain that our children are hyperactive and out of control in the early afternoon and then seem sleepy and aloof by the end of the day…”

    Er, do you often get this complaint? Seems oddly specific.

    Now, I don’t normally like to defend the school system, but I feel compelled to note there are a thousand “standards” set for schools in a zillion different areas. Many are the interest groups willing to push these standards through; few are the personnel to devote the time, effort, and money into implementing them. Which is probably for the best, otherwise schools would be the most micromanaged zones on the face of the earth and who would want to spend a childhood in such a delicate bubble?

    November 19, 2010 at 12:38 am

  56. quitefarnorth

    I live in Scotland and the schools here are not permitted to sell unhealthy choices alone. You can buy chips – once a week – but it has to be with a main course. And you can buy a dessert with or without custard. But on the whole they served sensible, ‘healthy’ foods like pasta, rice and salads. And since the salad bar opened kids have been mobbing it! Surely if there was enough public concern in your country then your government would take action. But hey, you have the right to carry a gun – so what hope there?!

    November 19, 2010 at 2:08 am

  57. So much for Mrs. Palin arriving to protest government issuance concerning school meals…with a couple dozen cookies.

    Thanks for sharing this post- and here’s for getting real traction, soon.
    M

    November 19, 2010 at 2:10 am

  58. Parenting Articles

    Nice post. It’s good to know that there are parents who are very much concern about this issue. Kids indeed should be monitored on what they eat, and school canteens must take part on this. As early as now they should start doing this before it’s too late.

    Parenting Articles

    November 19, 2010 at 3:20 am

  59. Hello,

    I enjoyed reading your post and just re-linked it through my wordpress blog.

    I am 28 yr old and was diagnosed with type 1 in 1991 at the age of 9 along with my 25 yr old sister who was diagnosed in 1988 at 4 yrs old.

    I completely understand your reasoning for this post, we grew up with less research/technology on whats out today and know the stress our parents went through worrying about us at school, exercising and growing up as teenagers!

    It does get a lot easier when your kids grow up and can learn and make their own choices a bit more. But yes it is very hard when you have candy and sweet tasty treats or even just high carbs in your face everyday and want to be like your friends and not eat salads all the time!

    At least your kids will grow up healthy and looking after themselves and be health aware in every aspect.

    Our mother also was diagnosed 7 years ago with type 1 and she is 54 years old. Make sure you are aware that it is possible for yourself 🙂

    Take care and good luck!

    November 19, 2010 at 4:23 am

  60. Q. An

    It isn’t the responsibility of the school to make sure your children are eating a healthy diet. If you’re so concerned with their special needs they should be taking healthy lunch from home to school everyday instead of money to to buy candy with.
    This is a problem that is beyond just food. It’s a cultural issue. Believe it or not- and this is speaking from experience- there are countries where the youth actually listen to what their parents have to say. If they’re told they should not eat an excessive amount of sugar because they have diabetes, they don’t go off and buy candy.

    November 19, 2010 at 5:58 am

    • Q. An:

      Valid point but also a harsh one for teenagers to live with Diabetes.

      I’m not sure about Scott Kasper, but when I was in school my dad both packed lunch for me and gave me canteen money incase of the need of more food during school hours in emergency.

      Sometimes I was naughty and bought things I shouldn’t have. I still do it. But you are only human and do these things because you think you live once and deserve a treat every now and then. Its hard to find things in lunch bars that most people may think are ‘good for you’ but I can tell you. Pretty much none of it is except diet yoghurt, salad and fruit. Which sometimes can still ruin a good blood sugar level after even injecting doses of insulin to try counteract it.

      Most kids these days will end up with Type 2 diabetes, so really schools should be providing much healthier options for kids – though, not to say they shouldn’t also have a few snacks available.

      November 19, 2010 at 6:08 am

  61. I am not a parent, nor will I be in the near future, but that does not at all curb my outrage. My elementary school days are just a decade and a half behind me, but I remember the inordinate amount of candy I would come home with on any given holiday and on “special days”. I didn’t realize it was a problem then and I am surprised to find that nothing has changed since. I truly hope that these issues will be properly addressed sooner rather than later and that I am not fighting the same battle when the time comes for me to send my own children to school. Proper recognition to you and fellow concerned parents, thank you for taking the time to bring these issues to light so that the future is brighter for all of our children.

    November 19, 2010 at 6:03 am

  62. Pingback: Carta de un padre estadounidense al sistema nacional de educación « La web de la Plataforma de Crónicos en Edad Escolar

  63. Pingback: Health problem are not solved by forbidding «

  64. six

    While you teach your children some of the time the majority of their time is at school. Sure, it’s the pseudo parent, they can scold and punish and they can reward. You gave them that right. If you want complete control then home school them!
    You do not have to be rich, just serious about raising YOUR child. The schools are paid for their participation in consumerizing the public.They are the purveyors of diagnosis and distribution of mental disorder medication(ADHD< ADD< Autism). Just take a look in the school nurses office at the drugs she gives out daily!
    I agree entirely that they should but if you bag it,don't give the kid $ and cook only healthy treats for those numerous 'special days' then you do your part. And this letter along with a personal visit with a solution in hand to the district. There are studies that a vegan lunch in schools for "bad" kids cut the bad behavior in half!
    But in reality you need to take back your family.

