Parents mention things like their children's sports teams rewarding the kids with McDonald's Gift Cards, Skipping Challenges for the Heart and Stroke Foundation at school sponsored by Boston Pizza, Popcorn day at school, pizza day at school, selling chocolate bars for fundraising and children being given sweets as part of awards they receive for good marks, volunteering or even public speaking.
If you are trying to teach your children to eat well, it's enough to make a parent want to climb up a tree and call it a day.
I admit that when I was a kid we sold chocolate bars on occasion and perhaps at the end of the year we would have a pizza party, but what these parents describe is not the occasional event with food....some of them talk about it being almost a daily event.
So what can be done? When did nutrient empty foods become such a daily norm in our schools and public establishments?
It's all about shifting baselines.
This unhealthy movement didn't just arrive over night. Slowly over the years one rare event including treat foods turned in to two, then monthly and then weekly. The thing is, it happened so slow no one really noticed enough to say "Hey, this doesn't seem right."
I understand that many schools rely on the selling of these types of foods and sponsorships to maintain extra curricular activities and services, but there has to be a balance. This over exposure to junk foods and linking it as a reward for good behavior is going to create a new generation of people that associate feeling good and reward with eating junk. This is a very challenging habit to break as you get older. Many of us already struggle with this connection.
Ever cried over a bucket of Ben and Jerry's because your sweetie broke up with you?
Ever downs a bag of chips because you were stressed out from work?
Ever gone out for cake, dinner or a treat as a reward for a job well done?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you likely developed that connection with food as a reward or comfort back when you were too young to know what the word advertising even meant.
So again, what can we do? My best suggestion would be as parents to speak up. Many schools have connections with the parents of their students either through meetings or having boards/associations with parent representatives. Let them know that constantly offering junk food as a reward isn't okay. Suggest alternatives like dollar store toys or fresh fruit as part of events rather than fat and sugar laden junk.
It isn't easy but if you can speak up. Silence won't change anything.
Does anyone have a personal experience with their children being over exposed to processed junk food outside of the home? Please share your story!