Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Which would you pick?

As most (or all) of you know, I work in the daycare business, and when it comes to the food given to the children, 'j'en ai vu des mûres et des moins mûres'. There are no regulation as to what exactly we give children to eat in a daycare setting, apart that it has to have one starch component, one dairy component, and one vegetable component. And in the 9 years of witnessing terrible lunches and snacks, I have never seen the government come into the daycare to check out our food. They content themselves with a typed menu sent by the director of the daycare.

I have seen some nasty shit pass into the gullets of unsuspecting and unknowing children. Things like frozen 1.00$ Michelina meals, pizza pockets, rocky road ice cream (twice in one week), goldfish crackers, cherry chip flavored cupcakes, etc. Delicious, 18 months to four year old appropriate right?

Now I know some people might say, goldfish are great (the particular brand we use has 20% of their total sodium in one portion), or Ive served pizza pockets to my kid and its OK once in awhile, or something else along those lines. While I completely agree that you as an adult make your own food choices and 'it ain't nobody else's business', and that you as a parent also make the choices for your children in your home, I stand firm in the belief that daycares have a sacred trust, and a duty to provide their charges with the best care we can possibly administer. That, to me, involves no pizza pocket to two year olds. Fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, healthy dairy sources should ALWAYS be part of the menu, not left behind because of this ideology of 'feed-them-crap-make-more-money' which is pretty much a constant in most educational buildings I have been to.

My position right now is that of assistant to the director, which puts me in a place that I can use to hopefully influence the daycare. I requested a meeting with the director and the other assistant as well as the parent council to talk about the food we serve and what we could do. This is how I went about it: on one plate, I had a muffin (the type that comes from a bag and you add water), and on the other, a cantaloupe slice, half sliced kiwi, quarter cored apple, and a handful of multigrain cheerios. Could I have shocked the parents by showing them what their children mostly eat? Yes, but I didn't want to lose my job, so shock wasn't the point. So back to the plates, I showed them what I had and I asked them which they would pick. Surprisingly, a little under half of them picked the muffin over the fresh fruit.. WHAT? A mother explained that the fruit is obviously more expensive and the time it took to peel, cut, etc would result in mess and tantrum from hungry child. All I had to say to that was ....... Then, I pulled my secret cards, the nutritional facts from each plate, and the price per plate. The difference in price was maybe 75 cents more. The difference in nutritional values, however, was ridiculously staggering. 0 vitamins and nutrients in the fake muffin plate (apart from 1% calcium from somewhere), the starch component came from modified EVERYTHING, and there was 11 unpronouncables in the list (I'm not even joking). That and many other factors quickly won out everyone but one mother, the same who dissed my fruit. Her final argument was that no kid would go for fruit over muffin, and that hers wouldn't even touch it.

That's when the secret weapon came out. I had actually taken pictures of my class (including her son) eating the fruit. They all ate it, and her son actually asked for more cantaloupe (but didn't like kiwi, which was fine). AWESOME!

Why do parents insist their children wont eat fruit and vegetables? I just really don't get that. Their bad habits are mostly a reflection of their parents. If mama and daddy do not present baby with fresh real food, or they themselves do not eat it, then their kids will most likely do the very same thing and immediately qualify veggies and fruits as weird and undesirable. Its such simple logic, and yet one that eludes so many of parents! Instead of giving goldfish to your children and habituating them to processed, over salty, fake food, why not just let them experiment with natural earth growing food and the things we can make directly from it, with as few ingredients as possible? Let them taste, touch, feel, and discover what they like and don`t within our rainbow spectrum of fruits and veggies, involve them in the process of cultivating it (if you do so), and/or going to a farmer`s market, and/or preparing a meal! Guaranteed that involving children within the whole process will make them so much more inclined to accept freshness as delicious, rather than something to be forced down or pushed to the edges of the dinner plate.

PS, my motion for the daycare was vetoed by the big boss. You win some, you lose some. Maybe I made just one parent rethink something, and that would be worth it all.

How about you, do you have a philosophy when it comes to food and children?


  1. Oh man, ew. Add that to my list of reasons to keep my kids out of daycare :( (Though the one daycare I did consider was really food-dreamy; no sugar, whole grains, vegetables... truly dreamy.)

  2. Um, HEAVEN! I vow that if ever I open my own daycare, sugar free and whole grains and freshness will be an always and not a sometimes.

  3. We never, ever, ever had nasty fake muffins at home. Like the kind you buy a Costco. Desserts were always mouthwatering, juicy watermelon or navel oranges. Now my dad is into blueberries and blackberries for their antioxidant punch. I even have positive associations with watermelon in particular--I am reminded of hot, sunny days in my grandmother's backyard. We also never had chips. Ever.

    Also wtf? "...the time it took to peel, cut, etc would result in mess and tantrum from hungry child." This baffles me. Even working mamas can take 5-10 minutes out of their day to cut up and divide a batch of fruits for later snacking while kids are asleep, with friends, etc. That's not even a legit excuse--how long does it take to peel an apple or whatever? 30 seconds? 60 seconds? Come on.

    I totally support and have confidence in you, Cyn! You gave an incredible case and you've made a difference in those children's lives outside of the daycare, because I'm sure some parents went home that night rethinking their food choices! I don't know how appropriate this is, but--


    pun intended.

  4. Sam, that was beautiful. Lache pas la patate, indeed. :D