Should there even be ice-cream in school?
Last week I got very cross with my daughter’s PTA (Parent Teachers Association). On the Monday we were given a flyer through the school diary. It read-
Ice Cream Day
It was on the following Wednesday (in less than two days) it was the first I had heard of it. There was very clear and blatant branding on the flyer. The wonderful “insert brand” have donated ice cream for us to sell to your kids. We are selling ice-cream to the children on Wednesday- please provide your child with $xx for them to buy their ice-cream in school. For the PTA to profit from.
My daughter is 4 years old.
When she was 2 and she started going to Kindergarten we had to walk past 4/5 ice cream places to get to and from school. It was a mine field- so we introduced ice-cream Friday. It meant that we didn’t have to experience a melt down every single day going to and from school- we could simple say, “it’s not friday”. Don’t get me wrong- we make ice-cream at home, we buy good quality ice-cream with few ingredients and every so often they get terrible ice-cream at various intervals. I don not need her to be able to buy ice cream in school.
We do not call it a treat and I try to explain very clearly to both my kids (I also have a 2 year old) about what is real food and what is a chemical food. Which one does not give us anything for us to grow or develop and which makes us feel strong, balanced and full of energy. I want my kids to be able to make informed choices in their lives and to be able to nourish themselves- rather than pay into the ‘treat yourself’ vibe that marketing companies love so much to make us by utter crap for our bodies.
There are foods that do treat the body
When looking at real treat foods, we need to understand and appreciate the necessity of nutrients in our foods together with the ratios of macronutrients (fats, proteins and carbs) which are fundamental to health. You probably know by now how much I love healthy fats and how much they have changed my body, mind and spirit (they help me feel satisfied, safe and nourished). If not check out my articles and recipes here. Healthy fats are almost always missing from the cheap nutrient free ‘treat’ foods.
SO when I read Ice Cream Day at school I was cross- not necessarily because of the Ice-Cream (my daughter chose to switch days for the week). Although the ingredients in the ice cream in school were poor, cheap and mostly chemical, I was cross for the following reason;
My child was being used.
Used by “insert brand”. They set up the ice cream carts in the school playground in constant view of the kids. The kids were introduced to the brand and they were told ‘how exciting’ it was to have ice-cream in the school. The carts were there all day Monday and Tuesday, just so the recognition was there. My daughter was eager to show me them on tuesday morning and told me which one contained cones and which ones had cups and what flavours they could buy the next day. I drop my daughter off every morning and its all you could hear from the kids- ice-cream, ice-cream. My daughter was introduced to the concept of
“ask mummy and daddy for money”
to buy this exciting thing. I am trying to teach my kids that just because you want something does not mean that it can or will be bought. That there is nothing wrong with admiring something and NOT buying it. The fever stirred up in the classrooms and the playground about buying ice-cream was necessary to help the kids to recognise the brand and when they see it out and about with mum and dad etc to demand to have it. This kind of advertising (ie breakfast cereals during cartoons) has been banned in several countries as it is absolutely disgusting and cheap tactics.
I personally do not agree with the company who donated the ice-cream’s ethics or business practices. It is not a brand I expect or want my child to be pushed towards by the schools Parent Teacher Association- WITH TWO DAYS NOTICE. No time to complain or say ‘no’ to- the ice cream was already there in the playground for all to see.
It was such a surprise to everyone that I was not grateful for the opportunity for my 4 year old to be able to by a terrible product in school. Not to mention they were buying it from the school hall first thing in the morning- to enjoy later. I would have hated to be a teacher that day.
This school, that is supposed to pride itself on healthy living and parent support, was selling ice-cream to my 4 year old at 9am in the morning. When I voiced my complaints to various classroom teachers, I was met with surprise and off hand remarks. I could bring something else in for my child to have- whilst all her peers were participating. Also that it only happened once a term.
Not good enough.
When I wrote to the PTA from a professional and parent point of view- I was told it would be discussed at the next committee meeting (sure- right). I was also approached by a member of the PTA to assure me that my letter would be answered- I promptly told them how much I strive to provide children with necessary nutrients to support their growth and development- the reply was-
“its only a treat!”
NO IT IS NOT. There is not a single ingredient in those tubs and cones which is in any way a treat to a child as young as 4 and as old as 11 in those ice-creams. For body, mind or mood- every single child will have nutrients leached from them when consuming that ice-cream. Even more importantly when did it become the schools place or right to be giving my child a ‘treat’.
No thank you.
So what do we do. Well I have already sat down with my child and explained to her why she can have the ice-cream if she wants it- but just because she has asked for the money does not mean she will get it every time. She also understands that the ice-cream she had was chemical and so she had to make sure she made up for it by eating all the real food in her lunch box to help her stay alert and balanced for the rest of the school day.
What can we do as a global community?
We can keep on saying NO. Write letters when you see your schools do the same thing. Ensure that you keep telling people around you (parents, parents in law, friends) that these ‘treat foods’ are not helping your children. That they are not treats.
Most of all change your view of these foods. STOP BUYING THEM. The chocolate, sweets and crap we hide from the kids, consume thinking ‘oh well I deserve a little cheat’, the foods that make you feel like crap later on and feel guilty- the ones making companies a fortune because they cost nothing to make because they contain- nothing. Those foods.
Stop calling them treats.
They arent. Stop allowing companies getting access to your kids, to be brand loyal from as young as 4. It is not okay once a term. It just isn’t. Give your kids food– help them to grow and most importantly help them to have a relationship with food, real food, for life.
see my post on Children’s Nutrition to find real treat foods for your kids and you!
Also with other mine fields of holidays in school and out read some of these posts;
5 healthy candy swaps for Halloween from Kula Mama