I learned last year that the kindergarten classes at our school have snack time everyday. Most teachers sent home a plastic tote that rotated through the families. Other teachers asked for donations of dry, non-perishable snacks. (Picture cabinets overflowing with Apple Jacks, Saltines, and graham crackers.)
I knew i was in trouble when the Mommy Chatter after school would turn to complaining about snacks. I learned that cookies, yes, actual cookies, were the norm for some classrooms. Fruit was a rare sight.
The most important insight I learned from listening was that everyone wants their children to eat well. But not all parents define snack time in the same way. To some, snack time is the equivalent of treat time. Other parents just wanted to grab the closest thing inside Wal-Mart which is typically cookies and chips. Other parents didn’t want to deal with perishable foods. But most parents are victim to non-nutritive products marketed to parents as acceptable snack foods like Fruit by the Foot.
Things start to stray from the ideal when you throw in busy family life.
I tried two approaches. First, I thought I would just bring a healthy snack every week. I brought sliced fruit + veggies and whole grain crackers + cheese cubes. I even demonstrated banana ice cream for the snack on 100 Day. I started to see a major dent in my wallet.
The next strategy was even better. My son can avoid the junkier snacks if I just send an individual snack every day. This seemed like a no-brainer.
But reality hit again. He consistently forgot to eat the snack I sent. He is a dear boy. But, when you’re used to shared snacks for months, it’s hard to switch gears. I think he also felt weird eating snap peas while everyone else ate Fruit Loops.
If I was going to make any progress, it needed to be on a school-wide policy level.
I serve on the school’s Wellness Committee. This was a perfect issue to solve with a group of classroom teachers and administrators. We understood that parents needed suggestions and an ability to send perishable snacks. We discussed how teachers don’t have time to peel 22 oranges, either. I wrote a grant to pay for coolers and ice packs. This way parents could send perishable items without worrying about a classroom fridge.
Thanks to Colorado Action for Healthy Kids, we were able to purchase these materials. (If you’re interested in learning more about funding and training opportunities for school wellness, check out their Parent Advocate Program.)
Here’s the list we include with the coolers with instructions to have foods ready to eat. Teachers adapted their lists to accommodate for allergies. It’s important to remember that we are making steps toward a healthier environment. We aren’t requiring super stringent nutritional guidelines. We are a humble, agricultural and manufacturing community with tight budgets. Even if you make a strong argument that apples are technically cheaper than bakery sugar cookies, the perception of healthy food being too expensive is stronger. This list is a great place to start.
What problem solving have you been doing lately for your family?