Sound Off: Sometimes A Snack Isn’t Just A Snack

A bunch of bananas? Or a political manifesto? Credit: Morguefile

By Amy L. Hatch

I’m getting to be an old hand at the “classroom snack” game.

Every month for the past, oh, five years, I’ve been purchasing cheese goldfish crackers in bulk and sending them to school with one or both of my kids. And–brace yourselves–sometimes I send juice, too.

I know! Right? Juice! What a terrible mom I am, terrible parent, for allowing her kid to drink completely undiluted JUICE!

Because as we all know, classroom snacks are not just snacks. Oh, NO. Classroom snacks are political statements.

Juice/no juice. Gluten-free/loaded with carbs. Stuffed with GMOs/totally-organic-and-grown-within-50-miles-and-hand-tended-by-farmers-who-wear-only-homespun-garments.

What you send to that classroom for your child and his or her classmates to consume in between reading lessons and play-dough sessions tells the other moms and dads who you are and (UGH) what your “parenting philosophy” is.

Now, don’t think I’m taking the holier-than-thou stance. I’m not going to tell you that I haven’t been the parent casting a judgmental eye every now and then. Pop Tarts? Doritos? Yeah, I’ve judged those snacks.

“What kind of parent sends (fill-in-the-blank) for snack?!”

And then I slink down the All Carbs aisle at Meijer and grab 30 packs of “fruit snacks” packed with high fructose corn syrup. Hey, my back yard is a corporate-owned corn field, so high fructose corn syrup is, technically, a local food. Right?

Judge not lest ye be judged, Judgy McJudgerson.

Of course we all want what’s best for our kids, especially when it comes to what they consume. With one out of every three American kids suffering from obesity, the food they eat is no small concern. But what about the parents who can’t afford to provide free-range goat cheese and organic sliced red peppers for 30 4-year-olds? I’ve bought 30 bananas before. It ain’t cheap, folks.

And just when does this snack train end, anyways? I don’t think I ever had a snack in school, unless you count the warm carton of milk we had with a graham cracker just before my afternoon kindergarten class was dismissed for the day.

Nowadays, kids have snack time up until high school, it seems. And why do kids need water bottles on their desks? I’ve seen that in some classrooms, too. So they can stay “hydrated.”

I had a water bottle, too — it was also known as “the water fountain.”

If only we were as concerned with the way our schools are being run as we are with the whole-grain ratio in the peanut-free oatmeal granola bars Johnny’s mom dropped off for the second-graders.

I recently received a memo outlining a potential change in the snack policy at the school my children attend, and I had to shake my head when I read all the bullet points that made up the rationale for the change. It read a little bit like a strategy document for the CIA justifying covert actions.

It stressed me out. So I had an inorganic snack, and yelled at some kids to get off my lawn.

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  1. As a Mom of older kids, I should feel fortunate that I have never had to deal with ‘snack day’. Even for my youngest who is 11 did I ever have to do that. Maybe I’m lucky & live in a community that just does not partake in that practice. Whatever the reason I find the whole thing a bit flawed. All of my kids have been able to manage just fine without a daily snack, they get one when they get home from school.

    I’ll be honest I don’t know how some parents do it. When my older two were that small age (15 yrs ago) I didn’t have any extra money to be spending on snacks for 20-30 kids even if it was cheap carb-loaded-high fructose corn syrup enriched prepacked snacks. Back then it was all I could do to make sure I had food on the table for us.

    I shake my head as I read the water-bottles on the table & bullet points of the snack rules and am sadly thankful that I don’t have to deal with that at the school my child attends (or attended)

  2. I can’t stand class snacks! My kids rarely had a snack at home, so why provide one for at school?

  3. One of the reasons why I homeschooled was so I never had to deal with snack! OK, not really. But I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with that. I mean with all the requirements where are you going to find, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, organic, vegan, egg-free, sugar-free, all-natural snacks? And if you do find them, what are they going to taste like? I don’t think Mikey would even try them!

  4. Your post reminded me of this episode of Everybody Loves Raymond! :)

  5. I don’t really care for snack time either. My son’s class has snack in the mornings, which I’m really not a fan of since his grade has lunch at 11. But my biggest gripe is when parents confuse a “snack” food with a “dessert” food. Oreos and other cookies are not snacks, people. Seriously. Let’s toss aside the obesity epidemic argument for a second and debate the other aspects of the problem. I work hard to keep my kid’s dental health the best it can be. I know from experience how hard it is to brush Oreo remnants from molars. Why should I pay hundreds of dollars at the dentist for fillings because other parents don’t take consideration? I don’t care what kind of parenting skills other people have, but don’t take my kid down with yours. Stepping off the soap box now

    • Um, sorry to gripe but do you really pay hundreds of dollars at the dentist because your kid may have eaten two Oreo cookies a few times per month??? I doubt it. My school’s kindergarten teacher has requested some snack foods with some sugar (she loves it when I bring in my cookies) because those 5 and 6 years olds need something besides carrots to keep them going right after all that running in P.E. class! She should know, she has been teaching for 40 plus years.

