As I mentioned in a “school lunch” post last year, my daughter’s elementary school is peanut/tree nut-free. Not only are peanuts and tree nuts not allowed, but foods made in factories that handle nuts are not allowed either. As a result, the school sends out a “safe snack” list so parents know what store-bought snacks are “safe” and approved.
When I first got a hold of this list last year my eyes just about bugged out of my head. Fresh off our original “100 Days of Real Food” pledge, I felt compelled to sit down and count how many snack suggestions I would consider to be “real food approved.” Out of the 200 or so safe snack suggestions only 17 items, approximately 7%, were “real” whole foods. The rest were highly processed including suggestions like Wendy’s Frosties, Skittles, Oreos, Fritos, Airheads, Cheese Puffs, Twizzlers, Chips Ahoy, and Gummy Bears (for a morning snack for little kids!!). I knew I couldn’t just sit around and complain. I had to get involved and try to change things.
So I met with the principal and assistant principal last spring and as soon as I said the word “food” they of course thought I wanted to address the food in the cafeteria. They don’t have control over what is served for breakfast or lunch, but I told them that was just fine because I actually had a long list of other things I wanted to address first including…
- The school’s “safe snack” list, which is full of highly processed snack suggestions
- Student rewards and activities, which commonly involve junk food like “Popsicles with the Principal” and “Skittle Sort” (why not a button sort?)
- Students are also commonly served cupcakes, cookies, and other treats for birthdays and celebrations in the classroom. Occasionally even more than one dessert treat a day is served on top of treats that are brought in from home and/or purchased in the cafeteria.
- School fundraising events that encourage students and their families to dine at locations such as Donatos Pizza and Chick-fil-A.
- Box Top class rewards that include a pizza party, Krispy Kreme Donut party, and a cupcake decorating party
Those are just a few of the observations that alarmed me last year, which was our first year with a child in elementary school. It was also our first school year after deciding to cut out all highly processed food, so I guess one could say I was highly sensitive to it all. Anyway, I was thrilled that the principal immediately handed me the reins of the “safe snack” list without a problem. I then partnered with another mom to come up with an addendum to the list because while they said we could add items to it we could not take anything away. They said if Krispy Kreme donuts were not on the list as being nut-free then someone would surely send in Dunkin’ Donuts. But a compromise was fine with me. We can keep all the junk on there if we can also put our “healthy snack” addendum smack dab on the front…because I consider that progress.
So without further ado, here is a link to the “snack list addendum” that another mom and I worked very hard to create. Whether you want to use these snack ideas for your school or just for inspiration when packing your own kids snacks please feel free to use the list however you choose. I’ve already turned it into our principal and so far she says it looks great. I was a little worried the description of “real food” versus “not real food” might offend some parents, but I figured I would let the principal make that call. We have our back-to-school orientation this week, and I am very anxious to see if they actually use our list with the “safe snack” handouts…keeping my fingers crossed!
Next up I hope to address the issue of all the junk food that’s used for rewards and activities by coming up with a list of alternatives. I will keep you posted on the progress!