Dear Extra Credit readers:
Here is some reaction to a recent letter from a parent who did not like that her child's Montgomery County middle school sold candy after school each day [Extra Credit, May 19].
Dear Extra Credit:
Many parents I talk to share my frustration with the continued availability of candy and junk food in schools. As centers of learning, schools have a responsibility to not only teach about nutrition, which includes setting the proper example, but also civics, which includes not using the school building as a profit center.
Cookies, gummy bears and slushies, just to name a few items, have no place in the cafeteria, where the focus should be on providing healthy food choices that give kids the best chance to learn, and preying on children's desire for sweets to raise money is shameful. Fortunately, legislators across the country are beginning to address this issue, even if our local school leaders continue to value profits over our children's well-being.
Fox Chapel Elementary
and Neelsville Middle
Dear Extra Credit:
Although my two children attend Catholic schools, I'm a regular reader of the Extra Credit feature every Thursday because I find many of the topics interesting and relevant to all local schools. I was particularly interested in the topic of sweets being sold in schools and how this practice is reconciled with the nutritional information that is part of every middle school curriculum these days.
I was taken aback, however, by your statement that "only those of us who have successfully kept it out of our homes . . . have the moral standing or intestinal fortitude to try to keep it out of school hallways."
Do you really not see the difference between parents having sweets and chips available (under the parents' own discretion and control), and schools selling the stuff to any kid who can come up with the cash? At least the less nutritious food items sold in the school cafeteria are presented alongside the healthier options and can be integrated into a reasonably healthy lunch.
School authority figures selling the "junk food" after school (and I assume they aren't also offering apples and bananas alongside the candy) seem to be encouraging the regular consumption of the very items that are at the heart of the obesity epidemic. Given that parents who would rather control their children's consumption of these "treats" are at a real disadvantage in this situation, I think that your notion of "moral standing" here is puzzling to say the least.
I'm glad you chose this interesting topic to discuss in your column last week, even though I was baffled by the reasoning in your response.
I don't know exactly what the position of the Archdiocese of Washington schools is on this subject, but I will be curious to see what they have to say.
Mary of Nazareth
Elementary School parent
I am afraid I was just trying to make myself feel better about my own lax parenting practices by suggesting that many others were similarly irresponsible. I apologize and retract the statement. There is indeed a difference between personally supervising your children's diet at home and having them buy whatever they have money for at school.
A check with the Archdiocese of Washington revealed a mix of policies. High schools set their own candy rules, but spokeswoman Susan Gibbs said there are no candy machines in any of the 76 elementary schools, which usually include middle school grades also.
I called some of the Catholic elementary/middle schools; they said their parent groups occasionally sell candy at school to raise money, but not on a daily basis.
In a follow-up message, you told me that your children's school follows the archdiocese policy and does not have candy machines, but does sell ice cream in the cafeteria at lunch Thursdays and Fridays. I don't usually eat candy, but if someone ever cut off my ice cream supply I would be in bad shape, which may make me too tolerant of other people's sugar addictions.