If I Don’t Speak Up, Who Will?

by lydia on February 9, 2012

It’s time again for yet another commercial holiday that promotes sweet treats and candy to our kids. This means parties at school and little goodie bags handed out to kids at those parties. This year I decided to embrace the opportunity to speak up about the snacks offered and wrote to the school principle to ask that candy not be allowed. After the past two years of public school experience, I am not happy with the offerings supplied to children at every special event and holiday. At this point the principal  and I have a bit of a relationship going, since I had written to her at Halloween time regarding allowing candy in school. (Read that post here!) I can’t be silent any longer, and heck why should I? If I don’t speak up about the excess sugar and candy being offered our kids in school, who will? Likely, no one.

So, today the emails starting circulating for the plans for the Valentine’s day class parties. My third grader’s party menu list is as follows; water bottles, pretzels, 1 sweet snack (such as cookies, cupcakes, brownies or rice krispy treats) and strawberries. It used to be much worse, and now the school rule is only ONE sweet item at any given party. I guess I shouldn’t complain, and be thankful for the changes that are happening slowly. Anyway, as the email circulated around, one mom volunteered for the Rice Krispy treats, then yet another mom wrote in and said her son would bring cupcakes. Of course, you know I simply could not let that one slide. So, I politely replied; ‘could I suggest that there only be one sweet treat offered, or that the kids only be allowed to have one sweet treat? Thanks!’  To my surprise, although I shouldn’t have been surprised at all, several parents emailed back in response to what I wrote. One dad said, ‘If your kid isn’t gonna eat his cupcake, can my kid have it?!!’  I decided not to reply, since I found it very sad and rather obnoxious that he ACTUALLY replied like that. If that wasn’t bad enough, another mom wrote back in the email thread, ‘My daughter has permission to eat both if she wants to.’  Then yet another mom wrote; ‘I agree, my daughter can have both of the snacks, it isn’t often that they have school parties and I want her to enjoy herself.’  Thankfully, the principals response to my email was appropriate. She actually did a global call to all the school parents to ask them not to send in candy with their kids to give to classmeates for Valentine’s day! At least she has a good head on her shoulders.

After I read these emails though (and there were even more than I mentioned), I marvelled, simply marvelled. First of all, it’s not likely that anyone has EVER challenged the snack at a school party before. I have spoken with the homeroom mom  several times this year to make her aware of my concerns. Then, thankfully the school policy was firmly brought to everyone’s attention and only one treat per class party was allowed. I’ve also written to my kids teachers and asked that they not be given treats without my consent. It’s like I’m a lunatic for actually being concerned about what goes into my kids mouths and bodies. But here’s the real sad truth of it all, these parents think that I am robbing the kids of fun. They actually think that their kids won’t have fun without more than one treat at the party. Not only that, but how often do these kids get treats on a daily basis. This saddens me greatly! The big problem behind kids eating habits is not the kids, it’s the parents. These parents were likely raised on sugar, and have a mentality that sugar relates to a good emotion a special occasion or memory.

I too grew up with sugar at every turn, but it’s even worse today and if it doesn’t get addressed soon, there won’t be generations to come. We can’t keep going like this folks. We are already on the verge of half the population in the United States have diabetes in the next 20 years or so. Kids are getting diabetes, a horrible terrible thing that should never occur.  However, this malady can be very easily reversed so long as people take action and realize our diet is truly to blame. I won’t go into all the other health issues, such as ADD, ADHD, allergies etc, etc. I am just sitting here stunned and saddened. My simple request today was meant for the good of the children. My first priority was my own child of course, but I hate to see all these other kids bombarded with sugar. I was in the classroom at the last party at Christmas, I saw how wild the kids were. And we don’t make the correlation that we are doing anything wrong here! (This was my attempt at bringing something healthy in to share for the Christmas party – the kids thought it looked cool, but sadly had already dug into the frosted sugar cookies BEFORE I got there with my healthy snack and not to many of them touched it!)

I think I know how Jamie Oliver felt. He was right to want to start a revolution, he was right to be grieved during the process as well. We are up against a mighty foe folks. It’s been far too long ingrained into people’s thinking and lifestyle that treats are normal. I am not just talking about an innocent cookie here and there. Believe me, my family celebrates with homemade treats. But what we are up against is not just the holidays, and one little school party every so often. It’s that the kids will have a party at school with cookies, cakes and brownies. Then they’ll get candy bags, then they’ll go home and mom and dad will want to celebrate and they’ll get more sugar and candy. This happens again and again for any occasion that comes up, not to mention daily just because. We find every and any excuse just to indulge our sweet tooth. Just observe every time you are at any public gathering where food is involved. The amount of acceptance of eating crap should be alarming, but no one bats an eye.

