“You’re the one who’s into healthy foods. Can I ask you a question?” This is how another mother got my attention at a recent meeting of our local scout troop.
In the few seconds before responding to her, I wondered where she came up with this characterization of me. She and I don’t know each other very well, and I doubt we had ever talked about nutrition or my diabetes. I have no visible role at the elementary school or in town, so it’s not as though she’s heard me preach from a pulpit on the problematic ubiquity of food in our local schools.
It could be, though, that she saw a disdainful expression on my face when someone suggested we serve chocolate fondue at a scout event. Or, more likely, she could know me as the scout mom who vocally lobbied against the serving of pizza and proposed, if we must eat at our meetings, that we serve fruit and lowfat cheese and crackers instead.
“Sure, ask away,” I answered.
“Well, my daughter’s birthday is the same day as our next meeting, and I was wondering how you’d feel about me bringing cookies or cupcakes,” she asked.
She caught me off guard. On the one hand, it’s nice when someone asks for feedback before acting in a way that might be controversial. On the other hand, when did I become the sole parent in our troop who had to take any responsibility for assessing the nutritional choices we present to our scouts?
There is no lack of messages or education in the media, schools, or medical clinics about the importance of eating well for long term health. I know that the parents around me are deeply invested in their children’s well being. And yet, honestly, I don’t see a lot of evidence that we are taking individual responsibility for eating well. People want what they want.
“Do you think we could celebrate your daughter’s birthday with a healthier treat? How about strawberries, or those fancy oranges? The kids love those.” To me, this seemed to be a reasonable compromise: we would acknowledge her child’s birthday, as this mother wished, and we could still be good stewards of our children’s health. I for one don’t want my children eating cakes and cookies regularly because sweets are not staples.
Our short conversation had tired me out. “It’s really up to you,” I said to her and turned back to the girls, all clustered around a table and waiting for the activities to begin.
Photographs, of cookies and satsuma oranges, were taken by the author at a local bakery and whole foods market. Try the oranges if you see them: they are pretty and delicious.
I found this interesting not in terms of healthy choices or not, but rather, are the kids supposed to be eating a meal at these meetings? I don’t think of pizza as a snack. And, while light snacks might be good, especially for kids, do we really need to stuff them at every single activity or event?
I applaud you for empowering her choice and placing the responsibility on her while offering
your wonderful suggestion. I’ve created a healthy alternative to cookies (Mac-n-Mo’s Morsels) and many kids LOVE them as long as their parents don’t label them as “healthy.”
I can definitely understand why you balked at being called “the one who’s into healthy foods” simply because you raise questions about nutrition! And here’s another case of your being put on the spot as the “absolution-granter” (a la the sweaty student who left class early). Good for you for resisting that role, and also for not feeling like you had to “justify” or excuse your concerns by explaining that you have diabetes.
In this context, the pizza would have been ordered from some local joint and not nutritious.
And, in America anyway, pizza is often thrown at kids as a kind of easy food, an enticement. At MIT, where I work, all a club has to do to get students to show up is advertise: Free Pizza.
This is interesting to me since I don’t usually object to pizza for my kids. I try to avoid the fast food pizzas like Dominos, though. A thin crust pizza with homemade tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, however, passes as a decent meal in my book.