Kindergarten, Candy, and Valentine’s Day: A Rant

14 Feb

I really don’t want to have to get involved. I don’t want to be That Mom. I leave others to let their kids eat the cafeteria food (uncrustables, whatever they are; tacos; chicken nuggets; whatever) and kill myself to make sure my kid gets home-cooked food or whole-grain/natural/unprocessed/organic three meals a day. Most of the time.

Read the label...what? You can't understand it? Me neither. That's why I don't buy it!

Read the label…what? You can’t understand it? Me neither. That’s why I don’t buy it!

On occasion, he has sweets (a lot of them we bake together), we hit Friendly’s, or All-American Burger. He has pizza once a week. At least!

I know I am something of a maniac, but I am not unreasonable. And I know people don’t always want to hear it, so I mind my own business, blog, and feed my kid my way. As a single parent who works full time, I don’t have time to try to change school policy, and I don’t have the energy to give a rat’s ass if everyone else wants to stuff their kid with junk. I am tired enough already.

Another view. I am sputtering in disbelief.

Another view. I am sputtering in disbelief.

But the garbage my son came home with in his backpack today has me bouncing off the bloody walls in a sugar rush of the enraged kind.

Are you kidding me!?! There is easily a pound of lollypops, M&Ms, chocolate, KitKats – crap. I mean, at least if it were good chocolate…

Who in their right mind thinks that is okay? And who are these people who are violating my right to feed my FIVE-YEAR-OLD the way I see fit? I don’t get in their face with my sliced apples; why are they allowed to get in mine with dextrose, maltodextrose, yellow #6 lake, etc. etc.

So…here I go. I am reluctantly dragged into being That Mom. I will be sending the some of the same photos you see here t the school principal (or someone) in the hopes of getting a “no candy” movement going. I am open to suggestions on how to approach it before I hit send (right now when I am so angry is not the right moment).

Two Hearts Eat As One....

Two Hearts Eat As One….

In the meantime, here are the cute cheese ravioli that I cooked (store-bought! store-bought!) in honor of St. Valentine’s Day. I understand pretty much all the ingredients on the back, so I’m cool with it. What are you eating today?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Heart-shaped ravioli ingredients. Not too bad for a special meal.

Heart-shaped ravioli ingredients. Not too bad for a special meal.


36 Responses to “Kindergarten, Candy, and Valentine’s Day: A Rant”

  1. School Bites (@school_bites) February 21, 2013 at 12:24 am #

    I also need to bring up the local moms’ suggestion that the school experience needs to be sweetened with candy. If ever there was a more misguided notion! So if kids aren’t having enough fun at school, sugar is the answer? All that does is set them up for a lifetime of associating junk food with happiness. If the school day is too dull or regimented, how about taking a look at the curriculum and finding ways to make it more interesting to students? Is plying them with candy really the answer? Sorry to harp, but it upsets me that you’re being made to back down. I totally understand not wanting to alienate the other moms. But I do think that kids can have fun without the junk food–it just may require a little more creativity from parents and teachers.

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy February 21, 2013 at 6:51 am #

      Oh I am not backing down. I am reassessing. I need to understand how to reach people who do not recognize — perhaps refuse to recognize — a danger to their children. All of the things you mention I also discussed on the local mom’s thread. But folks were very defensive about their candy. My neighborhood is not a very progressive place. A nice suburb where people do well and the school district gets top results for our region and people are neighborly…but not a progressive place. That means that if I were to come barreling in demanding a no-candy zone, I would create resentment. So I need to find a different way to show the other parents how critical the issue it is and how easy to solve! The war is not over; but I am assessing the success (or lack thereof) of my first salvo and learning about the opposition. I bookmarked the letter from that other blog you sent me to which is great! Not sure what the next step will be, but I am working on it!

  2. cocoderojas February 20, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

    Ok so I do agree with you that I don’t want the school stuffing my kids with crappy candy, though I would be happy to overlook one mini pack of M&Ms or something but the picture you post is totally over the top.

