Rant - February 20, 2008 - Joanne

Call it: Bad Fruit or Good Cookies - Which is the better choice?

In answer to the child obesity problem our local school district has a “no sugary treats as reward” policy. I'm pleased that they have stepped up to make a statement (of course this come from the same school that considers corn dogs a healthy lunch entrée).

One step forward: This policy means kids don't get to bring cake or cupcakes to school on their birthday and that school parties should contain healthy foods. The idea of the school policy is to show kids that rewards should be healthy foods. I'm sure that fruit and vegetables are generally healthier than most sweet treats but I still have some issues with this policy. I'd also like to (reaching for the sky!) see sustainable, seasonal and local tacked onto the program.

Valentine's Party Food

As a Valentine's party treat, the class was enlisted to bring in non-sugar laden red and pink foods to match the party theme. The suggestions that the kids came up with were things like: strawberries, raspberries, cherries, red grapes, cranberries, cranberry juice, ham, beets, salumi, apples, watermelon and strawberry or cherry yogurt. When candy was suggested the re-suggestion was no or if they “had to” then sugar free candy – like sugar free red licorice. These sound like good alternatives to cupcakes and cookies, right?

The whole thing makes me growl. One issue with the list is that "healthier" in this instance includes industrial yogurt and cranberry juice which I consider sugar laden (usually HFCS or even a better brand, white grape juice). Then there is the whole sugar-free category, which usually means sweetened with a sugar substitute.

But in the end, it's that SUGAR IS BAD statement that makes my skin crawl. Is sugar bad? All sugar? How about honey bran muffins, cookies sweetened with maple syrup, date or palm sugar. Kids can get just as hyper crazy on fruit sugar, but I do agree it is a better choice to eat whole fruit than sugary treats. Still, part of me would rather my son eat homemade, good quality cookies than out-of-season non-organic grapes and strawberries. If you haven’t read this NY Times article on diet soda, you should.

Chilean Cherries

Perhaps bad fruit is better than good cookies? That's the message the school wants to make. To their credit, perhaps the school district realizes that the sweet treats kids would bring in would likely be pre-packaged or grocery store bakery products containing less than wholesome ingredients. That's been my experience. So instead parents go to that same grocery store and buy non-organic, non-seasonal fruit shipped from the southern hemisphere. I cringe when Trent eats a non-organic grape or strawberry – I really do.

There's obviously something terribly wrong with me, that, in my mind, a chocolate chip cookie made with organic butter, sugar, flour and eggs by a parent's hand is a better choice than the out-of-season non-organic fruit, the confinement factory farmed ham, the high fructose corn syrup sweetened factory yogurt or the grape juice sweetened fruit juice picked up at the grocery store.

Perhaps I’m just out of line. After all, I’m just a Mom.

Watermelon in February in California

What do you think?
Jack says...

Schools and parents seem to be in a no-win situation here because most kids are fed/eat such a high percentage of unhealthy food that Everything to do with Kid Food now seems to be a Compromise.

My vote goes to the cookies, as kids should be given and encouraged to eat food made from quality ingredients. Even if it's cookies.

And as for sugar-free candy and such; this isn't really food - just say no!

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