Children’s Food Bill of Rights by Mrs. Q

I can’t find anything remotely similar to this online so I wrote it myself:

Children’s Food Bill of Rights

(Assumptions: Children are not small adults, but are growing and developing. Additionally children are not responsible for what they can eat as it is provided by parents and schools.)

1) Parents have the right to advocate for their children because children have no voice or real power.

2) Children deserve to be treated with respect and dignity in the food choices adults make on their behalf.

3) Parents and schools have the obligation to seek out the healthiest and freshest food available to optimize the development of children.

4) Children must eat food free of contaminants including but not limited to toxic metals (such as lead), trans fats, and fillers and as well as artificial sweeteners and preservatives where possible.

5) Children should not be targeted by fast food advertisements from corporations. See Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood

6) Parents have the right to access all nutritional information for the foods that their children eat regardless of where it is consumed (school, community, home).

7) Children regardless of poverty level should have equal access to fresh food at minimum when they are on school grounds.

8) Fast food corporations will be banned from any participation on school grounds including food service and “gift card” rewards.

9) Children have the right to nutritional education including information about healthy eating based on the latest in nutritional science and evidence-based research and if possible basic cooking skills provided by schools in situations where parents are unable to do so.

10) Children have the right to enough time to properly consume a meal without being rushed. The time to consume a meal shall include time to quietly socialize with thier peers or those they are at the table with.

11) Children also have the right to utensils, including, at the proper age, forks and knives.

12) Children have the right to interact with soil and seeds in the classroom or in a school or home garden wherever possible.

Anything else you would like to see changed or added to the list?

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44 thoughts on “Children’s Food Bill of Rights by Mrs. Q

  1. Better School Food created a you tube Children's Bill of Rights many years ago.
    This was done from start to finish by a 13 yr old middle school student who wanted to help us. The kids were children of BSF board members.

    Would love to re-create a video like this using both your and Ed's concepts. It's a good way to get the message out.

  2. Children have the right to enough time to properly consume a meal without being rushed. The time to consume a meal shall include time to quietly socialize with thier peers or those they are at the table with.

    Children also have the right to utensils, including, at the proper age, forks and knives.

  3. Amen!

    Yeah for the last day! Congratulations.

    (perhaps add artificial colors to 1, can't believe that England realized how bad these are and banned them, but the US claims there isn't enough info to show they cause harm-why do we have to prove chemicals harm every kid? if they are not necessary, negatively affecting one kid should be enough to pull them. It's not like they are benefitting millions of people so we don't want to ban something good…ok sorry for my rant. Just annoyed that these companies have found ways to sell their products without these things in Europe, but purposefully make them with worse ingredients in the US.

  4. I feel that number four is very important. Maybe you could possibly consider moving it up on the list?

  5. /agree wholeheartedly!
    @d12brown: the district that I worked at this past spring only allows students and staff 20 minutes for lunch, start to finish. That includes the time it takes standing in line to get what passes for lunch.

  6. I would begin with the 10th and then 9th statements, as they provide the overarching philosophy.

  7. Can you get this drawn up and passed around to be signed? Get enough signatures and send it to ?? Maybe something could happen.

  8. Totally agree with the time to socialize. I think all children should have the right to have a break during lunch, being allowed to talk and plenty of time to finish their food.

    At my son's school, they make kids sit at a table by themselves in the middle of the lunchroom as punishment for things such as not completing assignments.

    Then they wonder why the "problem" children have trouble getting along with others!

  9. So well said! Thank you so much for this project. I know it has been a large consumer of your time and energy and worry but it has been so helpful to so many. And, as a retired teacher, I agree with the commenter about allowing more time for lunch.
    Enjoy your summer and REST!!!!!!

  10. I would also add the amount of time to properly eat as well. My son would rather skip eating something if it means he could not talk to his friend. Our school does not let the class eat until everyone is thru the line and then they have 10 min of silent lunch after that they can talk for the next 5/10 minutes. Of course no food usually gets consumed after the silent time.

  11. I think this needs to be sent to the President!!! You have covered the essentials.

  12. Food providers shouldn't give children food that the food providers wouldn't eat themselves.
    Chances are they wouldn't give the kids such horrible food if they knew what it tasted like!

    And I agree with Number 6.

