School’s back in — and so are we! Now where’s our candy reward?

by Red Pill Mama · 3 comments

in Education,General,Health+Wellness,Nutrition+Food

Whew!  Man, that felt like a long time: it’s good to be back!   Without regaling you with the details of the Red Pill Family Travels this summer (I’ll only tell you that we got together with Red Pill Papa in New York, which was FANTASTIC!), let me get right down to business: school’s back in, and this event brings many opportunities for Red Pill Parents (you) to extend your conscious parenting philosophy and wisdom to the “other parent”: our kids’ schools.

So with that in mind, ponder this for a moment:

Rewarding children with unhealthy foods in school undermines our efforts to teach them about good nutrition. It’s like teaching children a lesson on the importance of not smoking, and then handing out ashtrays and lighters to the kids who did the best job listening.  – Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Co-Director, Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University

Your kids’ school teaches good nutrition, right?  Of course.  And yet, your kids receive unhealthy foods as rewards, right?

This hilarious yet head-shaking quote is from a flyer entitled Alternatives to Food as Reward: Promoting a Healthy School Environment from the Connecticut State Department of Education Bureau of Health and Nutrition Services and Child/Family/School Partnerships.  Now say that three times fast (I wonder how that fits on anybody’s business card?).  I’ve long been grimacing over the fact that my own kids are rewarded at school with a wide variety of sugar-bombs, a trend that began in preschool: there was the morning “Smarty Club” last year where my daughter received a pack of Smarties for answering a few math-related questions, and of course there was the “Have a Coke and a Smile” reward that she could purchase after accumulating a certain amount of play money; then there are the lollipops in the treasure box, the ice cream party for the class that raises the most funds, and every sugary treat-filled celebration you can imagine throughout the year.  And yet, at this same school, a local hospital is invited to come in and teach kids about “go food, slow food and whoa food” and the Nutrition Pyramid poster hangs in the cafeteria, where the menu has increasingly more whole-wheat and reduced-fat items.


But this is how it’s always been done.  (Is anyone besides me sick to death of hearing that phrase?)  There is so much ingrained habit in the way we raise and educate our kids that these habits become like white noise: nobody sees them anymore.  And so it will take a concerted campaign to shine a light on this so-called ‘tradition’ and elevate the status of unhealthy food rewards from being something normal to being something dangerous.  Dangerous is a word that gets people’s attention, especially people tasked with caring for and educating our kids.

Simply put, food as a reward undermines the learning process, a well as the healthy development of a child.  How?  The front of the CSD flyer lists five Consequences of Using Food as Reward, which are pretty much no-brainers:

Compromises Classroom Learning

Contributes to Poor Health

Encourages Overconsumption of Unhealthy Foods

Contributes to Poor Eating Habits

Increases Preference for Sweets

Nothing under these headings will surprise you.  But what’s on the back page might: a HUGE list of reward alternatives, broken out by elementary, middle and high school.  And as we know, change doesn’t come just from pointing your finger at the problem, but rather is more likely if we already have a solution tucked under our arm — which in this case, the CSD does.

So we encourage you all to send that link up there to your children’s teachers, and to your school’s principal and PTA President.  Send it to all the parents in your kids’ classes, put it on your Facebook page, tweet it, and maybe write an article to put in your school newsletter.  Does your school have a food or nutrition committee?  Maybe you need to start one.  Maybe this can be the beginning of not just a change of habit, or a change of heart, but a change of policy at your kids’ school — and a permanent change for the better for not just your child, but every child who walks through its doors from now on.

Glad to be back,

Red Pill Mama

p.s. Thanks Kellie!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Candice September 9, 2010 at 10:39 am

My little guy just turned 2 and I am already dealing with this dilema. Too often when I go to pick him up he is munching on some sweet treat… the other day his teacher handed him a Kit Kat as we walked out the door because he had been a “good boy today.” Um, what does a flippin’ Kit Kat have to do with good behavior!? Anyway, I eventually asked his teachers to not give him treats at school and now I’m the mean mom. Oh well, I can live with that. Now please excuse me while I go remove the giant bag of chocolate I have hidden in my closet.

Red Pill Mama September 10, 2010 at 10:41 am

I once asked all the parents in my son’s preschool class if they minded if I requested that candy no longer be included in the treasure box at school — no one minded, I told the teacher that this is what the parents wanted, and then I found out at the end of the school year that it was just MY son that was not allowed to get candy from treasure! Some teachers, I have found, feel so put upon when asked to rein in the treats, as though they’re being asked to not have any fun anymore.

This will take years to change, but Candice, good for you! Maybe you can print out that flyer and send it in to the school director: and definitely give one to J’s teacher!

Now about that closet … blame your mother! ;-)

Anastasia September 15, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Great post! Missed you guys!

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