On Wednesday of last week, my sixth grade interdisciplinary team fed our sixth graders pizza for lunch in a mini-celebration of the end of our school year. It’s kind of annual tradition around our building — a fun way to smile together for a little while before walking away for summer break.
But things were a little different this year: In an effort to healthy-up the experience, my team decided to ditch the spread of Doritos, Fritos, and Taquitos that served as artery clogging pizza lunch side dishes. Instead, we had our parents send in heaping trays of grapes and bananas and watermelon and apples and strawberries.
At first, we were a bit worried that we’d have a ton of leftovers. “Are they REALLY going to eat this stuff?” we wondered. “It’s not exactly party food.” But our fears were unfounded. Not only did our kids EAT the fruit that we provided, they went back for SECOND and THIRD helpings! At one point, a mini-brawl broke out over the last piece of watermelon. How cool is that?!
The whole experience was a bit of a revelation for me. For the better part of my solid-food-consuming-career, I’ve tied “celebrations” to “crappy food choices.” Got a birthday to celebrate? Slam down a cupcake or twelve. Survive a miserably long week at work? Nothing a Little Debbie Snack can’t fix. Big sporting event against your hated rival? Drown a pile of tortilla chips in half a brick of melted Velveeta!
And for the better part of my feeding-kids-at-school-parties career, I figured my students would be happiest when they were stuffing themselves with junk — but based on my experience last week, that’s just not true. None of my students mentioned the missing chips and dips — and no one left their plates fruitless. Every child found something that they could enjoy without polluting their bodies with empty calories.
The lesson for schools is really a simple one, isn’t it?
In a world where one in five kids between the ages of 6-19 is obese , eating habits HAVE to change. And given the fact that kids spend HUGE amounts of time in our schools, the food choices they make while in our buildings are important. While local and national efforts to control the kinds of foods available to students during school hours — including Obama’s Smart Snacks in Schools program — are great starting points for driving change, most don’t limit the kinds of foods that can be served at team functions like our pizza party.
But I can. And you can. And WE should. Promoting healthy eating habits and introducing kids to junk food alternatives that actually taste good ain’t all that hard to do. It’s a simple change that every teacher can make that might just change a few lives.
Any of this make sense?
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