Friday, January 24, 2014

Non-Food School Rewards and Birthday Treats!

A couple of months ago I started volunteering at my daughter's Elementary School. There was a new wellness team building and after I raised concerns about all the sugary treats circulating in the school they suggested that I could help by jumping on the wellness team wagon. So I did. And wow, first up, those teachers are amazing! Great group of very motivated ladies with great ideas and while they often tell me how happy they are to have me on their team, I am equally as grateful and honored to have the opportunity to make positive changes.

The background

According to the new Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (a 'new' policy signed into law and supported by first lady Michele Obama) every school has the opportunity and responsibility to teach children wellness that will last a lifetime. Nutrition and Sports education have to be implemented, not just in PE and the regular curriculum, but as a way of life at the school.

(from the Jamie Oliver Foundation homepage, an explanation from the law:)
The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act requires that schools update their local wellness policies and include goals for nutrition promotion. Wellness committees should include many stakeholders, including physical education teachers, school health professionals, students, parents and other interested community members, school board members and school administrators.

Our Wellness Team decided to challenge teachers and parents to go 'treat' free and encourage whole foods or non-food items for birthday treats and in school rewards are slowly being changed into non-food items.

To implement this, I found all these great resources online:

And also from the Holistic Family Nutrition pinterest board:

If you have been thinking about helping out in your kids' school, don't be shy, they are so grateful for everyone who comes and helps out. If there is anything I can help you with or if you have any questions on how to approach the school about this food/treat reward issue, please feel free to contact me. I can hook you up with information I have gathered and handouts I have written.

Another really good source is the Jamie Oliver Foundation. He has it all on the website; packages for parents on how to approach the school, info on the law and how to find out what can be changed and what can not.

With the food politics how it is and the creative ways food manufacturers come up with new man-made ingredients we can no longer ignore the sweet 'treats' that are handed out on a daily basis. They do matter, even in small amounts. Next time you pick up a candy, please read the ingredients. Recognize the words? Can you pronounce them? I bet you probably do not.

Other reasons that speak for Non-Food rewards in schools:

- The number of children with severe, life threatening allergies is increasing. These children have to sit out, possibly at another table, while the rest of the class gets to eat a 'treat'. That just makes me sad.
- Food colorings: Yellow 5, Red 40, etc..... while approved by the FDA, they are linked to hyperactivity in children. In Europe, artificial food dyes are banned, or labeled with 'may cause hyperactivity in children'. No kidding. In the U.S. this stuff is in soups, candy, drinks, smoothies, crackers, etc....
- Sugar. Yes sugar. Sugar is no longer just sugar. The cheap candy is made with high fructose corn syrup (but HFCS is also found in various other processed food), a sugar from genetically modified corn that is processed to have a very high amount of fructose. Its introduction into our food supply directly links to obesity.
- The psychological aspect. In my opinion a good behaviour should not be rewarded with food. Such association will stick with the kid forever. Later, as an adult they will reward themselves for good or bad days with a pint of ice cream. (Sounds familiar?) (-;

To keeping the kids healthy, 
love, n.

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