  13. As an aside in regards to a previous comment of mine:

    I would encourage everyone to look at the US Preventative Task Force site and see what the actual recommendations are for preventative testing and such. Of course everyone should have preventative testing- but there's often some misunderstandings about what is actually necessary and recommended. These guidelines are evidence-based and typically guide docs in what they order. Take a look at the screening for cholesterol (lipids)… I encourage everyone to have frank discussions with their physicians when requesting bloodwork.

    Great job… happy detoxing this summer 🙂 I am a former elementary teacher myself so I am all too familiar with the crap that ferments in the lunch lines. I taught in a poor school district, and I honestly don't see how it could have been any different. Every single one of the kids was on the free breakfast and lunch program. The kids and parents were destitute- they had no food at home sometimes- they were certainly not advocating to have healthy food served in the schools. They were thankful for anything! I hated it when the kids were served "super donut" as the breakfast entree. As a physician I try to counsel all parents on healthy eating for their children. It's a struggle with the destitute parents who can barely afford food in the first place. Very sad.

    Dr. E

  14. I don't agree with all of number one, and I don't know if it is possible in any environment. Lead, trans fats, and fillers, I'm ok with. But artificial sweeteners and preservatives are in too many things for them to be taken away from the entirety of a child's diet. With the way corn is subsidized in the United States, it is almost impossible to find any pre-packaged sweet made with sugar instead of corn syrup. And unless you want to eat a diet made solely of fresh fruits, veggies, and meat, preservatives are a part of life. Maybe ideally they wouldn't be there-but when I eat processed food, I'd rather eat something that I know is a stable product and won't spoil. Let's face it-we live in a society where there will always be processed foods. Do I think kids need to eat fresh foods more often? Of course, especially after seeing the lunches you eat. But I do not think it is practical or reasonable to expect schools or parents to not be able to feed their children a piece of candy, or a bag of chips, or any sort of pre-made treat containing preservatives every now and then.

  15. Please include something in number 7 about accurate, up-to-date, and/or evidence-based nutrition education. The food pyramid is junk science and heavily influenced by corporations.

    I like it.

  16. yeah please add d12brown's suggestions.

    children have the right to several healthy choices for meals, so that children with special dietary needs and allergies can fully participate in school lunch with their peers.

  17. I agree that parents should have access to the ingredient listing of the cafeteria menu options.

    I agree with the time period to eat. The previous school I taught in allowed 45 minutes total for lunch. My current school (in a different state) allows 30 total. By the time I get to sit down and eat my lunch, I have maybe 15-20 minutes to eat myself before I need to pick up my class. Interesting note: most of the stomach aches that occur in class happen after lunch, most likely because the kids are gulping down what they do eat.

    Also, I think children should have a right to a rainbow of food choices for breakfast and lunch; no more monochromatic palettes! Something like green grapes and oranges. Something to add color to the plate. Aren't we sending messages to eat a rainbow a day? How can kids do that–especially those who have breakfast and lunch at school–if the options aren't there?

    I also think serving sizes for growing children should be changed to benefit them more. In my school, a serving of salad is about 1/4 cup (like 8 pieces of chopped lettuce!) and a serving of fruit is half an orange. And of course, the serving sizes are the same for a first grader as a fifth grader. The nutritional needs for each are different. Maybe a tiered lunch for the primary and secondary grades. For example, allow the older students a few more options to add to their lunch trays? Half an orange, 8 pieces of lettuce, 1 cup of milk (or water) and a sandwich doesn't cut it!

  18. Here Here!

    I especially believe that kids have the right to nutritional education and cooking education. I hear so often parents labeling themselves by saying 'I don't cook'. And that places themselves and their children at the mercy of food processors. Our grandmothers are slowly passing on and not enough of our mothers know the art of turning a pantry of ingredients into a healthful, balanced and tasty meal. This puts us into a very dangerous position because there is little cooking training happening at home. We are within one generation of being a nation that doesn't know how to cook. How can we possibly care for ourselves if we don't know how to cook!

    I used to think of Home Economics (and cooking) as a waste of an elective credit for high school students. Now that I am an adult, I feel that it is an important part of learning to be self sufficient. If children are not being taught nutrition and cooking at home, I feel it is a huge opportunity for schools to step in.

  19. I don't think artificial sweeteners should be banned when used in moderation. There are diabetics in this world.

  20. I agree with them, too! Something needs to be in there about providing children a quality breakfast, too. We have many kids at my school who receive free breakfast and lunch, but I wouldn't qualify it as "quality breakfast". They get breakfast pizza, donuts, junk. Very little good food.

