Dear COLlive readers,
My daughter has attended one of local schools in Crown Heights for the past year and throughout the year I’ve been quite concerned about the casual way in which junk food is distributed and even encouraged.
I am sure this is not unique to that school and have heard other moms voice their concerns. Many people in our community are a lot more health conscious now than ever before. Sadly, instead of leading, our schools are way behind in this matter. This applies to school lunches at well, but I am here to discuss nosh goodies in particular.
1. Shabbos parties
The Shabbos Abba and Ima are both required to bring a nosh to distribute to the whole class. It has somehow become accepted that Shabbos is associated with junk food, maybe to sweeten the idea of Shabbos. Yet strawberries are sweet and kids love them. Blueberries are pleasing to the taste buds and fun to eat. Even a small slice of fresh cake is better than a nosh laden with high fructose corn syrup. Popcorn is another option.
You might say ‘Aw, it’s a shabbos party, let them enjoy it with some nosh’ but see, that is part of the problem. Why must enjoying Shabbos entail eating junk food?
My coworker mentioned something I have observed as well. In some Lubavitch preschools that cater to more health conscious communities, the Shabbos party consists of a sip of grape juice, and a slice is challah. That is the essence of Shabbos, not nosh. The children will not demand the nosh if they don’t associate it with the Shabbos party to begin with.
It may be too late for some kids but for the new kids entering school it is time to start a new chapter.
Rewards in the school usually involve small prizes, stickers, etc. but on more than one occasion my daughter was awarded a lollipop for being a ‘tznius princess’. The following statement may be a stretch but to me this causes the children to further associate frumkeit with junk food.
Another issue is that nobody at the school ever thought to ask the parents whether they would mind if nosh would be given out during the school year. Nobody asked me, yet I do mind.
In my home I only allow one nosh, once a week as a compromise over my daughter’s sweet tooth and to avoid store tantrums. I do not send her to school to get her more involved with junk food. My kids love fruit and healthy ices and to them that is reward enough.
3. Birthday baggies
When discussing my daughter’s upcoming birthday party, the teacher mentioned two things: cupcakes and birthday bags (pekelach).
As far as the cupcakes go, I understand the need to standardize to avoid one parent bringing a large custom made decorated cake while another brings a tray of Duncan Hines brownies. That is understandable and actually laudable.
However, I protest the standardization of birthday baggies. If someone throws a party at home and wishes to give out party favors, that is their prerogative. This does not have to be the norm in schools. Every single child (or more accurately, their mother) has to purchase cute little bags and fill them with at least 3 different types of nosh and one or two small ‘prizes’. This all comes to a certain expense to the parents – not very large but not negligible either, particularly to those of us living on a shoestring budget.
In addition to these three points, I think nosh is also distributed at special gatherings for chassidishe yom tovs etc.
It is true that some parents are more lax with junk food than others and many kids come to school with an already developed sweet tooth, but for those of us who do not encourage nosh it’s all very disturbing. One-third of adults and almost 17 percent of children in America are considered obese, recent date showed.
Nosh has no place in school and it’s sad that we have come to the point where it is not a celebration if no junk is involved.
Growing up on Shlichus we had little to no access to nosh and a slice of homemade cake was the highlight of our day. We were not deprived for it and did not suffer horrible childhoods because of nosh deprivation. It is not necessary. Stand up for the health of your children.