An Australian family were surprised to discover a damning note in their daughter’s lunchbox this week. The note, featuring a sad face, was sent home after the kindergarten noticed the three year old girl eating a chocolate slice at lunch.
The note said, “Your child has chocolate slice from the Red Food category today. Please choose healthier options for kindy.”
The note was shared online and caused a mix of reactions. While some parents agreed that it is the kindy’s responsibility to encourage healthy food choices amongst pupils, other parents felt the kindergarten was overstepping the mark.
Parents Shamed For Lunchbox Choices
One Facebook commenter summed it up pretty well by saying, “Child care centres will have policies about the food children can bring in an effort to encourage the children to have healthy diets and set them up to normalise healthy food options … If they didn’t have standards in place about healthy food options then people would complain that they are not doing anything to combat childhood obesity. If they do have standards in place they are accused of overstepping their boundaries and being ‘food police’.”
Does Food Shaming Promote Healthy Eating?
Healthy eating is an important issue, but it’s not one that’s going to be solved with food shaming. When shamed, parents get on the defensive (this is seen so often in the breast v bottle debate). When we’re on the defensive, we don’t take in new information so it’s a pretty inefficient way of encouraging a change in behaviour.
A better way to deal with unhealthy food choices would be positive education. No shaming, no guilt, just simple factual information that parents could digest in their own time.
It’s not always easy to know which foods are healthy. So many processed foods are packaged up and marketed as good for us when in reality they contain high levels of sugars and salts. It’s no wonder parents are getting confused.
What’s The Best Approach To Promoting Healthy Food Choices At School?
What we all need is decent, accurate information about the food we eat. And that means providing examples too. It’s all very well telling parents that cake is unhealthy, but there needs to be examples provided of healthy alternatives. These alternatives need to be convenient and affordable to show parents how easy it is to make good food choices for their kids.
And, most importantly, when parents and children make other choices in spite of the information provided, then that’s up to them. Some schools have strict policies in place to prevent chocolate and other sweet foods being eaten in school.
If schools don’t have food policies in place, then they must accept that people will eat whatever they want. They certainly shouldn’t be shaming parents and children for eating certain foods. A three year old girl should not be being sent messages that she is eating bad foods or her parents are not providing her with a decent diet.
It is possible to teach young children about healthy eating without personally shaming individuals from the class. If you want to know more about the arguments against shaming children, take a look at 10 Reasons Why We Need To Stop Public Shaming Of Kids.
What do you think, was the kindy acting in the child’s best interest or stepping out of line?