Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Lunch Police

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I always wanted a Scooby lunchbox when I was kid. Scooby was considered to be very cool. More importantly, the possession of such an item meant my gastrointestinal system was spared the rigours of the British school dinner. Think Spam fritters, unidentifiable fatty bits of meat and copious amounts of spotted dick and custard for starters.

I never got the lunch box.

My gastrointestinal system never recovered.

Of course, with the increasing focus on childhood obesity and the appearance of Type 2 diabetes in adolescents, things have changed considerably in the school canteen. Out go the soft drinks and unhealthy food choices, in come more sensible offerings.

Not a Spam fritter in sight. Despite Monty Python waxing lyrical on "Spam, wonderful Spam", this has got to be a relief whichever way you look at it.

However, attention is now being turned to the content of lunch boxes. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that some pre-schools and kindergartens across Sydney and NSW are now checking lunch boxes and returning contraband items, such as chocolate frogs or fruit rollups, home uneaten.

Where were they when I wanted to be rescued from that Spam fritter?

Educating children to eat healthily from an early age is an excellent idea. There is no argument about that. However, I am not sure that banning certain items is a good idea. Good eating habits revolve around balance. Labelling an item "bad" is not necessarily a good thing. Everything in moderation after all. Banning an item could ultimately make it more desirable. Many of us want what we can't have.

My child receives one treat weekly in her lunch box. The rest of her lunch material is healthy. I would be pretty annoyed if someone went through her lunch box and sent that home.

Do you object to the lunch box police?


jumpinginpuddles said...

geez its getting to the ridiculous stage of lunchboxes, without being gross but i will anyway does that mean next they will check your poo and sift through to see if youve snuck the chocolate or roll up :P Man this is getting crazy.

garbage said...

I think part of any school system is to indoctrinate children in the expectations of society. It just so happens that lunch box regulation is now in, but school has always been about regulations. They way you think, dress, speak, relate to other people, even the pace at which you learn, is all dictated to students by people convinced they know better.

I don't have children, but I think home schooling is a far better option. If my children are going to be indoctrinated, I'd rather be the one doing the indoctrination. Anyway, it's been shown that home schooled children tend to develop higher IQ's, which implies they have the intelligence to decide for themselves what's good or not in their lunchbox.

Keep well

Alison said...

Hey garbage, I'd love to see the research on home schoolers and IQ -can you point me there? If that's the case then I need to know. I really wouldn't be able to say how many IQ tests I've given (high hundreds, certain) but was under the impression IQ was relatively stable throughout life.

A lot of teachers in schools I work in express genuine concern about the (usually few) kids who come to school with lunchboxes full of chocolate and chips. Again we find the danger of "casting the net too wide", as most kids don't seem to fall into the risk category.

Healthy eating awareness would be the positive offshoot of such a move however.

healthpsych said...

You have seen that show 'You are what you eat' I guess. They analyse everything! I think it is a little extreme.

Hi Garbage,
Thanks for dropping by. Interesting comments. I'm not that familiar with the comparisons of homeschooling vs education but I think the important point you make is teaching children to select healthy options themselves.

Hey Alison,
I can understand the concern - this is a serious and escalating problem. However, this approach seems heavy-handed to me. I wonder about the possible longer term implications of this.
Other approache such as educating about food choices seems much better to me - for example, getting children involved in food preparation. They did this at my daughter's kindergarten. Messy but lots of fun and I think she took away some useful messages.
I think it's bad to make any food type "the villain". Plus, it's not only about food, it's about activity levels too.

drytears said...

If schools want to regulate what they serve, that's fine.

But doing luch box checks?!?! Thats a bit extreme, I could see possibly sending stuff home and mentioning to the parents that they should pack healthier stuff IF the luch was all junk food. If it was just like one thing for desert, who cares???

I myself always ate the school luches, most of the time except for one year when I brought my own lunch for about 2 months, and I lost 5 pounds!! But, not my school's lunches are also subject to undergoing a healthy change. My whole school is out with the vending machines and soda machines.

garbage said...

Hi Alison,

The IQ comment was supposed to be a bit of a joke, but I have a weird sense of humour.

