The class pizza party was a big hit. (Duh?) And I still think our teacher, Ms. B, rocked it with how she handled the whole thing. But, yikes, since posting about that on Tuesday, several other sweets showed up at school unexpectedly, and there would have been even more without a savvy redirect by Ms. B. So I spent a lot of time this week saying, hey, you know, this is so nice, but did you realize that X and Y and Z were also bringing in treats this week? And I did that because, well, very often this happens because people just don’t think about this stuff in the larger context. And I want people to think about that.
The good thing is that some well-timed words can make a difference. A few weeks ago, we had our school’s annual music night. Our new director wanted to add a snack table to encourage socializing after the performances. At first I didn’t love the idea — people don’t need to eat at every event! — but it’s a long evening, and there’s no question food makes people linger. So I asked what she had in mind. She wasn’t sure, she said, maybe juice and cookies, that sort of thing. We talked it through. I made my point about how kids are already inundated with sugar and other junk. And then I suggested some healthier, more sustaining fare. She ran with that, and we ended up with fresh veggies, fruit, hummus, cheese, whole-grain crackers/chips (and some token goldfish), and small bowls of chocolates. As I wrote on Facebook after the event: “You can guess what happened, right? All that good stuff was DEVOURED. And, get this: We served only water to drink, and not a soul complained. I love-love-love what happens when we rethink our assumptions about kids and food.”
Here’s another thing: Food is social. It’s fun. And it doesn’t always have to be healthy. But even sweets and other treats can be made with higher-quality ingredients.
Take what’s happened over the years with our annual ice cream social/spring carnival. Back in the day, our school bought those three-gallon tubs of ice cream from a food-service provider, just like every other school hosting an ice cream social. Then I got a bee in my bonnet about that and offered to figure out better alternatives. So one year we got bulk vanilla and chocolate ice cream from the local Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop (not perfect, but much better ingredients than the food-service slop, and not that much more expensive, either). Another year we brought a couple of local vendors on-site to sell their all-natural snow cones and ice cream sandwiches.
This year, we ended up combining the ice cream social with the year-end picnic, which was held last night, after the last day of school. Because of the logistics of the picnic, we decided popsicles of some kind would work better than ice cream. After scouting options at our local grocery store (Wegmans), I found a dye-free organic brand I hadn’t seen before, sold in bulk boxes ($9.99 for 24 tubes). I e-mailed our director with details and a picture of the box, and she took it from there. They were a huge hit with kids and adults alike, and I heard from more than a few parents who appreciated the better ingredients.
Because it all adds up.