Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Parental "No" Files: My Kids Edition

(Not actually my kids' camp's "canteen")
Last week two of my kids attended camp at a local community center.

As part of their camp life, each and every day my kids' respective groups of 5 and 8 year olds were purposely paraded by the community center's "canteen" and were encouraged/allowed to buy themselves some junk food.  And each and every day my kids watched as their friends bought potato chips, candy, and chocolate bars.

We let them buy something on the last day - something we undoubtedly never would have done had their camp experience not purposely included planned junk food breaks and had they not been made to feel left out of the sugar on a daily basis.

The whole thing made me sad.  It made me sad that the camp was teaching young children that junk food is a normal part of everyday life; it made me sad that the camp was clearly choosing the community centre's profits over the kids' health; and it made me sad that my kids were made to feel left out because my wife and I don't think our 5 and 8 year olds need to eat junk food on a daily basis.

But clearly we could (and for the most part did) just say, "No".  But do our "Nos" excuse or indemnify the community center for literally pushing junk food on extremely little children day in and day out?

When looking at the societal overconsumption of empty calories by our children do you really want to hold onto the notion that it's consequent to an insufficient quantity of parental nos?  Using my kids' experiences as an example - shouldn't we be striving as a society to ensure that the default changes such that if parents and kids want to consume daily junk food they need to consciously choose to go out of their way to do so rather than have the default be a community center camp parade kids as young as 5 in front of a daily junk food salad bar?

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  1. Anonymous7:48 am

    I love the "parental no" series - it makes me feel less mean. I am a mom of four children who strives to feed them healthy, whole foods. I have to say "no" constantly to fake, processed, chemically produced non-foods because they are everywhere. The schools encourage it (we have "fun lunch" once a month at school as a fundraiser - the school ships in McDonald's for this special "treat"). Parents should not have to work this hard to keep junk out of our children's daily lives. I'm all for treats occasionally - especially real, homemade ones. But it is constant - jolly ranchers handed out as prizes for good behavior at school, popsicles and fake juice given out on hot days at recess...the list is endless. Somewhere along the line we were convinces, as a society, that childhood is synonymous with sugar. No childhood is complete without a steady stream of it apparently. And of course the food companies love to oblige.

    1. Anonymous10:59 am

      Well, I'd say once a month is a special treat.

    2. Rebecca1:33 pm

      Maybe once a month is a treat. But maybe I want to be the one to treat my kids not the school.

    3. Anonymous1:48 am

      I sympathize with parents who try hard to feed their children healthy diets. Luckily the new food bill in Ontario will combat some of the junk food in schools. As a teacher, I have to say that the majority of the children in my kindergarten class come to school with lunch bags full of processed and packaged foods, often laden with sugar and additives. Despite constant encouragement from myself (via newsletters and info sent home). I also find that parent councils are the culprits when in comes to food days. Teachers often don't organize the special food days and if they did (at least in my school board) I know we certainly would not support pizza, McDonalds, Sundae day etc. Perhaps joining your school's Parent Council is one way to have more of a voice in preventing the sale and distribution of junk food in your child's school. I congratulate you for being a diligent and informed parent when it comes to your child's health. Unfortunately, many parents, especially in lower income neighbourhoods where I have taught in the past 8 years certainly need more guidance and help when it comes to packing healthy lunches.

  2. I hope my boys' camp next week does not incorporate junk food into their day. Now I feel like I should call and ask. My oldest starts grade 1 in September and I am already dreading pizza and hotdog day:( We talk about the reasons we do not eat certain foods and why it is important that we fuel our bodies with whole foods. My son is very accepting of 'missing out' but will he tolerate it every week? I struggle sometimes to stay strong on our families food choices and his participation in school activities. One thing I plan to do is switch our family pizza night where we make pizza loaded with veggies on the night before the school pizza day so he can bring our leftovers.

  3. Anonymous8:46 am

    We had the same experience with a daycamp last year...but am happy to report that we have had a great experience this summer at another summer camp where my daughter's normally uncool homemade, no garbage lunches are getting her a ton of positive attention from a group of healthy, positive university-age counsellors. The counsellors made a big fuss about her great homemade healthy lunch..asking for recipes, asking where she got the enviro-friendly containers. This little break from the parental no over the summer has been a treat....

    1. Anonymous10:39 am

      That's SO good to hear--too often the opposite happens.

  4. Anonymous10:19 am

    It's annoying isn't it?! Every outdoor community pool, splash park etc we have gone to this summer has a canteen loaded with junk. Of course the kids want some so this Mom spends a lot of time fighting the junk food battle. Honestly, on hot days I usually cave to a popsicle or a Mr. Freezie, hoping 80-100 calories of sugar is the least of the evils lurking in the canteen. I am an RD and have grown tired at my eldest rolling her eyes at me and muttering something about the indignity of not being allowed everything she sees because "my Mom is a dietitian" and have moved onto the tactic of the canteens "ripping us off" and we could make a healthier version home for cheaper. I am very thankful that the 2 camps my kid has attended here in Calgary requires lunch and snacks from home. The kids were not allowed to bring money for junk. One small blessing!

  5. Anonymous10:38 am

    It's amazing how we've all been conditioned to believe that no one--kids and adults alike--can go a few hours without food--and of course that sells more big food as choices are limited outside the home. The much-feared "starvation mode" takes days, but big food doesn't want anyone to know that!

  6. Check out what we did in Lexington Kentucky! In the summer of 2011, Parks and TNFC partnered to bring a healthier menu to the city’s Woodland and Southland Aquatic Centers. This menu— called Better Bites—featured eight healthy items promoted on large, brightly colored signs posted at concession stands and in other places around the two pool facilities.

  7. Anonymous11:04 am

    Our community library has a fantastic reading program for the kids over summer and each week if they have done their required amount of reading they get a prize. My 5 year old son and my 3 year old daughters prizes? Tongue tattoos?? I thought it was a fake tattoo and then had to tell them they couldn't have it because it was just plain old candy! Thankfully the tears only lasted for about 25 seconds and they carried on with their day. This HAS to change!!! Haven't we reached the tipping point YET?!