By Kristi Cox, HSC training + program manager
As I turned on my computer this morning, I noticed a headline from one of my favorite blogs, The Lunch Tray: "Day Campers Required To Bring Four Liters of Soda, Two Dozen Cookies Per Week".
I thought, what? That can’t be right. Then I started to read the post and my jaw literally dropped open as I continued to read. A parent had sent The Lunch Tray a copy of literature from the day camp, stating that it required parents to send with their children four liters of soda per week (preferably Coke, Dr. Pepper, Orange, or other “standard flavors” in regular or diet) as well as two dozen cookies or brownies ... per week!
As I continued to scan the blog, I noticed the camp’s lunch menu was included. Here are the offerings:
Tuesday-James Coney Island (hot dogs)
Wednesday- Chick fil-A (fried chicken sandwich)
Thursday- James Coney Island (hot dogs, again)
Friday-Domino’s Pizza (again)
Yikes! Where’s the fruit? How about a few vegetables?
At a time when childhood obesity rates are reaching epidemic proportions, this is clearly sending the wrong message. Trying to get kids to embrace healthier food choices is hard enough. As a parent with two “tweenage” kids, I know they’ll eat whatever is in front of them, healthy or not. Even though we eat healthy at home, making these types of foods readily available at camp or school only undermines the healthy habits I’ve worked so hard to establish.
At Healthy Schools Campaign, I help run a program called Fit to Learn. This teacher professional development program is designed to help teachers create classroom environments that support health and wellness, from their lessons to their management strategies to the way they approach celebrations and much more. One idea we offer our teachers is to eliminate junk food in the classroom -- as rewards, for fundraising or in celebrations -- and to offer other incentives or healthy food instead.
Teachers who participate in this program understand the importance of health and wellness and how this affects students’ ability to learn. They’re working hard with their administration, co-workers and parents to make these changes in their schools. Making health and wellness part of their daily dialog is what is going to make a difference. They realize that it’s up to the entire community to help these kids develop healthy habits. All of us who care about kids’ health and learning – teachers, parents, coaches and even the community leaders who organize day camps in the summer – have a chance to support children’s wellness not just through what we say but also with the snacks we serve and the examples we model.
The Lunch Tray post asks, "will we ever get to the point when nutritious, wholesome food is the baseline fare for kids?" I hope we will, and am so impressed with the Fit to Learn teachers who are making this the norm in their classes. To read more about their efforts, check out some of the stories here.