33 Comments
Sep 12Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I don’t have children but reading this is so eye-opening. I don’t remember any such food policing of lunches when I was bringing my lunch to school back in the day! It seems especially incongruous today when so many kids don’t get enough to eat.

Anyway, I’m commenting to share another resource: the film, The Student Body, tells the true story about a high school student who researches the BMI report cards at her school all the up to her state legislature and works to change them. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3498678/

It’s probably best for middle school and up; I’ve used it with college students and they found it compelling.

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Sep 12Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Everyday I get messages from parents trying to navigate this stuff. Yesterday someone told me that she'd been instructed to send lunch and one snack, and so she packed cheese and pretzels. But the teacher decided that two foods were not acceptable for the "one snack" and took the pretzels away from the child. Who was 3. It's very upsetting to have a front seat to how this plays out. (At the very least, talk to the parent at pick up about the concerns instead of taking food from a child!) I could yell about this stuff all day. Which is a long way of saying, thank you for the guide.

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Sep 12Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Oh man, I'd forgotten about those assignments to keep food logs in high school until you mentioned it! We had to feed ours into a computer program, which for me spat out that I needed to eat less due to my height/weight, but also that I needed to eat more based on my activity and food intake. That was fun, and about equal to every piece of diet advice I've ever gotten.

I am rather irritated by all the ways teachers feel like opponents. My mom and partner are teachers, and they're not happy with it all either. From their perspective, it's all coming from "do-gooders" on high who don't have to actually interact with the children impacted.

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Sep 12Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Virginia, the work you do is life-changing and hopefully, culture-changing. Thank you is insufficient, but it’s what I have, so: thank you.

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Sep 12Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Thankfully I didn’t experience food “education” until I took nutrition as a required science lab class in college. Which was a mistake cause it triggered some massive disordered eating and exercise addiction behaviors, which I had previously in high school. Seems to me looking back now after doing a lot of reading that a lot of the science we were taught in my nutrition class about bodies, weight, diets, etc is just flat out wrong.

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Sep 12Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I worked in a preschool for many years, and teachers gather anecdotal evidence about different developmental domains for a COR report they share with parents. Sorting foods into healthy and unhealthy was a common class project I would see in the halls. There’s also the visits from the dentists where they teach kids about sugar bugs lurking in their mouths.

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I'm a new teacher and my teacher training program had a small research component, and mine was interviewing teachers about their experiences of healthism and fatphobia and the like in their food pedagogy. My participants all ended up being teachers who were trying to push back against the common harmful practices like those mentioned here - with varying degrees of success and support from colleagues, admin, and parents. The main conclusion, I think, is what we in this space know already - it's HARD. There's so much on our plates as educators, so much diet culture we're swimming in (primary education, I think, can be a particular minefield on the staff side, as it's predominantly women, and we tend to be socialized to think and talk about our weight and eating habits more - I don't know about secondary schools though), so many demands on children's attention and time.

Now that I'm working (I was lucky enough to land a full-time gig right away this year), I'm keeping my eyes and ears open. The school community I'm in faces a significant amount of food insecurity, which adds a whole other dimension to how we talk about food. I don't think I'll be teaching health to my class, which makes me anxious because I don't know how the teacher who is doing it will approach the subject. I'm really interested to see how themes and ideas my findings and the literature I read play out, or don't!

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Sep 12Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

My 12 year old just moved up to the adolescent program at her school so new rules, new structure, new responsibilities. They are allowed to bring in a "healthy snack" and I struggle with how much I should push back, and how. I prefer neutral language around food, we don't label food as healthy or good or whatever. My daughter seems pretty confident in her ability to handle this without me complaining to the teacher about it, so I'm compelled to let her navigate this on her own.

I also realized how much our neutral language is working! The kids are in charge of making their own lunches for the first time this year and they are choosing to make a balanced meal on their own. I had a coworker express shock that we didn't need to police it more, and I really do think it's because chips and sweets are not forbidden.

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founding
Sep 12Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Quick question about extra butter~as a paid subscriber am I already included or do I upgrade ? It’s early and my coffee hadn’t kicked in.

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The school lunchroom is so fraught and problematic. I worked as a playground/lunch aide in an elementary school for a few years. Yes, most adults judge what’s in the lunchbox. We were frequently instructed to monitor how much and what was being eaten before allowing kids to buy an extra snack or treat, which led to all kinds of machinations on the kids’ part to get to eat the ice cream. Sometimes I would try to follow what I had been told, but more often than not I’d turn a blind eye. I wasn’t getting paid enough to be a food cop for 25-50 kids in a 23 minute time slot. And as you point out, there are things going on we don’t usually know about (neurodivergence, economic issues, cultural differences, whatever) so who am I to be hovering over little kids hectoring them about what they are/aren’t eating?? It’s one more arena in the food battleground. As if school isn’t already stressful enough. And the hot lunch program is a whole other maelstrom of problems.

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My 4 year old is just starting pre-k and this feels so helpful as I begin navigating this experience with her. Thank you!

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Thank you for the letter templates to opt out. Right now I am trying to teach my kids about trusting their bodies and they are aware that both their aunt and I are passionate about protecting our kids in every way we can from diet culture. They know I will comment to them that we have different rules in our house when their cousins on the Heydary side are told they have to eat certain foods first or hear about junk food or too much added sugar.

I feel anxious about food tracking type assignments as food tracking is unequivocally what pushed me into full blown anorexia behaviors. I didn’t know atypical anorexia existed at the time 10 years ago but I feel pretty comfortable with claiming that now- my BMI was always “normal” and I moved primary care providers from the dr who saw me and praised me for weight loss during that time and asked nothing about my lifestyle when I lost 25 pounds in a year. Even if I don’t end up seeing behaviors in my still young kids (6 and 4 yo) my current plan is to let teachers know that we have ED history in our family and it is very important to me that we opt out. My twin and I are the 90s example of the precocious puberty story from Fat Talk and she especially couldn’t handle being in a larger body than our peer group at 10.

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My friend became PTA President this year and one of her major initiatives is to cover lunch every Friday for the teachers. I will be at my 6 yo’s school on Friday from 10:45-1:15 and I’m very interested to see how diet culture shows up across the grades. I try my best to advocate for all kids to be able to trust their bodies. As a kindergarten mom last year I went to lunch a few times, went on 2 field trips. and covered lunch for Teacher Appreciation and I saw a lot of the assertions to eat certain foods first. It has never made sense to me to tell a kid to eat PBJ before his donut. Our class mom brought pizza one day for her sons birthday but then told kids they should eat the lunch they brought first? It is very confusing to navigate especially when I can often feel like I’m the only one in my peer group who is invested in this work. And for what it’s worth my kid eats school lunch almost every day, occasionally my husband will have made or bought something amazing he wants to take the next day and I made him a lunch on his birthday and field trip day but prob 175 days of the school year he bought lunch and it does make him more adventurous. I wouldn’t call him more than typically picky but he does have some texture issues and a tougher time eating combined foods at home. He defaults to what he has eaten recently if asked what he wants and when forced to take lunch to summer camp one week he had a sun butter and jelly sandwich, string cheese, carrots, kettle chips lunch every single day. (This was Farmer in training camp which we chose bc my husband loves to grow veggies and our kid wanted to help his dad. they also tried some type of produce every day and made their own pickles so I think I packed a store pickle one day to compare to the ones he made). Thank you for the guide, there is so much to consider in elementary school especially!

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I think the big challenge is that by the time your child gets to a certain age, it's unlikely you're going to hear about this type of bias. My middle schooler comes home and has so many other things she's unpacking from the day. It feels like we have to teach our kids to become advocates too.

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