    Also, someone here posted I think that Valentine’s is traditionally a candy day – What?! I am going to have to disagree here. Now Halloween traditionally a candy day and much as I hate it, I’ll make many more exceptions on that day since I do agree that the values we are teaching our kids about good food will win out in the end. Valentine’s day is supposed to be about remembering to tell people you love them, making nice cards, or even they could do little crafts flower projects. How this day suddenly is associated with pounds of rubbish sugary snacks sounds like a marketing plan hatched by the Cadburys and Hersheys of the world.

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy February 20, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

      I am absolutely in agreement with you on this. As parents, we can do a lot better than surrendering to the sales pitch of huge food conglomerates!

  3. School Bites (@school_bites) February 20, 2013 at 8:13 am #

    Natalia – I hear you, but there are also a lot of moms who agree with you and don’t want their kids to get candy at school. I think the key might be to protect school celebrations by asking for a monthly cap on junk food celebrations (that’s my latest idea, anyway!). I’d also like to see schools required to give parents advance notice when there will be treats in the classroom, so they can try to create some balance through the child’s day. For example, I wouldn’t give my kids pancakes with syrup or pack a special sweet in their lunchbox if I knew that they were going to be having cupcakes at 10 a.m. ANYWAY, if you are interested in speaking up about it, I think this sample letter to the school principal (drafted by another blogger) is great:

  4. Stacy Whitman February 19, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    Natalia – Well, of course, you know that I agree with you! I also agree how the candy could be approached as a teachable moment. But really, all it does is create a problem for the parents who are working so hard to teach their kids to eat sweets in moderation (a giant bag of candy on V’Day is not moderation, by the way!) and to avoid artificial ingredients, etc. For me, the real problem comes down to the fact that this is happening in school, where children should be learning how to eat right. It’s one thing for them to down a bunch of candy (or come home with a favor bag) at a birthday party, where you have voluntarily chosen to send them. (And with my own kids, these birthday parties seem to happen at least twice a month, so they get plenty of sugary crap!). It’s quite another for it to happen at a place where you are legally required to send them. As for candy being needed to make the school experience “fun”…If you ask me, it’s NOT what we want to teach our kids. What they will learn is that the key to happiness is shoveling their faces full of sugary junk! There are plenty of ways to have fun that can involve healthy activities. How about treating the kids to a dance party in the gym? Playing fun games (for younger kids) in the classroom? Does every celebration have to include junk food? How about limiting parties with sweets to, say, twice a month? With some creativity, it is possible to come up with ideas to make parties fun and healthy.

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy February 19, 2013 at 10:44 am #

      I so agree. But when I posted on a local moms website, there were many, many, many people who really objected to any regulation of sending candy into school and they saw it as a threat to all celebrations in school. The domino theory or the slippery slope. So rather than alienate the entire moms population in my school, I have to think of a different approach. I actually suggested that people who said in candy send in fab chocolate (Godiva, perugino, ferrero rocher) so that instead of giving the kids a piece and throwing the rest out, we could give the kids a piece and eat the rest ourselves!

  5. trixfred30 February 18, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    ricotta and spinach stuffed pasta is the only way I can get my youngest to eat anything green

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy February 20, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

      I use the spinach ravioli route too! And ravioli stuffed with all manner of things as entry-level omnivorous practice!

  6. Kara February 18, 2013 at 12:21 am #

    OK could you please talk to my hubby? He bought me crappy dime-store chocolate. I’d be much happier with 2 or 3 pieces of REAL chocolate, not some fake crap.
    Ale didn’t get a lot of candy this year, she got a ton of pencils tho!! But we automatically throw out all gummy candy (her dentist told her to), Bill and I eat the Reese’s, and she gets to save the rest. But she forgets about it quickly and then I toss it all. Beats having to argue about it!

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy February 18, 2013 at 6:44 am #

      We got a few pencils! He also forgets about the candy…such a pity to throw things out though! Even if they are crap!