However, a professor of mine did tell me that scientific research has shown that homeschooling is related to better academic performance (not necessarily IQ). And being a scientific research kind of guy, he decided that he would home school all his children.

I'm not trained in psychology things and I find the whole concept of IQ a bit silly, to tell you the truth.

Anyway, sorry for going off topic in relation to the lunch box theme. I will shut up now.

Alison said...

Yes, I must fess up garbage, my inquiry was a bit tongue in cheek too since I already knew the answer. It's called the "Larrikin Australian Element" aka being an annoying pain and waiting for the comeback, grinning.

NakedTomato said...

Children learn what they live. And the lunchbox police won't be around when the kids are in college, with the option of eating a steady diet of pizza and Pepsi. Therefore, we need to teach kids early how to enjoy sweets and treats in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Instead of stealing snacks, the lunchbox patrol should be focusing on interactive nutrition educating and creating lasting, healthy habits.

Although, I had two bags of marshmallows and a half a Boston Cream Pie for dinner, so maybe I'm not in a position to talk...

healthpsych said...

Hey DryTears,
British school dinners are notorious. There's a whole stream of humour built up about those! I don't mind the school suggesting good lunch box choices and I totally understand the exclusion and confiscation of items related to food allergies eg. nuts but, otherwise, I think it's interference. Parents need to be responsible.

Hey Garbage,
Off topic doesn't bother me one bit. All discussion is good and humour, well, I like it!

Hey Alison,
Larrikin? Say, are those those chocolate sponges covered with coconut?

Hey Nakedtomato,
You summed up exactly what I think (albeit more succintly!) I'm guessing the Boston Cream Pie would not fly under the radar!

And, in general, I note the lack of empathy for me stuck with spam fritters and no Scooby box;)

NakedTomato said...

Aww, Health Psych, I'll buy you a Scooby box! I also have Scooby undies, but I'm assuming you'd rather not have those...

incaseiforget said...

Please, for us Americans, tell us what "spotted dick" is in terms of food as opposed to something a urologist would deal with because at this point I think a fried Spam sandwich on white bread with mayo sounds a lot yummier. :)

healthpsych said...

Now, Naked Tomato, that's not an offer I have to tangle with every day. Generous, but I'll pass on the undies, thanks! :)

Hello IncaseIforget,
Ah, yes, not a bad STD but rather a steamed sponge pudding containing currants. I found this link for the recipe...I'm wary of the context of fanny in this recipe but the recipe seems like the real deal :)

healthpsych said...

And, whoops, the link

Dreaming again said...

I think the lunch box police need to stick to policing themselves. they have no right to police the parents.

Sorry ... a parent can send with their child what a parent wants to send. It is the parent. Period.

NakedTomato said...

You know what they used to feed us at school in Ireland? Lamb and kidney pie. Blech! I'm still concerned about exactly where they were getting the kidneys...

On 36 hour call, have nothing better to do than sit and gag at the memory of that pie...

healthpsych said...

Hi Dreamingagain,
Exactly. I'm with you.

Hey NudeTomato,
Lunch time here and I wish I hadn't read that. Euuwww!

tkj said...

Lunchbox police? That's just not right! That would totally eliminate the joy of lunch trading...I would never have wanted to trade my sandwich for a carrot - I wanted something good in return, like chocolate!

Take that away and what fun is lunch!

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

I object to the lunchbox policing too.

fjl said...

I object also. start a campaign ;-) xx

Anonymous said...

Hey Healthpsych! You've got some great comments here. I don't have anything as profound to offer, but I don't agree with the lunchbox police. It's up to us as healthcare providers to find a way to reach communities as far as nutritional information goes. We must find a way to do this in a culturally competent manner that meets the needs of every socioeconomic status. At the same time, we must educate children adn then let entire families make nutritonal decisions based on the information available to them. It's our job to make sure that the information is actually available to them in a way that they see it relevant. I could go on and on, but I won't because your post is awsome and provokes enough thought that I think your readers will come up with a lot on their own. You rock Healthpsych! Another great post!

healthpsych said...

Hi Deborah,
Thanks for visiting. Seems most people think the same way.

Aha. You might need to send around the procrastination police first... :)

Hey Tiesha,
You make some very valid points. Provision of information is key but enforcement steps a little over the line. Thanks for dropping by!