I am sad that parents don’t see this as a problem. I am sad that no other parent chimed in and suggest we have something more healthy or at the very least agreed that one treat was enough. But hey this is the world we live in unfortunately. This just reaffirms to me that my voice needs to remain heard. Had I not spoken up, would the principal have made that call. Perhaps. But now these parents are somewhat challenged when before they’d not have batted an eye. Maybe they were upset that I was trying to speak for their children too, who knows. If they understood even just a little bit of what I am learning about, just how detrimental sugar and processed, chemical laden and dye filled foods are, they’d have applauded me. Perhaps I’d have gotten an Amen or two! I really don’t think we should underestimate the excessiveness of sweets and just how addicted as a nation we have become to the point it’s not a party without several sweets!

This experience reaffirms to me, that I have to be a voice for the children of this modern day. This time of history where we are so far gone from Mother Nature and heading towards a rapid decline that has implications I don’t think most people even want to think about. Am I being dramatic? No, I think I am far from being as upset or outraged as I should be. I know there are others out there like me. Those who will stand up for the truth in their own communities when it comes to the health of our children. I take strength in knowing that ultimately I am not alone in this battle of ‘wits’ if you will. Really, it all boils down to knowledge. So, here’s to shaking up mentalities. To educating the kids, since the parents don’t bother. To ripping to shreds the lies that are so pervasive regarding our food supply. I’m feelin’ like a roarin’ momma lion over here in my neck of the woods tonight!

What about you? Do you feel like the only voice when it comes to concern over candy/sugar/junk laden foods being allowed in school?  What battles have you faced with regards to feeding children in group/public settings? Have you had any headway or progress in educating those in care of children in your community?

This post contributed to Fight Back Friday.

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LydiaLydia Joy Shatney is a certified Nutritional Therapist Practitioner through the Nutritional Therapy Association. Additionally, she is the chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation in Delaware County, Pa. (Find the group here on Facebook). Lydia is also a member of the Nourished Living Network. Lydia founded Divine Health From The Inside Out in March of 2010. You can find Lydia on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest. Sign up for the Divine Health From The Inside Out newsletter! Pick up a copy of Lydia’s eBook; ‘Divine Dinners: Gluten-Free, Nourishing, Family-Friendly Meals’.

Lydia offers specialized step by step counseling to transform your health. Personalized consultations to suit your specific needs are offered via phone or in person. Lydia offers a variety of packages offered to suit your individual needs. Contact Lydia today to get started as well as to learn more about what she has to offer you!

 

 

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{ 17 comments }

julie February 9, 2012 at 7:37 am

I guess nutrition is the last thing on the list of responsible parenting. We have so many cultural rules now about how to be a good parent, some of which are absolutely ridiculous. We demonize parents who smoke around their children yet we ignore the elephant in the room, we are raising addicts who are obese, diabetic, bipolar, hyperactive, etc…And it’s not the parents’ fault? Childhood obesity is ABSOLUTELY the parents’ responsibility. If you decide to raise a child, you are signing up to provide the healthiest most loving environment possible. You are not excused for lack of knowledge though I want to excuse people for lack of knowledge. I have compassion on people who are not healthy and don’t know why. But the truth is, when it comes to our children, it’s our responsibility to learn whatever we need to learn to do the best we can to raise our children to be happy and healthy. What good is an education, a nice home, the best clothes, if our kids have bodies and minds that can’t function properly? If they can’t grow up to reproduce a healthy new generation of children? Where are our priorities? What is wrong with us? We are a generation of addicts who make excuses for our addictions and are raising our children to do the same. Raising the alarm against the drug in a room full of addicts is dangerous and scary but yes, somebody has to do it!

julie February 9, 2012 at 8:22 am

P.S. I think my last comment is true I just want people to understand that I don’t believe in guilt. If you are a sugar addict, if your kids are, then take an honest look and don’t beat yourself up, just move forward. Start learning. Make one small change at a time and realize that this is for freedom’s sake, not for the sake of rules. Health is wonderful and worth the investment of time, energy, and money. I don’t look down on anyone and I don’t think I’m the best parent in the world either. We all have our strengths and weaknessess and we need to learn to love each other and help each other as parents instead of judging one another. This doesn’t mean we don’t say the truth but it does mean we don’t peddle shame and contempt. I hope no one reads my last comment or this post and miss the point. I really care about people and want to see them live happy, healthy, full and satsifying lives. I know Lydia feels the same way. Guilt will get you NOWHERE. Trust me.