      • fullbabyboyhappymommy January 19, 2014 at 3:45 pm #

        I will say this though…as a teacher who has gone through a LOT of pencil sharpeners… a lot of the seasonal pencils don’t do well in pencil sharpeners. Yes, it’s probably the cheapest alternative to candy, but I inwardly groan every time I see one of my students heading to the pencil sharpener with one.

      • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy January 19, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

        That is very funny! I give them out to MY college students and they love them….but they love anything free!

      • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy January 19, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

        That is very funny! I give them out to MY college students and they love them….but they love anything free!

  7. Joanne Murphy February 15, 2013 at 9:13 am #

    I wholeheartedy agree with you! My new favorite, is that my 2nd grader is studying the body and nutrition…and how they’re not to consume more than 12grams per day, and she takes it very much to heart! So now she checks at home and school…and refuses to eat! So dont you feel the school should practice what they teach!!

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy February 15, 2013 at 9:54 am #

      It has been interesting to discuss this with parents who take a very different stance. I have been on a discussion on a FB thread with local moms. Many of them feel that candy is an important part of childhood fun in school and that school has become so regimented that they really don’t want school making decisions about how kids celebrate. They are saying that school is so hard now that candy sweetens the experience. Sort of like “Hands off already!” There is also a fair element of “That’s what you worry about? It’s so not important.”

  8. Pam February 15, 2013 at 7:44 am #

    Save the chocolate for your addicted friend Pam 🙂

  9. Cara February 14, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    Teachable moments come in many flavors.

    There are the ones I create (say, baking with whole wheat flour) and the ones given to me (the similar stash of crappy candy both my kids came home with today). I have one kid who shuns candy (yes, you read that right. Guess who eats this kid’s Halloween candy?!). With the other kid, I take a similar approach another reader posted: I toss out the grossly offensive stuff, and let her pick one or two pieces from the rest. The remaining candy my husband and I fight over, then I put it out of sight. True, this child does remember and ask for candy for breakfast, but then that’s the teachable moment where I say, no, and offer the whole wheat waffle that she loves.

    If I may, a word of caution regarding approaching the school. When my son was in first grade, one mom whipped the other parents into a frenzy regarding the class Valentine’s Day celebration. The teachers sent home a note asking for red-themed foods. The suggested list included healthy, and not so healthy suggestions, the latter of which offended her. Long story short, once all the candy was nixed from the celebration, the kids were kind of glum. Parents were divided. We couldn’t send cupcakes in for birthday celebrations any more. In my opinion, it backfired.
    Okay, back to lesson planning!

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy February 15, 2013 at 8:27 am #

      Yes, based on my experience on the local moms FB page, it would be awful to get in their face about it. The feeling I get is that parents feel that school has become so not fun, that they need to at least be able to give them some treats. I believe we could all be more creative about how we celebrate, but I understand the thinking so much better now. I am very glad that I asked for input!

  10. Mad Dog February 14, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

    I agree with you Natalia and the problem goes right through to adults eating junk and ready meals. I do agree with Jocelyn too – if you feed children good food and allow a little bit of candy, the children stay healthy, don’t feel like they are missing something and they don’t resent you 😉
    I love those ravioli.

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy February 14, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

      Its been interesting. I posted a link to this post on a local moms FB page. Many of them are outraged because they think it is 1) unimportant 2) that candy is integral to the kid’s experience of school and of making it enjoyable. I don’t agree (and don’t particularly like confrontation), but it has certainly been illuminating. A repeated solution is to throw the candy out. Why allow it in the first place then?

      • Mad Dog February 15, 2013 at 6:05 am #

        I do think it would be better if the school didn’t give children candy – it should be a parental choice. It makes parents look bad if they have to take the candy away from their children.

      • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy February 15, 2013 at 8:24 am #

        It’s fascinating how parents equate candy with childhood. And how much the moms feel that all the fun has been squeezed out of school, which makes them hold tighter to things like sweets.