  21. Oh, and our students (this year anyway) have about 20 minutes to eat and then 25+ minutes to play for recess. Most scarf their food down so they can go play as soon as allowed! I can't complain about recess for my kids (3 times a day, plus before school if they are there on time!)

  22. Schools cannot use the word "healthy" on the menu – even if the USDA guidelines are met – if some lunches are nutritionally front-loaded, and others are nearly devoid of nutrition.

    Beyond the marketing you describe, branded items should not be used in schools or described by brand name on menus.

  23. Thank you for exposing this online! I am a teacher going into my 12th year and I am constantly appalled by the school lunches served. Schools should definitely look into other options. In AZ, Jason's Deli offers fresh, healthy foods for a reasonable rate, but most schools won't even look into it due to free/reduced lunch programs or they think parents won't want to pay $3 for a decent lunch for their children. Additionally, the crap parents pack in lunch boxes is just disgusting! WHERE'S THE BEEF??? Lack of protein and way too much processed, high sugar foods have these kids literally bouncing off the classroom walls unable to concentrate, stay awake and learn the way they should be. Take this to Washington and let's educate those parents to not only purchase but pack those fresh foods!!!

  24. While I understand your concerns and your desire to see that America's children receive better nutrition, I object to you use of the word "right". A "right" is something that does not require the forced labor of another individual, which is exactly what you are proposing. In order to achieve the "rights" you describe above, it will require the taxing of one segment of society to pay for another. That is not a "right" – that is slavery. You assume that the school is the only source for lunch. It clearly is not. If parents are not satisfied with the food the school serves, they have the option of packing lunches for their children. Why is it the responsibility of the government to provide food at all? Where is the responsibility of the parents???? As for the marketing of fast food to children, again, who is doing the buying?? Shouldn't the parents be doing that??

    Secondly, food does NOT need to be fresh to be of high nutritional value. Canned tomatoes, canned beans, and canned fruit (if packed in juice) are all perfectly acceptable and in some cases, are preferable to fresh foods. I find it interesting that you demand that students have access to "scientifically based" nutrition information and yet disregard it when determining what should be served for lunch in school cafeterias.

    Can we improve the nutritional value of what is served in schools across America? Yes. However, blanket bans and statements such as "food should be free of contaminants" make a good sound bites, but really isn't constructive or helpful to the discussion. Who gets to decide what a "contaminant" is? For some people that would include "corn fed beef" – to others it would not. Who gets to decide?

  25. I hate to have to point out the obvious but you left one out…Parents have the right to feed their OWN DANG CHILDREN whatever they want and quit complaining about what they get or don't get free from the taxpayers who don't have children and don't want to pay state mandated child support for your kids. you had 'em through your own choice, you feed 'em.

  26. I think the list is great! I do, however, wish something was included in the list regarding the child labor that is permitted by federal law in agriculture. I think children shouldn't be exploited to pick these fruits and vegetables that at the end of the day they can't afford, especially when the produce is covered in pesticides. Could you include something concerning this issue in your list?

  27. Not sure about the use of the word "right". Children have the right to have dirt and seeds in their classrooms… "right" implies that this is something that children are being actively prevented from doing. If teachers have the ability to have a little garden in the classroom, great. I would venture to guess there's many teachers out there who don't have a clue as to how to grow a cucumber.

    For that matter… teachers aren't always the healthiest individuals. Think about the obese colleagues you have, or have known of. I'd venture to guess that their knowledge on nutrition and growing foods is lacking. How can they model healthy eating and harvesting skills that kids can emulate? It's an interesting quandary.

  28. @Nancy — we are already paying for school lunches and I believe changes could be made to make them healthier without major increases. Additionally canned goods contain BPA in the lining of the cans.

    Parents should feed their own kids, but many parents don't have the money.

  29. I have a bit of an issue with number 8. While children should definitely not be eating fast food every day for lunch, as a rare treat fast food is fine. While my elementary school didn't provide hot lunches at all, parents could prearrange (and pay) for their child to receive a fast food lunch every second Friday. While I had a healthy lunch every day, packed by my mother, those "hot lunch days" were some of the most memorable and fun of my time in elementary school.