    November 19, 2010 at 9:37 am

  65. As a former teacher, I can tell you that I greatly reduced the amount of candy that I was giving to my students as treats. I replaced candy treats with stickers, books, extra computer time, etc.

    However, I do believe in “sweets” for parties and as an occasional treat. I don’t believe in totally banning sweet treats.

    Now, with the diabetes issue, it must be on the parents to work with the teachers/school to carefully monitor what the child is eating at lunch and in class. You have every right to request that your child not eat certain items–just as would be the case with food allergies, etc.

    As for school lunches, they are crap and something must be done about the grade D but edible lunches that are served to students.

    November 19, 2010 at 10:06 am

  66. I am really with you on this one. So, glad my daughter is in college now (although, when she stayed at the dorms her first year, she complained of the food, how everything was covered in a cheese paste to try and cover the bad taste–she was home eating all the time) and my son is almost out of high school. They only just this year stopped allowing the kids access to pop and candy in the machines–now that he’s about to graduate.

    I try to feed them healthy here at home. And my daughter doesn’t really like sugar all that much anyway and usually makes good food choices. My son, however, is a sugar junkie. And, I like you, have not allowed these things on a daily basis at home, so don’t like him having access to them at school when I give him money for lunch and have to worry about if he made good choices like his sister. Because, usually, he doesn’t. Espcecially if there in his face at every snack machine on every floor of his school.

    Maybe we need to start to have films in school that show them the equivalent of the “this is your brain on drugs” that show them “this is your heart, kidney, pancreas, on sugar” effects and long-term health damage that can be done.

    November 19, 2010 at 10:10 am

  67. Tracy López

    You should bring this up in a letter to the school board, Principal, County, etc. My children’s school system no longer has parties that revolve around sweet snacks. A list of appropriate foods is sent home each year so that when they have holiday parties and whatnot, people are supposed to send things like diced fruit, carrot sticks, string cheese, etc. No candy or baked goods are allowed and they try to occupy the kids with crafts/activities instead of making it about the food.

    I know some schools have also put healthier options in food/drink vending machines, (i.e. bottled waters and low cal drinks instead of soda.)

    I think a lot more can be done. Phys Ed class should be longer and more often (daily would be good). After school team sports should not be cost prohibitive. The school lunches still seem to be high calorie, but I do see they’ve made efforts to make it more balanced.

    The only way something will be done is for parents to speak up like you’ve done here. Seek out other parents at your children’s school, circulate a petition. You can help bring change. Good luck!

    November 19, 2010 at 10:28 am

  68. morningtear

    As a type 1 diabetic myslef I found your entry very interesting! And very, very important! It is hard to avoid unhealthy food and not indulge in it when it is all around you, even for me as an adult! Think you’ve got very healthy opinions! Keep up the good work!

    November 19, 2010 at 11:01 am

  69. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. We are doing our children a grave disservice, and not just the ones who have medical issues. You can argue all day and night over whose fault this is, but that gets away from the real point: We all (parents, school, food manufacturers, advertisers) need to commit ourselves to what is best for children, not what is best for expediency or our wallets.

    November 19, 2010 at 11:13 am

  70. Pingback: Study Shows that Foods in Vending Machines are Unhealthy « Lisvette García's Blog

  71. This is a great post. Congrats on freshly pressed.

    Its true… no one cares.

    November 20, 2010 at 5:42 pm

  72. Pingback: RE: Letter to Boards of Education « Exclusively, Jess

  73. Pingback: Sunday Searches: The weekly linkage. | Whattaeff?

  74. allovernews

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed from all of us here at http://www.allovernews.wordpress.com consider it an honor to be Freshly Pressed .

    November 21, 2010 at 5:32 pm

  75. Good post. Unnerving but true. It’s sad to note that the education system can’t make the changes that will help the kids; instead the focus lies elsewhere.

    November 25, 2010 at 3:54 am

  76. Margaret

    Scott: I just learned this myself, when my 8 year old asked for money so he could by a snack at school. He told me he could by chips or ice cream. I was under the impression that such options were not available to elementary school students. Kids should be able to bring whatever they want for lunch, but the school should not be promoting empty calories.

    I was thinking about writing a letter, too. Thanks for setting an example.

    November 28, 2010 at 11:52 pm

  77. nice post…
    please visit this..
    klik
    thanks

    November 29, 2010 at 10:52 pm

  78. This is a sad reflection, but one that is so true. We know there is a problem, we know how to fix it and yet no one is able to? I don’t understand, either…

    December 5, 2010 at 12:17 am

  79. poexygofAgosy

    Oggi ho letto un sacco su questo tema.

    February 17, 2012 at 11:38 am

  80. I’ve learn some good stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how so much effort you set to create this kind of fantastic informative site.

    May 26, 2013 at 2:16 pm

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