Kids, crackers and the ridiculous state of food in our schools.
Editor’s Note: Kristen Bartkiw sent her children off to school with a packed lunch of roast beef, potatoes, carrots, oranges and milk, but according to Manitoba’s Early Learning and Child Care Department she had “neglected” to include “grains.” As a consequence the school provided Ritz Crackers to supplement the lunch. To add insult to injury, they fined Kristen $10 for failing to provide a “balanced” meal.
Douglas Jay has a thing or two to say about the ridiculous state of food in our schools and why kids don’t need to be conned into eating well.
Now, these chocolate brownies aren’t just chocolate brownies. They have had beetroot and courgette carefully disguised in them, they won’t even taste the difference between this and a normal chocolate brownie. The very nice dinner lady looked pleased with herself, witnessing the reaction of the parents. What a clever idea, let’s fool our children into getting 2 of their 5 a day.
My reaction was slightly different. “What a fucking stupid idea,” I thought. My reason was simple. My oldest son Logan likes courgette. It might be hard to believe but he also likes beetroot. He doesn’t need to be conned or tricked. He needs to be encouraged and educated, just like every other child that has just entered Primary 1.
This was parents open house day. One of the proudest days of my life, getting to see where my little boy was going to grow and develop. It was all going amazing. Until that moment.
My partner Clare knew that the food situation would piss me off, but reminded me that not everybody thinks like I do. So, fine, I let the chocolate brownie thing go.
“Next, we have a chicken nuggets. Yes, it looks exactly like a chicken McNugget, but this one has been made with a low fat batter.”
“So this is healthier?, I asked.
“Oh yes, we want to make all of our foods as low in fat as possible.”
I guess this means that the breakfast of smoked salmon and peppers that I give my children, and they adore, means I am contributing to their future ill health. What I should really be giving them is a fake chicken McNugget, with mashed potatoes and two pieces of carrot fluff. A plate of beige, white, and a wee bit of orange. Fantastic.
Children’s food plates should be green, yellow, red, bright orange, crunchy, yummy, nutritious and energy providing. A plate like this would give my son the energy to play in the playground, after lunch, run home, go swimming/footballing/kickboxing, do his homework well, sleep soundly, and wake up buzzing the next day to do it all again.
Yesterdays school meal was bread crumbed fish, chips and soggy peas. This would give a child the energy to wander around the playground, get picked up at the school gates in the car and then be taken home to play the Xbox. Honestly. If Jamie Oliver knew he would probably come all the way to Perthshire to punch the dinner ladies in the face.
Now I am not such an asshole that I don’t have treats in the house. I love nothing more than coming home from work and sharing ice cream with my boys and girlfriend. But I am also very proud of the fact that when my children say they are hungry and want a snack they reach for an apple or banana or orange instead of a Ritz Cracker. It sounds scary but I think I am the only parent out of my local friends whose children do this. Come to think of it, I’m the only parent locally who is not overweight.
The biggest role models are in the home. It’s time to take food education seriously, both for ourselves and for those we love.