Family First is concerned at reports today that children as young as five have been told off for bringing yoghurt, muesli bars, salad rolls and juice to school as over-zealous teachers try to enforce healthy eating rules – despite parents pleading to be allowed to give their children the occasional treat.
“Schools should understand that they are in the role of working with children and families, not against them, and especially not pitting children against their parents,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First. “Parents are ultimately the guardians of the child, and therefore are the ones who determine what a child has or doesn’t have in their school lunchbox.”
While schools should be commended for promoting a healthy eating policy, they should be practicing what they teach through monitoring what is sold in school tuckshops, and they should be working to educate students and parents, rather than confiscating a lunchbox treat off a child.
“Obesity is a far more complex problem that a packet of chippies, juice or chocolate bar in a lunchbox,” says Mr McCoskrie. “There are many factors contributing to the problem including sleep patterns, socio-economic level, work pressures on families, lack of exercise, too much tv watching or playing video games, and others.”
Jennifer O’Dea who is Senior Lecturer in Nutrition and Health Education at the University of Sydney sums it up best in her article last year in Nutrition and Dietetics. She says “Recent research suggests that parents are still considered by children and adolescents to be the gatekeepers of the family food supply and that parents act as important role models for children’s eating behaviours.”
The ultimate way to promote healthy eating is not through “Food Police” at schools, but via parents. If parents believe in the benefits of healthy food, and are prepared to overcome factors such as cost, time in preparation, pressure from children, and lack of convenience, we will start to see progress.
Schools need to respect parental authority in this area – and work with them, rather than penalizing the child.