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We regrettably have our two-year old daughter in daycare. The Center we chose fit alot of what we were looking for except the food. They proudly reported that they serve USDA 'sanctioned (and partially funded)' meals twice a day...breakfast and lunch. I asked for a sample menu and stewed over it at home- pizza bites, potato pockets, chicken nugget shapes, and fruit in HCFS. It was very disturbing. We had been packing her breakfast and lunch prior when she was with a private sitter and asked the Center Manager if it was acceptable if she brought her own meals. She had to get 'permission' from Corporate and called back acknowledging that nobody have ever asked that but it was 'ok' to pack her meals.


Yesterday I dropped her off late and everyone was eating breakfast. Fruit Loop cereal with ultra-pasteurized skim milk in a styrofoam bowl. I nearly sh!t myself. Our daughter sat down in front of one of the bowls and I asked her to sit somewhere else because somebody else was obviously sitting there. The teacher came in and said she could sit there and poured milk in the bowl and our daughter didn't miss a beat. Those fruit loops didn't stand a chance.


It was utter defeat, I thought. She's two years old and already falling on the darkside. We've lost her, I thought. Her teacher obviously smelled my pants and explained that my wife said that our daughter could eat the school food if she was interested...Well, it was not a good time for me to discuss my feelings with her teacher so I bolted and called my wife before I got in the truck.


So, I'm not too sure how to handle this.

1) Do we tell the teacher no crap school food and let her deal with my unruly newly HCFS addicted daughter?


2) Do we attempt to explain our philos to her teacher and ask that she try and encourage our daughter to eat the 'right' food (I'm an idealist)?


3) Do we throw in the towel and let what happens at school happen and just live right and try and teach her the best we can? She hasn't even started 'big girl' school yet...


4) Do we try an all-out assault on the USDA and School food program?


5) Or, do we abandon ship and find a new daycare that doesn't serve food...


Looking for advice from more seasoned mamas & papas.

many thanks.

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Replies to This Discussion

I ran into the same problem in my region (Tampa, FL) -- none of the 'quality' childcare options offered high-quality, nutritious food. I ultimately chose a home daycare that my then two-year-old daughter loved: the provider was wonderful and very loving, the curriculum was fantastic, it was close to home, etc. And, comparatively speaking, it was very affordable. Sadly, the only downside was huge: the kids were given all sorts of candy and store-bought cakes & cookies on an almost daily basis, were served McDonald's cheeseburgers routinely on Wednesdays, delivery pizza on Fridays, packaged cereals loaded with sugar daily and so on.

My biggest regret is that by the time my two-year-old was three, she was hooked. (She's four now and we have daily battles over food - though she now understands the difference between healthy and un-healthy food, getting her to eat healthy foods is very tough!)

When my second daughter was born (she is now 21 months old), I swore not to make the same mistake twice. Sooo, I made a dramatic move for me: I left my academic career and opened a Family Child Care Home so I could serve my kids real nutritious food (a sample menu is on http://pamsfamilychildcare.blogspot.com/search/label/Menus).

Unfortunately, most kids are used to eating crappy food. THAT's one of the reasons why most childcare centers & schools serve it: because they know kids will eat it. From a teacher's or childcare provider's perspective, full kids are happier (& hence much easier to deal with) than hungry kids. No one wants to risk having a classroom full of irritable, hungry children so they give them what they'll eat. Plus, it's usually cheaper and much easier to prepare the kinds of food they give them.

My thoughts re how to handle the situation are:

1) Bear in mind that the teacher also has other children to worry about. Even if he/she says they will not give your little girl crap food, there will probably be many days that they can't. Chances are, not all the other parents share your food values. Personally, I was shocked to discover that some of the parents of the children in my home would send candy & cookies with their kids daily - despite knowing my nutritional philosophy. Those kids, by the way, tended to be the ones with the most behavior problems. My time as a caregiver, therefore was often focused on handing sugar-withdrawal tantrums. Bear in mind - it is very rare to find a toddler who doesn't also then want the cookies too. Just imagine being an adult in a roomful of kids fighting and crying over cookies & knowing that all it would take to shut them up is giving them the cookie ...

2) See my response to #1

3) That's what I did with my oldest daughter, I suspect I'm in for a long uphill trek to change her habits. I do believe it can be done, though.

4) Hmmm, what would an all-out assault look like?? :) I'm in if you do!

