School and pre-school are back in full swing here and I have noticed a worrying trend on social media and from parents I speak to.
Some teachers are taking it upon themselves to police the food that children bring to pre-school or school. They are telling children that certain foods are ‘unhealthy’ or that they can’t eat certain foods that are already in their lunchbox. There are several problems that I see with this.
- Many times the child is shamed in front of his or her peers as a result of a decision that their parent has made. I have heard of children crying as a result of the teacher questioning the ‘healthiness’ of their food. Since when is shaming children appropriate at all let alone for something they are not responsible for? It doesn’t seem an appropriate way to educate children about food and health.
- I don’t think it is a teacher’s role to check what goes into a student’s lunchbox. The school can make helpful suggestions to parents about foods to pack in lunchboxes, however it is the parent’s responsibility to choose the foods to provide for their child. Parents are influenced as to what to pack in lunchboxes based on information, convenience, what they know their child will and won’t eat, their desire not to waste food and more.
- It would be more helpful for parents to learn how to feed as well as what to feed their children (most of them know anyway). For example, the school could educate parents about the importance of family meals and how to plan for these meals, the need for structured meals and snacks rather than children eating whenever they feel like it or every time they ask for food. These eating behaviours may be more important in preventing obesity and disordered eating than what foods a child eats.
Schools can be proactive in helping families by providing written material and talks for parents by qualified professionals rather than having teachers take on the roll of food police.