School has been back for a few weeks now, and everything is back into normal mode. You send your kids to public school and trust that those that care for your child during those hours have the education they need and the experience to take good care of your precious little ones the best they can. When my son first started school, I had heard all of the horror stories of confiscated lunches being replaced by less than satisfactory cafeteria food. New regulations were going into place, and some schools got a little carried away. I had high hopes that nothing like that would happen in our school, but I was still prepared for the worst and hoping for the best. Now and then, I’ve been THAT parent that marches up to the school ready to commence a battle of words with some school employee if I think my child had been wronged. I do keep an open mind and don’t go in there for a fight, but I’m ready for a good debate if needed.
One “battle” that has been pretty consistent is how my kid gets fed. I guess I was blessed to have learned a lot about nutrition when I was younger. After all, I had to be careful with my own diet when I was a kid. My situation was unique, sure. But seriously, am I the only parent that knows “froot” cereal and frosted toaster pastries play no part of a healthy breakfast? A lot of parents are pretty complacent about diet even if they know some things aren’t the best thing for you. What really gets me are the people who seem to think I deprive my child and give me dirty looks when I tell them my kid doesn’t drink soda but likes tomato juice. Some people will even go out of their way to sneak my child things they know I wouldn’t approve of. Frankly, that reminds me of an alcoholic not wanting to drink alone. It’s not trying to be nice or being a good hostess. It’s complete defiance against my wishes, in my opinion. I’m lenient when I’m in other people’s homes as a guest, so there’s absolutely no need to deliberately attempt to sabotage my parenting. But, I digress.
Shortly after school started, I found a half eaten bag of Froot Loops in my son’s school bag. I was dumbfounded. My son knows that kind of thing never gets purchased for our pantry. No wonder he “can’t remember” what he had for breakfast some mornings. I ask frequently so I can adjust my dinner plans accordingly. You see, I believe one should eat a variety of nutrients every day and for every meal.
I’m not totally strict about my son’s diet. He gets treats, and every now and then, I give in a little more than I should sometimes. We’ve all done it. But, I do expect a little more out of an institution that is supposed to be helping me teach my child how to be healthy. What he gets is a rotation of toaster pastries, sugary cereal, muffins, corn dogs, and a few variations of pizza for breakfast in school every morning. This isn’t necessarily an option at his school. Every child gets served every morning thanks to Title I programs from the state. Even if I feed him breakfast at home, he would still double down on food items we consider occasional treats once he got to school.
Now, I can’t lay blame on our lovely cafeteria workers. Whatever knowledge they might possess about nutrition, they have to go by the strict nutritional standards the federal government decrees to be healthy for a growing child. Unfortunately, there are some major flaws in the national guidelines, and they’ve fallen for gimmicks the food manufacturing industry uses to fool American shoppers into spending more money at the register. The proportion of carbohydrates to protein is unbalanced, and they wonder why children have a difficult time concentrating in class. To make things worse, they’re feeding our kids empty calories for breakfast (with all sorts of chemical additives, I might add) that only fuel their minds and bodies for a short time before they’re served a slightly less questionable lunch. But, that’s a story for another day.
If you’ve ever seen chef Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, you’ve seen how frustrating the national standards can be. Potatoes are good for you in moderation, but they are most certainly not a vegetable as they are currently defined. Like Chef Oliver and others, I believe that education about food is key to curing obesity, reducing the severity and frequency of many diseases, and being healthy in general. The key to fighting the common cold isn’t just popping a vitamin C pill when symptoms appear, but eating a proper diet in order to increase your immunity naturally to reduce the risk of the virus taking hold in the first place. A diet high in sugar also lowers your immunity and makes you more susceptible to those nasty cold and flu bugs. If schools are going to enforce strict attendance rules, you would think they would do what they can to prevent absences from sickness. In all fairness, they might like to do so, but their hands are tied by the government.
So, I continue to fight the good food fight from home. I will compromise and let them give my son a less than ideal breakfast and occasional lunch. Weekday dinners and weekend meals are my opportunity to make up for the junk the best way I know how. I will continue to educate my son on making healthier choices. One of my proudest moments last week was when my son stole a cucumber from my fridge for a snack instead of a piece of chocolate. I think I’m doing okay.