Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What I am going to do about food at my son's school

I realize that this has been my personal blog, and that, beyond my mom and a few friends, I really have no readers, which is fine, it is my life.  However, I am overwhelmed at the issue of what my son eats at school.  He is less than 2 weeks in and his pooping has already changed from eating processed food, he is pooping less regularly and instead of being a good consistency it is either hard and painful for him or runny and gross.  It never really smelled disgusting before and now it does.  I have noticed the difference in his poop and children who eat processed food before, this does not seem like a good direction.  (I'm sure my few readers wanted to discuss poop, at least B would think it was hilarious) On top of that I already see him struggling with impulse control, especially with hitting other kids, either for attention or because he doesn't know what to do with his emotions.   This is always a struggle for him, but I have noticed many times the correlation between him consuming sugar (juice counts!) and these issues.  He has enough trouble with it, I don't want to set him up for failure by giving him juice and a "bagel" pocket with jelly first thing in the am.  This is not a good snack for him or any other child and I find it appalling that I didn't even know he was getting it.  This snack was not listed in the school's menu, nor was the fact that they give children a morning snack mentioned...in fact when I asked about this snack, which my son had described to me very accurately, and I described as a bagel pocket filled with jelly (exactly what it was) at the first PTA meeting, school officials told me he must be talking about bagel pizzas (I won't even start on the problems I have with that!)

However, all of that being said, I know that this school has the best interest of the children at heart and they do many things that I respect, and more that I am sure I will learn about as the year progresses.  I know that school lunch (and breakfast, and snacks) are truly needed by some students, and may be the only meals those children eat in any given day.  I just found this out last week, but my son's school recieves title 1 funding, which means lunch (and breakfast and snacks) are given to all students based on the community's income level.  On a practical level this means I can pack all the food I want for my son, but I can not control wether he chooses chocolate milk or the schools pbj for lunch over what I packed.  I have asked him to choose regular milk, and have explained to him why and so far he seems willing to do that, but I know that won't always be the case.  It seems unfair that I can help my son make these choices, but some children won't even know what choices they are making.  I even brought up some of these concerns with my sons pediatrician at his 5 year checkup and she was under the impression that food at schools was getting better.  It is not.  Unless we are all educated as parents, as educators, as citizens about these issues nothing will change.

I wanted to wait to begin speaking out at the school for issues I see as important until I understood the structure and routine of the school, but this is too pressing a matter to wait.  What we feed our children is just as important as any book they read.  If we are filling their bodies with things that will make it harder for them to concentrate, give them terrible sugar crashes, put them at risk for awful diseases, how are we helping them learn?  I will be speaking out at the very first public opportunity I get.  In addition I foresee all sorts of problems with convincing administration to look at these issues when they have so much else on their plates, and little money to address such concerns.  I will be using this blog to record research and links as I start to compile information about these issues.  I am also going to start a non-profit organization, specifically aimed at supplementing the cost of fresh, real food and trained staff to plan and prepare meals in public schools.  I know that this will not be easy, but from here on out this will be my good work, for my son, for all children, for the future.

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