Jennifer R. February 9, 2012 at 8:51 am

Good for you for speaking up!! I agree there is WAY too much junk food and candy in the classroom!! I used to begrudgingly let my kids participate, but now that food allergies and gluten sensitivities have come to surface, they no longer eat any of it. It’s such a relief for me! My 1st grader knows that she will get lots of candy with her Valentines (we give no candy) and is looking forward to making an art project with them or having some science experiments with the candy (sink v. float, etc.). My 5th grader is allergic to corn, and so that makes it easy to say no to all the crap since it usually has corn syrup in it. Sugar is truly devastating for your health and I wish people could wake up and realize the truth.

Jo-Lynne {Musings of a Housewife} February 10, 2012 at 7:02 am

Surprisingly our school has already instituted these rules and the room moms are fairly good about abiding by them. There are no birthday treats sent in anymore – people can send non-food treats in if they want and are encouraged to buy a book for the classroom. For holiday parties, one sweet treat is usually all they ask for, although of course there’s usually crap too, like soft pretzels but they do always have fruit and veggies and a cheese tray. Our kindergarten teachers are particularly “granola crunchy” lol – I see them all the time at Kimberton Whole Foods – and they always stress healthy foods for parties and things, but the one room mom is always making snide remarks about it. People just don’t get it. They honestly thing they’re fine. I don’t know what you can do about it. I usually just keep quiet because I don’t think there is much point in trying to education someone who is clearly not interested. I’d rather keep the peace on a personal level, but I am happy the principal and the school over all is trying to be more careful about the amount of sweets they are handing out.

Suzanne February 10, 2012 at 7:39 am

Excellent article. This is a crucial subject and one you can’t stop pushing for. Maybe you could do an assembly talk on nutrition or one in each of the classes? Maybe if the children hear about nutrition, they’ll go home and share it with their parents?

Melanie Christner February 10, 2012 at 8:01 am

Way to go, Lydia. I guess in order for change to happen someone has to be willing to look ridiculous or “overly concerned”. I am glad you have the courage. It will spark thought and change…even if in little incremental amounts. Somebody has to be the Change Agent.
I am fortunate to have a school where the lady who prepares the food called me up to run a peanut butter cookie recipe by me, to see if it was okay for our kids, for Valentine’s. I have made the stand that if at all possible our kids will not have grains, refined sugars or hydrogenated oils at school. It has been received fairly well in our school but ours is the exception.
Keep it up! You inspire me:-)

Leane February 10, 2012 at 9:26 am

I am still learning the ‘truth’ about what is called food in our modern society. I commend you for speaking up. My kids aren’t in school yet, but I am so afraid of the scenarios of dealing w/ a sugared up kindergardener. My one thought to add is that maybe a nicely written Valentines greeting could be sent home w/ the kids to all of the parents. Maybe commend the healthy treats & successful party, wish them well, and give them a link to your page here. I hv learned so much from you & I have no doubt that these parents have some things to learn too. They may visit your site to be nosy and inadvertantly read some food facts that create in them a desire to learn more and do better for their kids. Thanks for all the great posts and for being a strong child health advocate!

Judy Shimota February 10, 2012 at 9:27 am

Don’t take parent’s comments personally- it’s hard not to, but realize the comments come from ignorance. If you want support, approach the teachers and school staff. I have worked occasionally at my 3 children’s various schools, and the comments (regarding celebrations & parties) from school staff are amazing eye-openers! EVERYONE talks about “calling in sick” on those days because they dread the uncontrollable behavior illicited from the over-consumption of sugar…in fact, they talk about the entire week or two after Halloween as being “a total nightmare.”
If you want some vocal allies to back you up -and educate parents- look to the teachers and staff. I’m sure they adore you for advocating for healthy, “teachable” children!!

lydia February 10, 2012 at 9:49 am

Judy – I think it was the parents comments that took me over the edge. BUT, I think it was helpful to experience that and is only compelling me all the more to get myself into that school and educate. The principal has been wonderful and the teachers are THRILLED when I send healthy snacks! (then they can actually eat something too!)

