My Son’s School Food Update

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Life is moving forward here, little by little. My son’s kindergarten year is going well. Last year Charlie was in a private kindergarten on a farm. Public kindergarten has been an education for him in many ways. He does say, “I don’t like school,” a lot. It’s tough to hear, but we don’t have a choice — he’s going to this school and it’s a good one.

Last year on the farm was a special experience. It was a group of eight and most of what they did was experiential. Charlie made some progress with his reading and writing, but the year was mostly focused on social learning. At the end of the year he won the “Hugs and Kisses” award because he was so affectionate with his teacher and his classmates.

This year I know he has gotten in trouble for talking. His class is just 15 kids, which is a nice intro to the public setting. He likes his teacher, but he doesn’t like the work. I know that he feels pushed, but his reading and writing skills are just speeding along. His math ability is well above average and the teacher has been able to offer him some tough stuff.  It’s great to see him blossom in new ways this year, even though it hasn’t been perfect.

In a previous blog post, I mentioned that Charlie had taken an interest in eating the breakfast at school, even though it wasn’t gluten free. I gritted my teeth and let him have a little independence. I don’t think gluten works for Charlie, but he doesn’t have a formal diagnosis of Celiac’s disease. I’m totally gluten free and when I’ve eaten gluten through cross-contamination (eating “gluten free” at a restaurant and having the food be prepared in such a way that it comes in contact with gluten), I’ve been sick. But Charlie doesn’t get sick like me. So, at minimum, a little gluten doesn’t seem to effect him. That being said, he only gets gluten in special Chinese foods about once a month or in those accidental situations.

Well, after a few weeks, Charlie lost interest in the breakfast program at school. I admit that I was relieved. Because I’m not able to be at Charlie’s school, I can’t see what is served. Frankly, I’m just happy that he’s not eating gluten at school.

Since I’m not in the cafeteria and I can only gain so much information from the monthly menus that are sent home, I don’t know what the kids are eating at my son’s school. He’s in half-day kindergarten and eats the lunches I pack outside of the school as part of his care program.

However, I am aware of the school’s rules on party and snack food and they are strict. Kids can only eat snacks that are vegetables, fruit, or cheese (Other schools in our district only allow veggies and fruit so the cheese is a bonus for us, I guess). Additionally, only water in the classroom — no gatorade or juice. No cupcakes, no cookies, no sugar.

The rationale for the food policy is not to avoid obesity. From what I have gathered, the strict rules are because of food allergies. The school wants to avoid any accidental exposures and I respect that.

After sending cheese sticks with my son for weeks, he stopped eating them after awhile. They probably were warm — yuck! Then I started sending baby carrots, but he just didn’t eat them. So I stopped sending a snack because the truth is that he doesn’t even need a snack.

His birthday came and went and I didn’t send a thing with him to school. He didn’t complain about not having anything because no one gets cupcakes at school. I didn’t even send goodie bags with cheap plastic junk. I could have even sent pencils, but I didn’t. That weekend I held a birthday party for him at the bowling alley and I decided that the party was enough — I didn’t need to give goodie bags to each kid afterwards. I know what happens with the goodie bags of cheap trinkets made in China that we get after the parties Charlie goes to: the junk ends up rolling around our house until I just toss them in the garbage when Charie’s not looking. My light bulb moment was that other parents would probably appreciate not receiving goodie bags.

The take-away for any school food activists reading would be to emphasize severe food allergies when revising school snack policy. They don’t pan peanut butter at lunch, but they do have a “peanut free” table. Our neighbor’s son goes to the same school as my son and he is tactically allergic to peanuts. That means that if he simply *touches* peanut butter, he might have a deadly anaphylactic reaction. As a parent and an educator, this terrifies me. He could just high five someone who had peanut butter on toast for breakfast and need to use an epi-pen. A veggie/fruit/cheese snack policy is wise indeed.

