I have no children, but do have an adorable niece and nephew and love to hear stories about the sneaky little things they do to my sister to drive her insane. I remember not too long ago her telling me her son forgot his lunch, so she ran to school to drop it off a few minutes after the bell rang. Expecting to run it to his classroom, a teacher told her he was in the cafeteria. She walked in, found him at a table eating a doughnut off of a Styrofoam tray, and tapped him on the shoulder. She said when he turned around and saw her, he almost fell of his chair.
Turns out, for the past few months, he has been eating breakfast at home, then going to school and taking advantage of the free breakfast at school. Why? Because instead of a healthy well-balanced meal, they served maple bars and chocolate milk. Who could blame him?
This is just a cute story, one that we will tease him about for years to come, I’m sure, but my memory was jogged about it from a story I found in the New York Times.
According to the Times, there are many benefits to the free breakfast program. “The number of students in Newark who eat breakfast in school has tripled. Absenteeism has fallen in Los Angeles, and officials in Chicago say children from low-income families are eating healthier meals, more often.”
New York City, however, is wary to instill this program because they feel “double-dippers” will take advantage, and add to the obesity epidemic.
New York’s health department stalled their Breakfast in the Classroom program, instituted in 381 of the city’s 1,750 schools, because they felt children were “inadvertently taking in excess calories by eating in multiple locations” just like my nephew: eating at home, then going to school and eating again, not mention snacks in between, all before lunch.
This always happens. School districts announce changes in an effort to combat childhood obesity, and because they don’t fit with every child’s situation, they get slammed for making an ineffective change that won’t make a dent, or maybe even make the situation worse.
It is not the school’s job to teach your child that just because food is available, it doesn’t mean you have to eat it. My sister did not run to an administrator and demand the program be shut down because her son was eating an extra doughnut a day. She simply said, “enjoy that doughnut because it is the last one you will have,” and parented him when he came home that afternoon, explaining to him that Mommy provides a nutritious breakfast to you every morning, and since she is The Mommy she needs to know what he is eating everyday to make sure he grows up big and strong. (She did admit she told his teacher to let her know if he did it again. He didn’t.)
While doughnuts are hardly healthy choice, I’m sure there were some apples or a banana my nephew could have grabbed as well, but no matter what the offering, not every child is lucky enough to have a meal at home. I would much rather my nephew have an extra doughnut so that no other little boys and girls across the U.S. have to sit through class trying to concentrate with a growling belly.