With Easter coming up in a few days (or weeks for some), I feel another food horror story coming, as Kid 1 will have an Easter breakfast at school. He’s had a school Christmas dinner and from his account, it was more like a Christmas dessert. But I’ll wait and see.
Still, why do I see a school-organised meal and I immediately cringe at the thought of what will be served? School should not be a place where you fear what your kids will ingest. You should have full confidence in what is going on there. Before you say I should change my kid’s school, I need to mention that everyone brings their own snack and lunch, so I have control over what he takes with him. I have less control over what and how much he actually eats, but if all his choices in his lunch box are healthy (at least by my standards), then I don’t have to worry about his meals at school. And I am happy about that.
But school-organised meals are a very different thing. The way these usually go is that someone (I believe a committee of some sort – hey, I’m still learning the local language so I’m not 100% sure about everything I hear or read) organises them, they make a list of foods and drinks they think should be served and then a sign-up list is printed and stuck on your kid’s classroom door so you can put your name down for one of the items. Not surprisingly, but very upsettingly, there are many, many sweet choices and none of them are left out. Someone will bring every single one of those, and in abundant quantity as well. Then you leave the kids free to decide what they will eat. And guess where they will be headed? To the mountain of sweets.
One of the things that bothered me most about this year’s Easter list is that all, and I mean ALL, drink options were sweetened. There was no water, tea, or plain milk, all things that would be easy to provide to the kids. Kid 1 was actually upset when I told him that, because he wanted milk, so I told him he could have some from home to take with him. But I wonder, when faced with the other sugary options, will he still drink it?
The reason I said that the food items on the list are not surprising is because Kid 1 usually tells me about what other kids have for lunch. Their snack is supposed to be fruit only, so there’s less to tell me there, though he does mention that some kids have a juice box to go with that. But at least they eat fruit. Lunch, however, is a very different matter. He’s told me about this one kid who eats krentebollen (a type of sweet bread with raisins) and drinks chocolate milk. That is so far from my idea of a lunch, I don’t even know where to start. He tells me about chocolate pastes and jams and all the juices and flavoured (and sugared) milks he sees around him at lunch time. And then half-asks me if that is not allowed, is it? And I say no, it should not be allowed; so many sweets are bad for you.
But this is not the kids deciding what to eat, this is the parents preparing the lunch boxes for them. Now I don’t care how much a child may object to being given a proper sandwich for lunch, the parents should not give in. I don’t care how busy you are, it takes just as much time in the store to choose a plain milk box as it does choosing a chocolate milk box; it’s just as easy to choose plain rolls as it is to choose sweet ones. You don’t want to argue with your kid? Don’t take him for this particular errand. Making a sandwich is not like making bœuf bourguingnon, it’s a matter of minutes. I complain about having to prepare snack and lunch boxes almost every evening, because the kids are finally in bed and my work day is still not over; but I don’t throw in there all the desserts in the house and call it a night.
I am not a perfect mom and I make lots of mistakes; but when it comes to food, my kid eats better than most kids his age I have seen. And I don’t believe it is just dumb luck, it has something to do with all the times I say no to sweets and junk food, and all the times I have only offered him healthy options. But I want him to see that he is not the only one. I want him to see more kids around him eating proper food instead of dessert at all meals and for all courses.
So, finally, here is my point: sugar should not be allowed in schools. Not only should sugary stuff not be sold there, but kids should not be allowed to bring sugary foods and drinks either. While it is not the school’s responsibility to feed our children (at least it’s not here), it is their responsibility to teach them things. They teach kids about food, about fruit and vegetables. It would not be a stretch to also teach them that sugary treats are not a healthy every-day option. And this not just by saying it, but also by showing it, by keeping treats out. The socialising experience of the kids having lunch together, which I think is an important one, should be a safe and healthy one for all. So schools should say no to sugar. Now.
P.S. Would you be surprised if I told you that Kid 1 has described his krentebollen-chocolate-milk classmate as fat? I tell him that it is not nice to point that out about people, but in my mind I say “yeah, you’re right”.