  6. You know what drives me crazy about snacks? Having a snack rotation for every sports practice. I don’t think we need to provide a gatorade and powerbar for our 7 year olds after just 45 minutes of soccer practice. It’s a hassle to organize, an expense the parents don’t need, and in general totally unnecessary. But apparently I am the only parent out there that doesn’t think this is fun idea. :)

  7. I have to say that I like the snack system that my son’s teacher uses. Each child brings their own snack every day. That way you only have to worry about what your child is eating. My son asked us to stop putting snacks in his lunch box because he is not hungry and would rather have more recess time :) Works for me!

  8. If the schools insist on having snack time, it might be more helpful for the school to offer a short list of acceptable snacks instead of a long list of banned substances. Or have the families with health issues (e.g. nut, gluten) supply their own snack. Heck, have everyone bring their own snack.

    Thankfully our school never offered snacks (but don’t get me started on the class rewards, which were all too often food and all too rarely extra recess), but when my son was in soccer, parents were asked to take turns bringing food for half time/afterward. (Never understood why this was necessary, since games were less than an hour and we all lived less than 10 minutes from the field–all games were intra-club at this level.) The coach asked us to bring healthy snacks and named orange segments as an example. So, I brought bananas (cut in half to make peeling easier and because the kids were small and time was short) and most kids declined. They were expecting a treat/dessert, which is what most parents brought. Some actually brought candy.

    As for water bottles, I would imagine it is less disruptive than kids being excused to go get a drink.

  9. I love that at my son’s school each child by 2nd grade brings their own fruit snack and it must be fruit. That way he may eat an extra fruit and I am only buying what i want my kid to eat.

  10. Great Story, Great Writing!

  11. We have always provided our own snacks due to food allergies. I am not a big fan of ‘snack rotations.’ Food allergy issues aside, every family has different values when it comes to nutrition. I think our kids eat pretty healthy but we let them have the occasional treat. I don’t need to worry about some parent coming unglued because of the sugar content of the snack we provide. I personally don’t think there should be an organized snack rotation. Kids who eat a good healthy breakfast shouldn’t need it. I never had it when I was in school and I never fainted.

    I appreciate the issue of sports being brought up as well. This too should be individual responsibility. I always cringe when some parent hands out 20oz bottles of full stregnth sports drink for a soccer game. Geesh…I only drink full stregnth sports drink if I’m working out solid for 90 minutes or more.

    Bottom Line: Take care of your own kids in the manner you want to feed them. It’s your choice as a parent. If you relinguish that task to someone else, don’t complain.

  12. I’m with Holly — instant recall on the Everybody Loves Raymond episode. My kids are finally at an age where daily snacks are not required (4th and 6th grade for anyone counting down to freedom), and I couldn’t be happier. My oldest child had a poor appetite, so the absolute last thing I wanted her to do was to eat a snack and refuse lunch or dinner later. My second child was ravenous but often couldn’t eat the snack provided because she hates cinnamon, the ubiquitous seasoning people assume everyone likes, plus she couldn’t eat apples when her tree allergies were active (strange but true). My second child may have felt left out, but she didn’t starve on her way home, which reinforced my opinion that the snacks weren’t needed in the first place. I resented the expense and having to remember to buy them in the first place (sending one every day would have been even worse). I serve healthy meals, so I never worried about the “healthiness” of school snacks. (I confess to almost never having offered a snack to my kids once they were old enough to ask for one. My theory is that if they’re hungry I’ll know about it soon enough, and if they’re not hungry no snack is necessary.)

  13. I don’t understand the hate for snack time. Are you telling me that you never, ever nibble on anything outside of meals in your day? I don’t buy that for one second!

    I don’t judge what other people bring for a snack, I only judge when they don’t bring it at all, which is really annoying. If you have been assigned a snack, then you need to bring it. I understand if you forget, it happens to the best of us but you need to go ahead and bring the snack the next day you remember, so they will have some in reserve for the next time someone forgets.

    I would prefer if people sent healthier snacks (one kid always takes fruit, the other is a huge battle because he only wants to take junk and I won’t do that) but my definition of healthy and someone else’s aren’t usually the same things.

    I do like the idea of self provided snacks as opposed to class snacks but I don’t mind have a snack schedule either.

  14. Is this snack thing optional? Is it at all the schools? I hope you’re not required to do this because the teacher/school better be ready to fork up a snack for the class every time it was my child’s turn.