Denver news station KMGH-TV reports four-year-old Natalee Pearson was forbidden by her teachers from eating the Oreos her mother had packed as part of Natalee’s lunch. Natalee brought the cookies back home, along with a note from Children’s Academy in Aurora, Colorado, which said the following:
Dear Parents, It is very important that all students have a nutritious lunch. This is a public school setting and all children are required to have a fruit, a vegetable, and a healthy snack from home, along with milk. If they have potatoes, the child will also need bread to go along with it. Lunchables, chips, fruit snacks, and peanut butter are not considered to be a healthy snack. This is a very important part of our program and we need everyone’s participation.
Natalee’s mother, Leeza Peason, claims her daughter’s lunch, which also contained a sandwich and cheese, was adequate and that the school went too far in denying her daughter the cookies. Peason reached out to local media after the school director declined to discuss the incident with her. Peason told KMGH-TV: “They don’t provide lunch for my daughter. I provide lunch. It’s between me and the doctor in terms of what’s healthy for her.”
Setting aside the issue of whether a public school has the right to interfere with a parent’s fundamental and essential right to raise their child as they see fit (which the Supreme Court would likely say they do not), this policy has issues. With plenty of healthy fat and protein, poor peanut butter is being unfairly attacked here. And while Lunchables are admittedly not the healthiest choice, they make fruit snacks from whole fruit and no added sugar, so it seems strange to categorically exclude a childhood snack staple.
And who knows what the rational behind combining potatoes and bread is, but my untrained eye thinks insisting on that much starch in one meal is bizarre.
But the real issue here is what message this policy sends to students. These are young children who are just starting to understand the connections between food, health and nutrition. This isn’t a situation where we are teaching kids to have the healthy parts of their meal before they enjoy a treat, we’re eliminating all treats outright.
Yes, Pearson can surely enjoy her Oreos with a glass of milk as a tasty after school snack, she doesn’t have to have them during school hours. Still, the villainization of treats by schools isn’t doing young kids any favors. Because the world has junk food. Without learning how to enjoy treats as part of an overall healthy diet this policy runs the risk of these children over indulging in junk food when they do manage to get their hands on some.
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