Monday, August 13, 2012

Parental "No" Files - Institutional Food Edition

Today's parental "No" comes from a registered dietitian reader from Peterborough Ontario. One of her 4 kids elected to go to a competitive lacrosse (Canada's national sport) camp this summer.

What was on the menu?

Well for just $40 per week he could have had:
Monday – Macaroni & Cheese, with fruit and vegetables.

Tuesday – Hot dog & chips, with fruit and vegetables.

Wednesday – Grilled Cheese & yogurt with fruit and vegetables.

Thursday – Individual Pepperoni Pizzas, with fruit and vegetables.

Friday – Chicken Nuggets & Fries, with fruit and vegetables.

Rotating Snacks for morning and afternoon breaks consisting of; Rice Krispy Squares, Jell-O, granola bars, yogurt, fresh fruits, freezes, pudding.

Juice, and water available at all breaks and lunch. Pop & milk available at lunch.
You might be thinking, "Hey, this post sure sounds familiar" as I already covered camp lunches a few weeks ago - but this post has a twist.

I'm not sure we can entirely blame the camp. You see my RD reader also sent along a link to Brown's Dining Solutions - the food service provider for the camp. Ironically Brown's brags that their meals,
"are built around promoting nutritious food and healthy lifestyles."
and I bet Brown's isn't alone in selling junk and calling it healthy. And that left me wondering - is there a healthy, mass market, food service provider that this lacrosse camp could have contracted with rather than Brown's? Could it be that there just aren't truly healthy options that would land in Browns' price range?

So while Mom can certainly still just say, "No" and pack a lunch that her kid may feel is a slight when compared with his or her buddy's pepperoni pizza and lunchtime root beer, I also have to wonder whether or not any camp is doing it any better.....and of course if there isn't a truly healthy food service provider option out there what does that say about the environment we're hoping parental "Nos" alone can defeat?

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  1. There are some food service providers that are, my alma mater found one a number of years ago that actually serves nutritious food. That being said, I volunteered with the Girl Scouts one summer, and I could not eat anything that was served... I have celiac, and EVERY single thing had gluten in it.

  2. I suspect a lot of camps aren't doing it any better. That was my issue with the local day camps provided by the Sports and Rec department of the university. You'd think they'd know better (and probably do) but I suspect economics and the university caterer monopoly came into play.

    I was the "no" mom, and yes, my kids did come home complaining that they were the only kids not eating chicken nuggets, etc. The last straw was when the camps made the lunch program mandatory (you couldn't opt to be a brown-bagger). Fortunately, that was also the year the kids were getting too old for day camps. But it's still annoying.

  3. Anonymous12:30 pm

    Although I clearly see some food items that are less than healthy, I do have to give this camp credit for including fruits and vegetables at each meal. I am wondering if someone can point me in the direction of a webiste where day camps and institutions can find suggestions for healthy, affordable meals for programs such as this.

    1. Anonymous12:37 pm

      The fact that you believe the inclusion of fruits and vegetables makes this menu alright is part of the problem.

    2. Anonymous7:41 pm

      I believe encouraging positive choices is an important method of changing behaviour. As I stated, there are clearly some unhealthy choices offered, but it appears there is an effort being made to provide some nutrition. It is important to build on that. I would love to see more positive posts surrounding healthy choices that are being offered to give these organizations something to strive for.

  4. In Toronto Food for Tots (badly named, they do more than preschools) is not bad. And no, I'm not associated with them at all. They haven't posted their menu online, sadly, but if I'm remembering rightly it's a four-week menu that switches seasonally.

  5. Wow, scary offerings, there!
    I would love it if you could also share your thoughts on this:

    1. Have written pretty extensively about public private partnerships in the name of health. Is a horrific practice indeed.

  6. Anonymous9:39 am

    Thanks so much for this series. It sucks to be the one parent out there always saying 'no', and your child being the odd one out. My 'parental no' was juice at a city of Ottawa run pre-school program for 2-4 year olds. Against my better judgement, I let my 2 year old eat the cookie. But you also have to defend against other parents bringing 'treats' for the class on any special occasion...cupcakes, rice krispie treats, candy canes...they're toddlers a little sugar goes a long way!

  7. I realize that this is of limited value to those living in Ontario, but there is a camp that does a great job of this:

    I went there as a kid every summer and their commitment to nutrition is pretty uncompromising. (They do sell a small assortment of junk food in their main office, but they price it above most kids' ability to afford and the owner admonishes everyone who buys it.

  8. Thanks as well for this series. I have a 4-year-old and a 5-month-old....and I find this whole "parental no" deal puts a LOT more pressure on parents. I generally cook everything from scratch, and we have a varied, pretty balanced and delicious diet. But when faced with this surround of junk and garbage, I feel like the food I cook at home HAS to be the epitome of healthfulness, because the treats outside the home are out of control. I do say no a lot, but things like my kid getting freezies at soccer, to my mind, means that I can't CHOOSE the treats and indulgences that she gets. I wouldn't be choosing artificially coloured and flavoured freezies....if I'm going to choose a cold treat, it's going to be high quality, delicious, satisfying ice cream. And I feel I can't do that, because she's already had crap at soccer. Small win: when it was my turn for soccer snack, I made rainbow fruit skewers and the kids fell on them like a starving pack of hyenas. No freezies that week.

  9. Julia8:46 pm

    I'm glad it's not just me. Sometimes I think it is. My son (age 2.5) just started at a daycare where they promised healthy meals. The daycare has a third party caterer (I use the term loosely) that provides meals for the kids. At home we always eat meals as a family that are cooked from scratch - real food. The daycare is kosher (vegetarian) and doesn't allow parents to bring in food. So our child's health is dependent on this caterer. The healthy food offerings are things like frozen processed potato hash browns,frozen processed soy veggie kabobs/hot dogs/nuggets and noodle soups (chickenless of course so they use some sort of "spice mix"). Every meal and snack throughout the day they have a glass of milk and either bread/bagel/muffin/cookie/pancake/french toast. That's even when the lunch has pasta, mac & cheese or mashed potatoes. It's so processed and carb heavy. This whole system has become my parental no. So what do I do? I make sure my son eats a good breakfast at home and refused the processed soy meat replacements, anything with MSG (just don't it's necessary for my 2.5 yo). He doesn't drink the milk and I send plain yogurt (not supposed to, but I am to vocal I guess). I am facing an upward stream and they insist they serve healthy food and that they are following the Canada Food Guide (um rather industry). I am extremely frustrated and they are not interested in making changes. The caterer will not communicate with parents directly about the food and will also not provide ingredients (I would think that if someone is truly proud of the healthy food they provide they would be more than happy to share recipes/ingredients). Is this too much to ask? I just think that it is sad that all of the other parents either don't know any different, don't care or don't have the time because of demanding lives. Thank you for being a sane voice.