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7 Responses to My Son’s School Food Update

  1. Kt January 19, 2015 at 9:52 am #

    As a dietitian and school food service director, I can tell you that it’s not the schools choice (most often) to not have a strict policy regarding what to do in the classroom. Our district nurse and I have been trying to establish a policy for classroom snacks for years. Unfortunately, it’s most often the parents who oppose policy for the reasons you stated above. Most kids get sick of eating the same type of snack everyday and parents find it easier to offer something prepackaged than actually take the time to cut up fruit and veggies for their kids. I’m not saying all parents are this way!

    My suggestion would be to push for this at your schools so that your voices are louder than those who oppose it!

    • Mrs Q January 19, 2015 at 11:30 pm #

      Thank you for your input. I didn’t realize. I’m grateful for the policy because it really is good for kids.

  2. AmyRyb January 19, 2015 at 10:11 am #

    This is none of my business, clearly, but have you considered getting Charlie tested for Celiac Disease? A year and a half ago my five-year-old son’s behavior changed rather suddenly and we got some bloodwork done to see if there might be an imbalance causing it. We were shocked when the results came back looking very possibly like Celiac Disease! He’d complained of some stomach aches, but nothing debilitating like one would assume. He’d also had some constipation issues, which was the opposite of what I would have assumed for a Celiac. He had the biopsy a month later, and sure enough, Celiac Disease it was. He’s been gluten-free ever since. It’s hard to know how sensitive he is at this point, as he’s only been clearly glutened a couple times and beyond that it’s hard to tell. My point is simply that he only had a couple minor symptoms so we never would have known had we not gotten the bloodwork done. My concern is that if Charlie is not tested and you don’t know for sure, he could be getting damage in his intestines that can have long-term consequences.

    Also, I’m grateful for my son’s school policies, although the no birthday treat policy apparently doesn’t impact classroom activities, as they do food projects for holidays (cookie frosting at Halloween, something involving Oreos at Thanksgiving, gingerbread houses at Christmas, and food counting for the 100th Day celebration coming up….UGH). However, as much as it scares me, I’m sort of grateful for their leniency on peanut butter, only because it’s hard enough and expensive enough to feed him already. But if they banned it, I wouldn’t hesitate to switch to a different butter and leave it at that. But financially I have a hard time justifying it if the current setup is working OK. He shows concern for his friend with an allergy, so he knows to wash up. It’s all so much more complicated than when we were in school!

    • Mrs Q January 19, 2015 at 11:34 pm #

      I want to get him tested but now that he’s gluten free I don’t think the tests would be valid. I think he has to consume gluten for 12 weeks. When I was eating gluten I got blood work done that showed I was “fine.” I’ve since met someone with Celiac disease who had negative blood work but had a positive biopsy. My doctor said I didn’t need the biopsy. What a mistake. But there’s no way I would eat gluten for 12 weeks. It turns out I’m extremely sensitive to gluten. Additionally my great aunt has a confirmed diagnosis of Celiac so there is a family history. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Katie January 21, 2015 at 6:38 am #

    I am in awe of the strict food guidelines at Charlie’s school! Kudos to the school (& parents who likely pushed for the guidelines) My little guy has life threatening food allergies (milk, egg, peanut, sesame seed) and I’m already worrying about accidental exposure to allergens at school – and he is only 3! Food is everywhere and accidents will happen.

    Unless he outgrows some of his allergies, I know there is a ton of lunch packing in my future 🙂

    • Mrs Q January 22, 2015 at 9:18 pm #

      Navigating the school environment is a whole new animal, Katie. Even with school-based work experience, it feels like I’ve entered a new stage. Not entirely enjoyable! Sending my best to you!! 🙂

  4. Becky January 29, 2015 at 5:03 pm #

    Do you think your son may have simply outgrown any possible food allergies? Forgive my ignorance as I’m not a parent nor have I allergies but I thought it was possible that kids outgrow minor allergies. Myou’ve said he has chosen to eat pancakes, etc. at school with no adverse effects – if you’re truly worried that he has a chronic condition wouldn’t it make sense to put him on a regular diet and then have him tested?

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