      • Mad Dog February 15, 2013 at 10:20 am #

        Mmm – I think real fun comes from games/play and imagination. The really objectionable thing here is the big bag of candy. They could hand out carrot cake or even a single candy bar each.
        On the bright side, I had more than my fair share of candy and sugary drinks, but by the age of 20 my taste buds changed to savoury – I hardly ever eat pudding and never use sugar 😉

      • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy February 15, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

        I think there is that aspect too, that many of us started eating junk and turn it around as adults. Sadly, doesn’t seem to be the general trend in the U.S.

  11. Jocelyn February 14, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

    Like you, I work full time and don’t have the time nor inclination to change school policy. Also like you, I make sure my kid eats healthy, non processed food most of the time. Unlike you, however, I don’t get too worked up about candy. Here’s why: I’m confident that the habits I’m creating for him at home will lead him to make good diet judgments in the future. I’m confident that if he has too much candy today, but gets a balanced, healthy meal the next five days in a row, he’s still way ahead of the game. I’m also controlling the portions. All that candy he got today? I tell him he can have one or two. The rest I take away, and let him have another piece or two as occasional treats, if he even remembers to ask. I do the same on Easter and Halloween and every other holiday where sweets are in excess. I guess I take this approach because I can. My kid doesn’t have weight or other health issues (I count our blessings) and he’s not candy-obsessed, like some kids can be. So moderation works for me, and I thought I’d share this with you, in case it helps in some measure. Xoxo Jocelyn

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy February 14, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

      Thank you Jocelyn! It does help to know that other parents are handling it more or less the way I do. I just wish they would let me be the one to hand out the treats sometimes. I also get pleasure out of sharing a great desert with my kid, but when he’s had two birthdays and a pancake author celebration already this week….heavy sigh! Thanks!

  12. Kristen February 14, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

    I don’t know that anyone is violating your right to feed your child the way you want. Its Valentine’s Day and traditionally a candy day. When your child comes home from school with 5 pounds of candy, you don’t have to let him eat it.

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy February 14, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

      You are right, Kristen! Someone just said to me that it is a learning opportunity for kids to be able to make smart decisions and practice being sensible and that made me feel a whole lot better. Thanks for the comment and the visit!

    • cocoderojas February 20, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

      Hey Kristen, like you I am more relaxed about the candy thing though I’d prefer they not send tons but I don’t agree with your statement that Valentine is a candy day. Halloween to me is a candy day. Valentines is supposed to be about showing the love you might forget to on other days by making a nice card or little gift or flowers. I know box of chocolates feature but so does jewelry. Couldn’t they send my kid home with a nice cartier bracelet instead?

      • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy February 20, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

        I think that folks are indeed violating — if not my rights — then the personal parenting space. I feel the same about advertising directed at kids. Waving the stuff in front of kids, serving it at school (the same place they teach health and dental hygiene), putting it in their backpacks…isn’t that overstepping boundaries? Isn’t that challenging one’s parenting decisions in a very blatant way?

  13. Conor Bofin February 14, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

    Hi Natalia, you are so right to be angry and upset by this. However, do remember that in time, your influence will win out with you child. Don’t underestimate your influence. You are doing a great job. Keep at it and if you want a break from all that fructose, you are welcome here in Ireland any time.
    Keep the chin up,

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy February 14, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

      Thanks for the supportive words, Conor! It’s not just that I hate them pushing sweets – bad cheap sweets – on my kid; it’s the idea that in an era of rising obesity and diabetes, people think it’s okay, somehow part of childhood…my childhood didn’t involve that much junk. Some junk, yes, but nothing like this.

      • Conor Bofin February 14, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

        Ditto. My two are 22 and 20. They are out the other side of the sucrose assault and largely (thankfully not literally) past it. They both have an interest in cooking good food that they have got from me. I got it from my parents. Stay in the fight. I love every day that I come home to see one of my girls grilling some chicken or preparing a broccoli bake.


  1. Why Candy Valentines Don't Belong in School (and What You Can Do About It!) - February 21, 2013

    […] third grader’s class was under­mined by unex­pected heaps of Valentine’s candy. Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy (a food blog, silly—get your mind out of the gut­ter!) took it a step […]

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