Wednesday, May 25, 2011

•high fructose preschool•

Warning, Gentle Readers. I'm on a tear. Emotionally-charged food issues ahead.

It shouldn't be this hard...

Last year, when Penn started preschool, I had some misgivings about the food he was being offered at snack-times. Those misgivings have blossomed into concrete-and-rebar road blocks over the course of the past 48 hours. What finally pushed me over the edge? Not sure. The Otter Pop incident was last month, and I spied the Skippy Peanut Butter on the counter a couple weeks back. The preschool kitchen is no stranger to trans-fat and sugar-saturated muffins, cookies, etc. I've sat on my hands all year, comfortable to be privately horrified, so why now? Maybe I'm just that slow. I suppose I finally took a minute to think. Anyway--today I brought in some "snack alternatives" for Penn, in a little container. Almonds, apriums, bananas to offer, instead of... what, exactly? This morning, "crackers" and "peanut butter" were set out for snack. Sounds benign, but I want Penn to take a break from Goldfish and Jif. (I cannot believe I have to say this out loud, or out blog, or whatever/wtF.) So now. I'm tasked with figuring out how to convey a set of standards, a set of guidelines, to help his (otherwise amazing) teachers keep him from eating junk. Don't feed Penn anything that isn't a whole food... don't let him have anything with added sugar... are these clear-cut enough parameters? I okayed cheese. But now that I actually think about this, I'm not sure cheese means cheese to everyone. If Fla-Vor-Ice made it through the castle wall, what's to stop Cheez Whiz? *strangled scream of frustration*

Does Penn ever eat processed food? Sure. But we, his parents, prefer to say when, how, and what. Unmitigated sugar intake leads to cravings for sugar, which leads to poor relationships with food. Poor food management is the reason for obesity (in 1/3 of Americans these days), inattentiveness, and myriad other maladies. The percentage of obese children in this country is higher than that of adults. Blah blah, everyone knows this, blah--but that means it's on us to teach the littles about food. It's our job to provide them with healthy stuff to munch. (Am I crazy? I feel like I'm in the twilight zone, with everyone insisting day is night and night is day.) Here we are, by the way, living in an educated, affluent part of California. Penn's school is private, rather expensive, and the kind of place that ought to know better than to serve kids a giant tube of frozen water and high fructose corn syrup. (Right???) Why, my boss rightly asks--why, oh, why are they feeding the children poison?

I don't know. And I suspect I'm going to make myself really unpopular, least of all with my poor son (who loves sugar just as much as the next human being). THIS SUCKS. It has been so much easier to roll my eyes and kvetch and not actually do anything. Packing date rolls and almonds and little carrot-chip-and-peanut butter sandwiches isn't hard to do, but it singles Penn out. And me. And now we're the hippies (we're the hippies?? Are you kidding me??) Did I mention I think this is ridiculous? On the bright side, the kid. My kid. Loves fruit and vegetables. He will survive. And it's summer. Apriums, berries, snap peas. Figs to the rescue.

This should be easy. This should be a no-brainer. I should be pulling myself up by the boot-straps. I should be in fine form (mountain pose, grin-and-bear-it, come on, Harv). I'm not.

This feels about as good as standing in the middle of the highway at dusk. Blinking, stupid, too scared to run or cry. xox

What I'm up against.


  1. You're a good mom - you're not crazy - trust your instincts. Good for you for doing what you think is right - it does make a difference. The fact that your littles already like and appreciate fruits and vegetables means that you are allies here, you haven't lost the battle - I think if you continue to offer wholesome foods whenever you can, even if elsewhere in this mad world they receive other messages about what is acceptable and nourishing to put in there mouths - they will make it through life okay. I don't have kids of my own yet so I can't *really* assure you this is true, but I feel the same as you about this issue and I admire you for standing firm. Maybe you could pack extra snacks that Penn could invite others to share - or what about offering to do a show & tell with wholesome snacks, tell stories about where food comes from, to make fruits and vegetables more interesting? Maybe talk to the other parents - perhaps there are more mums and dads, who like you, are frustrated and upset about the food issue but haven't felt like they could tackle it alone. I think the appeal of wholesome food is visceral, instinctual - not just intellectual or ethical, and that given the opportunity most people would choose 'healthier' foods because they taste awesome. Makes me think of Jamie Oliver's work with school lunch programs in the UK. Can this food issue be an opportunity for revolution and community building?
    Hang in there. You're not half-assed at all, mama.

  2. I'm quite surprised the school can serve peanut butter at all. When I worked as a preschool teacher, the snacks served were TERRIBLE! All over processed, over sugared junk, washed down with full sugar juices! Then we had sugar rush and sugar crashes. Awesome.
    Part of the problem is the processed foods are cheap and convenient. The school probably doesn't want to take the time to find healthy, inexpensive alternatives.

  3. Huge thanks to everyone for the love and support these past two weeks. A post with an update is coming soon! There is good news! xox

  4. Coming in late to this debate, I can't believe any pre-school serves peanut butter either! And I think Becca's right when she says the school probably don't spend the time or money on healthy alternatives. But I don't know if the system is different over here in the UK. I spent three months in a pre-school, and there were guidelines about what the children were allowed to eat and drink, with an emphasis on fruit and milk.

    For me personally, I have a child on a special diet, so I totally relate to being treated like a freaky, namby-pamby, over-protective parent. Even one of my son's specialists suggested I was behaving like a nutcase in persisting, but the diet works for him. It takes great strength to stand up for what you know is right for your child. And yes, I think every child will default to eating sugar and other rubbish if we let them. But what seems like common sense can press lots of buttons for people, like the teachers in this case, who have themselves grown up opening packets of biscuits, rather than sourcing natural, healthy alternatives. As Freeplaycrafts says, Lis, you hang in there gal!!