Parents’ lunch box “error” sparks debate about snack shaming

Posted in School.

A teacher’s note, flagging the poor nutritional value of an element of a child’s lunch, has been shared on Facebook by a friend of the family and it’s sparked some heated debate.

Red food alert!

The pro-forma note alerted the family to the fact that their 3-year-old’s kindergarten lunchbox contained a “red food”.

“Please choose healthier options for kindy,” the sad-face illustrated message said.

The mum in question shared the nutritional reprimand with her friend, Melinda, who posted it to Facebook, and here we are:

“My friend (mother of 8 healthy children, what follows relating to no. 7) received this today from her 3 year old’s kindy. I told her to put in two slices tomorrow and tell them to get lost,” Melinda posted.

“Just to throw this into the mix my friend and her husband both have degrees in health science,” she elaborated, in support of her pals.

“My friend makes everything from scratch for her kids including bread and serves fresh healthy food everyday.”

Mixed response

Suddenly everyone was putting their two-cents worth in, and the reactions were varied and passionate.

Some people were worried that the 3-year-old may have felt embarrassed by the note – “How much shame is the child experiencing?”

Some people felt the teacher was over-stepping – “Mind your own business. You are not my child’s parent. Neither should you be the food police.”

Others thought the note was insensitive – “I think the way it’s delivered is humiliating. Why not send home a letter to all parents saying what’s allowed and what’s not.”

Some people thought the teacher – and indeed the kindergarten’s policy – was sensible and to be applauded – “I don’t have a problem with this. Could be a bit better communicated perhaps.”

Some people were keen to offer suggestions about appropriate, combative responses. And others pointed out that a slice that LOOKED like it might be unhealthy, could be packed with high quality, nutritional ingredients (hidden veggies, anyone?!)

Varied much?!

Little girl looking surprised with hands over mouth

Just doing their job

Of course, the busy teacher in question would simply be doing their best to comply with the kindergarten’s standard policy on nutrition and lunches/snacks.

These policies are always clearly explained on enrolment or at the beginning of term, but they may pass parents by in the rush to start the year.

This particular family has eight kids, so it’s easy to see that some of the detail of the 2017 kinder food policy may have eluded the parents, in this case.

OR the slice may have been totally healthy and unfairly judged. It’s hard to know.

An across-the-board, clear policy goes a long way toward ensuring that all families are on the same page when it comes to what’s in kids’ lunch boxes, though.

Traffic lights?

If you think of spaghetti Napoli and strawberries when you hear the words “red food”, you’re barking up a slightly different tree.

In schools, “red foods” are so-called for their place in a ‘traffic light system’ of nutritional value.

“Traffic light guidelines classify individual food and drink items as Green, Amber or Red according to nutritional value. And they’re often used in places where buying foods and drinks is optional, such as school canteens or food outlets,” says Nutrition Australia in a post on their Facebook page.

Nutrition Australia have clarified that this system is not generally recommended for day care or kindergartens, as children bring a lunch box from home or are supplied meals on site.

“The healthy eating focus here is to ensure children get enough foods from each food group throughout the day,” they report.

“A good rule of thumb is that morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea should provide a child with around 50% of their recommended daily intake from each food group. But specific policies and guidelines can vary state to state, centre to centre.”

They recommend contacting your local department of health or Nutrition Australia office to find out what information and support is available in your state or territory.


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