Yesterday, my third-grader took her first SOL test. The SOL, or Standard of Learning, is Virginia's statewide standardized test, covering such topics as science, reading, history and math.
To prepare her for the test, her teacher (an amazing woman with a seemingly endless well of creativity and patience) sent home a note asking that she get a good night's sleep and eat a good breakfast on the morning of the test. She also sent my daughter home with a bag of inspirational candy — Smarties, Airheads (You're No Airhead,) and that kind of thing.
Let me be clear and say right now that I have absolutely no problem with this. My daughter is an excellent student and normally a healthy eater, so a few extra pieces of candy is really no big deal. In fact, I think it's sweet that the teacher made an extra effort to motivate students and give them a little chuckle the day before a big test.
But I don't think I would be nearly as easy going if the junk food were flowing more regularly at my daughter's school. Most parents are aware of the need to make school lunches healthier and band junk food vending machines from school property. But what about the junk food that kids are given every day in the classroom?
Bettina Siegel, the blogger behind The Lunch Tray and an instrumental force in getting pink slime out of foods, has written numerous posts about her annoyance at teachers and school administrators who give students junk food throughout the day.
In Siegel's post, My Daughter Asks For Water, Her Teacher Hands Her A Coke, she describes a situation in which her daughter seemingly has access to soda and other kinds of junk food every day. It's just hers for the asking.
To me, this crosses a line for so many reasons, not the least of which is that sugary, caffeinated drinks are not even remotely healthy for kids and certainly won't help them do better at school. And if you, like Siegel, are a parent who is trying to ensure that your kids eat healthy foods each day, it really crushes your credibility to have a teacher handing out junk food like he's Santa Claus at Christmas. Add to this the endless supply of birthday cupcakes and shared sugary snacks, and your kids may not be eating as healthfully as you think at school. But is it a problem?
It all depends upon how old the kids are and whether or not they can decide for themselves to say no to junk food, as tempting as it may be. My eldest daughter loves a sweet treat, but when she has a birthday cupcake at school, she generally skips dessert at dinner because she knows that too much sugar in one day will make her feel gross.
That's her rule and not one that I have imposed on her. So I trust her to make that call. But my younger daughter might not be able to turn down the junk quite so easily, and I would be less than thrilled if she had a sweet treat at school every day.
Does your child's school offer junk food as rewards or snacks to kids? If so, are you OK with it? How did you (or would you) handle it if your child were given soda and junk food in her classroom every day?
Also on MNN: 8 creepy ingredients in junk food