New mandates on snacks in schools should be reconsidered

As a result of a recent decision by the state Board of Education, our school district recently instituted major restrictions on what can be sent to schools by parents for class parties. These restrictions, for some inexplicable reason, focus solely on snacks containing sugar.

While I applaud any and all efforts to teach children (and adults, for that matter) about healthy eating, I do believe this mandate goes too far.

When restrictions are too severe, they usually result in backlash to the opposite extreme. We all know the person whose parents did not allow any sweets, and who, as a result, hid and hoarded snacks and became both physically and mentally unhealthy.

I feel schools should definitely provide healthier foods on a daily basis in the school cafeteria and at before- and after-school programs and even for birthday parties that can occur as many times as there are children in the class. However, the four times per year that the parents make class parties could be treated as special occasions and not be bound by the same rules.

If we are going to have rules about what can and cannot be served in schools, let us reconsider the guidelines. For instance, in my son’s school, we can bring potato chips, cupcakes and cookies but not gummy fruit snacks. Despite the high sugar content of such snacks, I would prefer my child to have a 60-calorie, fat-free fruit snack than a bag of fatty, salty potato chips or a high-calorie cupcake. Perhaps the guidelines should be based on calorie content or fat content, not specifically sugar content only.

Finally, more attention should be paid to daily after-school program snacks. Each day my son is allowed to have two or three snacks, including cookies, chips, ice cream, pretzels and/or marshmallow bars or other items. Not once, to my knowledge, has the program provided fresh fruit or vegetables as snacks. Yet when this group, School-Aged Child Care (SACC), which is held in the school building, has its parties four times per year, parents are asked to provide those healthy snacks. In my opinion, this is backward.

Stacy Feldman

East Brunswick