Alright children, we’re going to go outside for a break now. You can bring a toy to play with, your water bottle, yes, Jimmy, a snack if you’d like. Oh, I’m sorry, Tammy, you don’t have a snack? Well, we just had lunch less than an hour ago, did you eat all of it? Oh you did! Are you really hungry then? You’re not sure?
…you’re not sure?
You Want a Snack… Or Do You?
This is a real conversation I had with a second-grade student today. She was upset that she didn’t have a snack for the optional (and medically unnecessary) snack time, but wasn’t sure if she was hungry. She wasn’t sure. I told her: Don’t worry then, go play and let me know if you’re hungry later. She didn’t complain again.
A different child asked if she could throw away her lunch now because she had three chicken nuggets and last year her teacher said you could only go play if you ate three chicken nuggets and she ate three so could she go play now?
(How could she remember something so specific, but also not remember the teacher’s name?)
Well, are you full, I asked? She wasn’t sure.
She wasn’t sure.
I’m worried that we are teaching kids to have unnatural relationships with food.
Nutrition in Schools is an Oxymoron
The classes I took to become an educator did not touch on nutrition. A quick Google search led me to WebMD’s list of tips to instill healthy eating habits in children, and schools directly violate several of these.
For example, the list says you should encourage children to eat slowly, since there is a “lag time” between physically eating and mentally feeling full, but many schools provide cramped lunch times. You should designate specific areas for eating, according to the list, but breakfast is in the classroom, while lunch is held outside, and snacks are “at my discretion.” The list also says to avoid using food as a reward for good behavior. But I know many teachers use candy and sweets as “prizes” for completing schoolwork.
The school I teach at is working on enforcing our healthy food policy, which means I am supposed to confiscate Hot Cheetos and tell parents they can’t bring cupcakes to class for their child’s birthday. But I think the real problem is that many children can’t regulate their own bodies yet: they want to eat because it’s snack time, not because they’re hungry. And I’m supposed to tell them when enough is enough. But I don’t know any better!
…Because I Guess the Cafeteria was out of Head-Cheese-Flavored Applesauce?
Last year, I had a student who would ask for an extra snack from the cafeteria almost every afternoon, and it usually consisted of the Cotton Candy flavored applesauce (yes, it exists) that our school lunch program inexplicably ordered in bulk. This student was also suffering from some intestinal issues, and eventually was put on a diet of healthy, home-made meals, so her mom specifically told me to refrain from giving her these “extras.” Once I explained to the student that the extras were no longer allowed, she never asked for them again, and also never complained of being hungry. She ate the snacks that her mom provided, and no more.
Was she eating those cotton candy applesauces because she liked the taste? Because she was actually hungry? Because they were available? Or because she liked to have a special little privilege of going over to the cafeteria and picking one out, and not everyone did?
Snack Time Remains a Mystery
Kids don’t make any sense.
To be fair, it is a constant joke on sitcoms and parenting blogs that kids are constantly hungry. Parents’ purses are always full of snacks.
It just feels like a miracle that anyone makes it out of childhood with a healthy appetite.