My son is going on a school trip next week and he has to take a packed lunch. So I said he could have a special packed lunch, including something he doesn't normally have, like crisps. He told me about one of his classmates who has crisps and chocolates in his lunchbox every day. I wondered what this boy has for a treat, if that's everyday fare. But I didn't judge him -- maybe his other meals are healthier, who knows what goes on in other families?
But in America, one mother has become so irate about junk food in school, she's started a crusade against it. You may have read about New York-based mother of two MeMe Roth when she was profiled in The Observer in May. She runs a one-woman campaign, The National Campaign Against Obesity, but her detractors accuse her of having an unhealthy attitude by focusing on particular foods, rather than the reasons people eat them.
Now she's in the news again as she's taking her campagn into schools, or to be more precise, her own children's school.
Roth particularly objects to the treats served on special occasions at her children's school. She has requested permission slips for foods not on the official menu and claims that unhealthy snack foods are being offered to her children too often.
To protect her children from the dreaded sweets and treats, she sends them to school with a plastic box "junk food collector". And get this -- her unfortunate offspring are instructed to deposit all unhealthy snacks given to them in class into the box. I'm all in favour of healthy eating, but what about the potential for emotional damage by singling out your children like this?
However, matters escalated when Roth's daughter was given a frozen ice pop in class. Her teacher refused to let her put it in the plastic container, since she felt that it would probably melt and cause a mess. After confiscating the ice pop, she accused Roth's daughter of having eaten crisps in the past and wondered whether that was not considered junk food as well. Oh no! A child spotted with crisps! Call the Food Police.
The teacher probably should have kept her comments to herself -- the child clearly has enough to deal with without the teacher's tuppence worth too.
When Roth heard about this she was incandescent with rage, and demanded a meeting with the school's principal. The family are now considering withdrawing their daughter from the school. Whilst I don't think the teacher emerges from this story smelling of roses either, perhaps the Roths need to think about how workable their junk food ban is. We are all member of a society, and sharing food together is one of the things that binds us. Are they really helping their daughter by singling her out in this way? I don't think so.
What do you think? What's your attitude to junk food for your children? What do you do if they get given sweets at school?
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