Good Morning, all! Yesterday, I went about day as routinely as I typically do. However, mid-afternoon, a news story suddenly came to my attention, as I discovered it via Twitter, TV and Facebook. The story was being shared and discussed in all mediums I regularly encounter, so it was considerably difficult to avoid it or not see it. It was a topic/issue that hit close to home, however. Perhaps you’ve already heard about it and have formed your own opinion or perspective:
A mother of a 4-year-old daughter (Natalee), Leeza Pearson, a resident of Aurora, Colorado, received a what she referred to as a “lunch-shaming” note in her daughter’s lunchbox after sending her to school with a package of Oreos. Having run out of fruits and vegetables, as a treat, she packed Oreos for her daughter, failing to see this as something shameful or harmful. Upon arriving home from school, Pearson realized the package of Oreos were noticeably untouched and accompanied by a note, which read (courtesy of http://abcnews.go.com/Health/mom-lunch-shamed-school-packing-oreos-daughter/story?id=30674158#.VUI2W9Lo0HF.twitter)
“Dear Parents, it is very important that all students have a nutritious lunch. This is a public school setting and all children are required to have a fruit, a vegetable and a healthy snack from home, along with a milk. If they have potatoes, the child will also need bread to go along with it. Lunchables, chips, fruit snacks, and peanut butter are not considered to be a healthy snack. This is a very important part of our program and we need everyone’s participation,” read the note, provided to ABC News by Pearson.
Upon learning and reading about this, I was completely appalled and disgusted and shared in Pearson’s sentiments, when she expressed, “I think it is definitely over the top, especially because they told her she can’t eat what is in her lunch,” Pearson told ABC News. “They should have at least allowed to eat her food and contacted me to explain the policy and tell me not to pack them again.” I couldn’t agree with Pearson more. It is not the job of the school administrators or employees to police students’ lunches, especially NOT in this fashion. While I completely understand wanting to ensure each child is receiving and enjoying a nutritious and satisfying lunch and snacks, when in moderation, cookies CAN be acceptable. Reacting in this fashion seems to be extreme. As Pearson goes on to explain, she states that the Oreos were NOT her main meal. They were simply an accompaniment to a healthy and nutritious lunch.
The spokesperson for the school claims that they were “just trying to promote healthy eating,” however, as reported in the aforementioned ABC article, Pearson said that effort has often been inconsistent:
“They say I can’t decide what to feed her but then they sometimes feed her junk food,” Pearson said. “Why am I being punished for Oreos when at other times I am asked to bring candy?”
Also, the school administrator claimed Natalee was offered an alternative snack, but Pearson argues this was not the case and her daughter arrived home from school hungry.
In a world where healthy and “clean-eating” is constantly spoken of and advised, what messages are we sending the children and adolescents of today? Instead of simply enjoying a meal and a snack, they are constantly faced with the debate of whether or not is made of “clean ingredients,” or organic items. It becomes frustrating an overwhelming at times even for me, so I can only imagine what it would feel like to be faced with this as an impressionable child. In my mind, healthy eating is allowing for the occasional indulgence, taking time to enjoy something new or different every now and then, instead of solely fixating on its nutritional composition. In a world where we are constantly chastised as a society on our outward appearances, what we’ve done or bought, it becomes overload to restrict even something like an occasional Oreo to a child, whose meals and snacks are otherwise healthy.
As a child, my mother packed me treats in my lunch box, everything from Dunkaroos, to Tastykakes, to Hostess cupcakes and Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies. Did I enjoy them? Absolutely! They weren’t my main meal though and had no impact on what I feel healthy eating is. In fact, I love fruits and vegetables and yogurt even more than packaged treats. Being exposed to treats like Oreos allowed me to not see it as a luxury. It was simply another form of food, to be enjoyed on occasion. I didn’t lust after it or overindulge when I had access to it, because I saw it as something I could enjoy on occasion. It wasn’t labeled as a “forbidden fruit,” so to speak. I say this because I recall in my years as a child and a teenager, my mom used to keep a bowl of M&M’s or other candies on the table in the family room to be enjoyed by visitors or my us, in general. It wasn’t constantly being refilled, or even really eaten all that much, because it was a regular fixture on the table and not a “forbidden treat,” or indulgence. However, during birthday parties, some of my friends would overindulge in these treats, or exclaim, “Wow! You have access to these treats all the time?!” To me, though, it wasn’t something I overindulged in, because it wasn’t forbidden to me, or referred to as unhealthy. It was an occasional treat; a complement to an otherwise healthy diet, to provide me with an occasional dose of sweetness. It was how I learned the phrase, “everything in moderation.”
Policing children and parents’ food choices is not the answer. In my mind, it only promotes unhealthy behaviors and a self-conscious mindset. While Oreos may not be the picture of nutrition, it is not something to shame someone for occasionally enjoying.