    Further, the following news story covers a recent change in the way schools in BC, Canada serve hot lunches and how a pizza chain adjusted itself to ensure that children got a healthy lunch.

    Healthy lunches are extremely important but arbitrarily excluding some of the largest food providers in the world ensures that they can't be part of the solution while simultaneously taking a rare treat away from the kids.

  30. Rock On Mrs. Q! We decided, this past school year that our children were done with school "lunches" ( a loose term if there ever were one!). We packed their lunches every day! Was it a lot of work and planning – you bet! Did we get tired of it – heck yes! But, on the last day of school, when we reminded them that they hadn't bought any school food, they thanked us. No better reward than that!

  31. AWESOME idea. Although we packed our kids lunches I was/am continually upset at the idea of slushie machines, ice creams, and fast food. How can they expect children to learn when they feed them food guaranteed to make their bodies and brains shut down?

  32. Children have the right to enjoy their food, and to be free from fear of punishment if they don't eat everything on their plates. At one school I worked in if a child took too much of something from the salad bar, the cafeteria aids would force him or her to finish it. Children need to be taught the value of "take only what you can eat" so as not to waste food, but under no circumstances should they be punished by force-feeding.

  33. The only thing here that I can acknowledge as a right is your first point, and that only if you are writing from the view point of a U.S. citizen. We have the right to free speech under the First Amendment. I don't see any of your other points as being rights. A right is not whatever we want it to be, and it certainly isn't what the Government tells us it is. Most of your points seem to be better understood if they are considered to be the responsibilities of parents and guardians.

    It is the responsibility of a parent to educate themselves regarding the best ways to raise their children and then choose the alternatives that will work in their family. I find it offensive that a stranger would tell me that I am obligated to feed my children this or that based on their opinion, or their understanding of what the "science" says. I am an adult, and I am fully capable of making choices for my family. If my choices aren't optimal in your opinion, that is really none of your business no matter how well meaning you may be.

    It is said that it takes a village to raise a child. I am just glad that I can move to a different village. It would be a village that doesn't consider me part of the Borg, and won't usurp my role as a parent.

  34. We can pick on proper word usage but honestly this is just a distraction. Mrs. Q is speaking to a larger issue. The issue that big business has set up an environment where it would be next to impossible for a parent to feed their child with confidence. To read a label these days means to know all of the exceptions and exemptions surrounding policies governing label laws. You would have to know, while standing in the grocery store that artifical sweetners are implicated in neurological damage even though it isn't shared with the public. They would also have to have the time to plan for, shop for , prepare, cook, eat, and then clean up after feeding the children but have to do so while just returning home after long shifts that take them into the supper hour before even turning on the stove. There are so many levels that cause hurdles in our society that prevent the optimal choice of feeding our own children. Choosing to have children wouldn't make a difference in reality since people's circumstances change…not many people PLAN on being poor and for many it happens through no fault of their own. If we want to be realistic as stated earlier we need to take notice of all of the compromises made in order to feed our kids. Because compromises exist does not mean they are appropriate. Nutrition should not EVER be compromised. WE ARE NUTRITION. And I don't know if anyone has noticed but it is no longer a "once in a while" situation where parents or institutions feed their children an artifically sweetened candy. Give your head a shake. It's daily, if not multiple times daily. Mrs Q is bang on. Our children do have the "right" to all of what is listed. As for artifical sweetners needed for the "diabetics" out there…you'd be amazed at how quickly type 2 diabetes becomes manageable with whole, nutritious foods. I myself am one of them, and I stay away from sweetners with a ten foot pole.
    Thank you Mrs Q. Our children will one day look at us, after realizing how malnutritioned our diets have become and simply ask us how we could justify doing that. How could we allow ourselves to become so distracted from the need for real nutrition, even though young children all around us were presenting with adult onset diseases at rates previously unheard of. And they have every right to ask this of us, when the time comes. There are no excuses and there are always solutions. If talking heads actually got together, having "fresh" or "canned" without poisonous linings mind you, foods is not in reality a hurdle. It just gets implemented differently.

  35. 6) Parents have the right to access all nutritional information for the foods that their children eat regardless of where it is consumed (school, community, home).

    This sounds good, but a co-worker of mine saw a news story about a school where this policy ended up meaning that birthday treats and bake sales and such could only use packaged foods, since home-baked stuff doesn't have the requisite labeling.

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