Thursday, March 31, 2011

Food policies

I thought I would share some of the constraints I have when assembling Juju's school lunches. In addition to my attempt to avoid plastic when I can, I have to consider the school's policy on food that was sent to us when we signed up to stay for "lunch bunch." It all sounds pretty logical to me but I'm wondering if those of you reading this from other places might think this is "way too California." I suppose others will also point out that it takes for granted that everyone at school has access to affordable, healthy food options.

Here it is:


Healthy snacks (cereal, crackers, raisons, fruit) will be provided mid-morning for Transition Toddlers; mid-morning and mid- afternoon for Preschoolers. Water is given to drink.

There is a NO JUICE policy at XXXX. We will promote the drinking of water if children are thirsty. Juice can cause a sugar high and also reduce appetite leaving little desire in your child to finish the food needed to help him or her sustain their day at school.

Please do not send snacks from home. Snack time is more than just about eating a snack. It is in fact one of the learning experiences of your child’s day. Snacks brought from home present issues of food-sharing, envy from other children and interfere with the general structure and protocol of snack time.

We do not allow the sharing of food so as to avoid complications with allergies, dietary restrictions, etc. Please inform us if your child has any food allergies or dietary restrictions.

If your child is in preschool or in transitions “Lunch Bunch” we ask that you provide a healthy lunch for your child. Please do not send any junk food or sugary foods in your child’s lunch. We will be strict in enforcing this policy, including screening lunches and asking you to take home any sugary or junky foods.

The reason for this policy is beyond just wanting to encourage healthy nutrition and reduce sugar-induced behavior. Lunch, like snack, is not merely about eating food. For your child, eating lunch at school is an activity, and one which they should rightfully have full autonomy over, in terms of being able to choose what they eat, what order they eat it in and how much of it they eat. When children have a lunch that contains junky or sugary products, there are two undesirable scenarios. One is where the teachers try to encourage the children to eat their “healthy stuff” first, then the “junky stuff,” which takes away the child’s control, threatens their sense of healthy autonomy and sends subconscious messages of ineptitude to the child. The other scenario involves the teachers leaving the child to choose how and what he/she eats, inevitably resulting in the junky food being eaten first and the rest of the lunch going uneaten. This not only develops poor nutrition, but also can set the child up for “failure” in their environment in that their behavior is being influenced by what they’ve eaten (or haven’t eaten). When their lunch is full of healthy choices, it’s a win-win situation in which the child is in control, feeling confident as well as getting the nutrition their bodies and brains need to navigate the rest of their day.


  1. I don't understand how eating junk first sets the kid up for "failure" because their behavior is being influenced by what they've eaten. I feel like I'm missing something -- what does that sentence mean?

    This is pretty intense.

  2. I am not sure since I didn't write it but I assume it's talking about how some kids who eat a lot of sugary foods end up eating only to maintain their sugar high and are looking for more simple carbs and junk. I guess it's talking about sugar addicts who can't help but want to eat more sugar? What I connect with most about this policy is that they want the kids to be autonomous with all things relating to their lunch. I really like that idea.

  3. I think this was saying that kids who eat too much sugar, or are on a sugar high, are more likely to engage in spastic, inappropriate behavior. And then they have the cranky crash. Just my two cents. I would love to have this policy with ALL students!

  4. So jealous that you and Juju have access to a preschool option that's this high quality. I love that the school cares enough about the kids' autonomy and nutrition to lay in on the line for parents, and is sensitive to the emotions junk snacks could bring up. Although I would miss him a lot, it may be best for Paddle if I send him to you to raise. That's fine, right? You're not to busy?

  5. The policy doesn't read as so California, it just reads as very privileged. Not even the access to food, but the time and energy to put something like this together.

    Your concern about access to fresh/healthy food is offset for me by the fact that it's a private pre-school, one that I imagine is fairly costly and chosen by parents with many options for child care. That makes it a very different conversation than if these were parameters at a public school or at a low cost day care run out of someones home.

    I imagine what is and isn't junk food can get dicey. Fruit leather, dried fruit, pretzels? Are pirates booty ok? Who gets to make that decision.

  6. You are mostly right but you forget that many of these preschools offer financial aid for certain students who can't afford tuition so my concern about access to healthy food is a very real one.

    I should also point out they are not insisting on a homemade lunch, just one that isn't sugary so it needn't take much time to put together. But you are right, it definitely takes thought and planning and strategic shopping which takes time.

    I think everything you list is ok, I would pack all of those things myself in addition to a main course. Basically I think they don't want you to pack Oreos and a juice box and call it lunch. I am not sure I love the idea that these parameters exist (I do like the idea of parents deciding what is best) but since I generally agree with them I don't really think about them too much.

    For the record I have never seen anyone policing anyone's lunch. And I do appreciate that they think about things like this, even if their suggestions and policies come off as elitist.

  7. Yeah but a parent that knows enough about financial aid for their kid for pre-school (and only needs child care for their kids during the limited hours of your pre-school) wasn't quite what I was thinking of.

  8. I choose to send Julian for a limited time but almost every preschool we looked at takes them from 8-6 to accommodate working parents, for what it's worth.

    I'm not actually sure why we are arguing this though considering these polices are not being enforced in a public school or low cost daycare; if you don't like them you likely have lots of other options for your child for preschool.

    I'm going to stick to focusing on lunch foods, and perhaps touch upon access (or lack there of) to healthy foods and move on. I'll never be able to argue that going to this preschool is not a privilege. Indeed it is and one that we enjoy.

  9. We're not arguing, we're having an intellectual Barnard debate. You said we could do that.

    And you're right, it is moot b/c you and the other parents have choices and probably a large part of the reason you chose this preschool is b/c of their food policies (which I'm sure bleed into other policies).

    I love Juju and want the best for her. I'm not critiquing or criticizing you sending her to this preschool which sounds awesome. I would love to have a lovely lunch like the one you pack for Juju. I'm just being contrarian. Ask my co-workers, I'm really good at that.