Lore February 10, 2012 at 1:07 pm

I dealt with this for years. My son is grown now but I always spoke up in the nicest way I could, making suggestions and offering plenty of help, never feeling superior or being rude. Sometimes it went over fine and in another case I was asked to leave the school! In my case though, we did not celebrate the holidays in question and so that made it even more interesting since we were already “different” in thier eyes. When you have something that you know matters and that you are convinced of then you must say something, it is a moral obligation. Of course it is the manner in which it is said and approached that has the most impact, positively or negatively. Also patience and a willingness to be different in others eyes are imparative. Those who are “ahead” lets say, are usually the one’s who are scoffed at. Galileo was excommunicated for saying that the earth was round and was not exhonerated for 100’s of years…

Kathryn Arnold February 10, 2012 at 5:26 pm

I’m not a mom, unfortunately, but I watch the mom’s at church shovel the sweets into their kids’ lives and I’m so sad. Every church party is a severe trial of my (non-existant) willpower as I try to resist the sweet and starchy fare I gave up to save my life two years ago… but that’s generally all that’s available. There’s a ladies’ brunch coming up and as I read the ingredients in a gluten-free coffee cake I thought “Why bother?”. When I resolved to skip the fresh raspberries because they’d probably prefer the store-bought jam… well, it’s depressing. But I’m just scraping by financially… I’m saving the raspberries for me.

Melissa February 10, 2012 at 10:54 pm

I’m actually surprised that you have met such resistance. My sons have been in two different school districts and both have wellness policies in place. While even some of those “wellness” foods could be called into question; candy has always been an absolute no-no. No treats are ever sent in for birthdays, nor are kids allowed to give each other treats at Halloween or V-day. When I have helped at parties, fruit and veggie trays are always the main snack. I feel fortunate that it has not really been an issue; I do think most schools have started down this road due to allergies and of course the obesity and diabetes epidemic. Now if only we could tackle the cafeteria!!

lydia February 11, 2012 at 2:33 pm

MELISSA!!! Yes I was actually surprised by the parents. The principal has been great! I have ideas for the cafeteria next year. My boyfriend’s neighbor is a local nutritionist and she is slowly re-writing the menus at school cafeterias. Right now she is working on Upper Darby I believe. Anyway………We need to catch up!

Vicky February 13, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Hi Lydia, I read your blog here and there and saw this article from a link on facebook. My son is in first grade in Maryland and I am the room parent in charge of snacks for the Valentine’s Day party. I avoid HFCS and eat as naturally/organically as our budget allows at home. But when shopping for the party snacks I wasn’t even thinking about nutrition – shame on me! Thanks for the reminder that nutrition IS important in our kids lives and those of us who believe this need to be examples in our communities. I read your article and thought, yeah, she’s right! and then realized I was the room parent doing everything you were telling me not to! So I returned the heart shaped Little Debbie cakes and got two big things of strawberries instead! Thanks for making a difference. At least one first grade class will be having healthy treats this Valentine’s Day!

lydia February 13, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Aw Vicky, you made me almost shed a tear! Bless you for sharing that! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Julie Casey February 16, 2012 at 12:23 am

Lydia:

Your post is as though you read my mind! The only difference that in addition to general concern about my son’s nutrition, I have the added concern of food being a deadly threat. You see, my son had a rare genetic condition called Prader-Willi Syndrome which means his brain does not properly get the signal that he doesn’t need any more food which means ALL food regulation (which is normally controlled internally) must be controlled by external factors. But, as if that isn’t enough, people with Prader-Willi Syndrome have metabolisms that are extremely low and therefore their caloric requirement is MUCH lower (up to 50%) than “normal”. Let me put it another way: people with PWS feel hungry all the time and yet they actually need half what others require….talk about a double whammy!

Too many calories (and just a few extra a day equates to MAJOR weight gain in someone with PWS) means morbid obesity (and all the associated health complications). Every year we have at least 1 death due to a ruptured stomach because someone with PWS got into food and ate too much (remember they have no sense of “fullness”/satiety).

For moms like me the battle you are taking on is something we have to take on EVERYDAY, EVERYWHERE, because food permeates every place in our society and becomes both a physical and mental (people with PWS have lots of food anxiety) for our kids.

Thank you for speaking up!

Ali February 16, 2012 at 7:24 am

Ditto Julie Casey. I’m another mom of a child with Prader-Willi Syndrome and it just pains me to see how much sugar and food and whatever else is consumed in the name of celebration and school. Not only do I have a child with PWS, but another of my sons has a peanut allergy, so we are constantly on the lookout. He’s now expecting sugar at practically every turn because of all the treats they have at school. :( I’m tired of it. I’ve been thinking about saying something, as I did last year in the preschool he was in, but just haven’t completely gotten up the courage yet.

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