Monday, September 12, 2011

The Snack Time Minefield

Nine years ago when Nat was a Kindergartner, we had some issues with class snack. We were montessori-ing it at that point, and snack time and civility was a big deal—bring your own placemat. So the plan was that every twenty days we'd bring snack for twenty kids. Simple enough, no? No.

First came vegan mom's horror, Oreos. ("What kind of person would feed their five-year-old Oreos?!? At 10 in the morning!?!" [I plead the fifth.])

Then came nut allergy mom. ("Actually, if any of the kids eat peanut butter before they come to school, would you mind bathing them thoroughly before they leave for school? In fact, could you just stop eating peanut butter in your homes? Thanks!")

Then the dairy allergy raised it's ugly head. ("Not everything. Just milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, sour cream, those sorts of things. Bread is OK.")

"Please no wheat allergy. Please no "dried fruit causes cavities" dentist's kids, please!" became my prayer. I distinctly remember the day I went to make ants on a log and bought cream cheese to use instead of pb, but then realized that cream cheese was dairy. OK, ants next to a log.

Such a stress. It took months before the teacher came to the conclusion that everyone should bring their own snack for civility time. In the meantime, I just brought in boxes of back-up snacks and tried to stay out of the line of fire.

It's hard to find something that works for twenty different mom/kid combos. One person's yum is another person's yuck. Hummus, a favorite of vegan mom, gagged my daughter. People's definition of healthy varied widely. Although most of us recognized Oreos as a nutrition fail, fruit snacks, yogurt, and muffins also raised a ruckus among some parents.

Fast forward to Caroline's class which started last week, it took precisely two days and a glance over everyone's health forms to reveal that some of our cuties have nut allergies (almonds, walnuts, pecans—no peanuts, amazingly enough) and dairy sensitivities. By that night an email went out explaining the issue and explaining the new snack procedure. It was pretty complicated: bring something your child can and will eat in a container marked with her name. Works for me.

But here's where my brain stalls out. You can run into kids with conflicting needs. My best friend's son had food issues. He ate nothing but Jif smooth peanut butter and honey bear honey on Home Pride butter-top white bread (PBH). What happens when that PBH boy is in the same school as death by peanut fumes girl?

When Nat was in fourth grade she couldn't bring PB in her lunch, because there was a girl in her class that had a preschool sibling at home who had a deadly allergy. There's an entire school in our district that is peanut-free. And I get it. You can't just say, "Suck it up and carry an epi-pen! Gotta enter the real world sometime, kid." But can you say, "OK, we'll go to tube feeding for you, PBH kid"?

I'm guessing most people would vote for PBH boy to just be hungry until he gets home and say that if you just feed a picky child a variety of healthy foods and don't give them their food of choice when they fail to eat the options before them, they'll get hungry enough to eat something other than PBH. Eventually. I bear my testimony that there are children in the world who will not eat rather than eat undesired food. I've met them. I've seen heroic efforts put forth by admirable parents. I've seen the kids begin to waste away. Not pretty in a land of plenty.

So what to do when picky runs into food allergy? No clue. And I'm glad I don't have to decide it. Just glad our Kindergarten teacher decisively took care of snack so quickly.


Kristina P. said...

What in the world CAN you eat?

shenna said...

sooooo GET what you're writing about. From both sides......sure makes life 'interesting'....;)!

Melanie Jacobson said...

My kid is picky. Not the pickiest. But picky enough to make me nuts. Super high gag reflex. And I am so sick of trying. But I still try. It's very annoying.

And I hate food allergies. But I would hate everyone even more if we had a food allergy in our house and other people weren't nice about it.

Jami said...

Oo, I hate it when they gag! Just adds mess on top of an already emotional situation.

mindyluwho said...

I get you. I'm still trying to figure out what to put in the 7th grader's lunch box so that it comes back empty and not full.

Jami said...

It's true. Even knowing what my kids like, they still don't eat it all. Caroline's the exception; she has requested sliced hot dogs for her snack and so that's what I've sent her with. All gone! (Don't tell vegan mom, OK.)

oma said...

Jami - just read this post again. Could you do a weekly column..a la Erma Bombeck? I LOVE it!

TheOneTrueSue said...

Ants next to a log. Snort.

My kids are NOT picky, they will eat anything. Too much of anything. I'm grateful that I don't have to deal with it. I always feel so sad for the kids with allergies. (I had allergies as a kid, but not FATAL allergies.)

When I brought in birthday treats for my son, they had to be healthy, with no dairy, with no chocolate, with no this, or that, or the other. We had blueberry muffins, which sort of worked. Sort of. I'm not sure if they actually had dairy in them or not, but the kid ate them and didn't fall over dead, so I guess it was o.k.. Not as much fun as a bunch of cupcakes, but it worked.