5) All I know is that in my area there weren't any daycares that didn't serve the kind of food I wanted my kids eating. Plus, I know that very young children aren't developmentally able to understand *why* some kids are allowed to eat certain things that they can't. For a toddler, Fruit Loops are so pretty and colorful AND they taste good!! It's impossible for a teacher of that age group to single one child out and not feeding them is simply asking for chaos. Sooo, I'm guessing that you may have just as hard a time finding the kind of daycare you want in your area, too.

I'm certainly not suggesting that you go out and start a home daycare like I did! In fact, knowing what I know now, I'd probably recommend against it. It's tough to find parents who care enough about their children's nutrition to make it a priority when looking for child care. That said, I have run across many parents like ourselves who DO care enough to want to change things.

Personally, I've been seriously thinking of writing a book that pushes for change in the childcare profession. I think most childcare centers & providers don't even know that it's possible to prepare quick, cheap & nutritious foods for large groups of small children!
If you try to bring her own food, and you're *the only one* bringing her own food, you will be fighting this battle forever. She will always wonder why she can't have the food everyone else is eating, why she's different, etc. And the other kids will wonder the same. And it will be a HUGE ISSUE. You will also be setting her up to crave the stuff she can't have, just because she can't have it and everyone else can. You don't want to do this.

If you try a full frontal assault on the center's food program, they will wonder why you have such a problem with their food, and what your problem is. YOUR PROBLEM. Not theirs. They were just fine until you showed up.

If you *really* want to change their food program, I would try to start with the other parents, and offer them (the center) solutions, but realize that it's an uphill battle. Jamie Oliver has done a lot with school lunches, so off the top of my head you might try starting there. But school lunch is a huge problem and it doesn't get better.

I would do one of two things: find another place where they don't offer food (ie, decide how important this is to you) and two, feed her breakfast before she gets there. If she's not hungry, the food they offer will be less tempting and she'll eat less of it. You can't do much about lunch, but you can try to mitigate some of the damage.

Lastly, my philosophy about parenting (I've got a 28 y.o. stepson, a 25 y.o. son, a 12 y.o. daughter and a 9 y.o. son). Your kids will have to live in the world. You can't isolate them and you can't control all aspects of their lives. You have to let them go. So you give them the best start you can, and you equip them to make the best choices they can. You feed them the healthiest food you can, and you try to develop healthy tastes. When they grow up eating real food, they will eventually develop a taste for real food. And if they don't like what you eat at first (my 9 y.o. was a very picky eater), keep offering it. Their tastes will change, and they will like things besides chicken nuggets. If they see you cook, they will learn how to cook. Yes, they will probably consume some candy and some french fries along the way, and it probably won't kill them. You have to learn to pick your battles. Kids have radar, and they know when things are an issue for you, and the more you make it an issue, the more it will be an issue. If your philosophy is that certain foods are strictly off limits and dangerous, then those foods will be really glamorous and attractive. If you simply ignore that stuff, and don't have any charge about it, they won't have any charge about it. KWIM?

So, if I were you, I would weigh the merits of this daycare, and look at other options. If you really love this place, except for the food, feed her breakfast at home, and consider lunch the price of good daycare. If you don't love it, and you have other options, find another option.

My $.02. ;-)
Farm Aid created a Farm to School toolkit for parents who are thinking of trying to change their local school systems. You can download it here: http://www.farmaid.org/farm2school
I would start packing food and just explain it to the school. They should be used to this kind of thing anyway- there are always children on special allergy diets, etc. AND I would also start looking at changing their food program. My $.02 :)
Well school food isn't the issue your facing now. It's daycare food and your best bet is to vote with your wallet and find a daycare that has better food. When you tell them the problem and that your going to leave you may find they are responsive and if you talk to other parents they might vote and move to a daycare that serves better food. If enough parents are with you they will change what they are doing.

When you get to "big girl school" you will hit a brick wall if they go to public school. Some will be better than others it really just depends on if that school has much in the way of funding. My kids go to public school and because we have our gardens and such they like good healthy food and most of the time they would rather bring lunch than eat what is served in the lunch room. Letting them choose helps. If my kids feel like the choice is theres then they will make the right choice, but if they feel forced they dig their heels in. The choice to eat junk is one they have to learn early.

Personally, we couldn't afford private school and if we wanted and even if we could we live in such small place the only private school only goes to third grade and all the kids bring lunch, but otherwise private schools are just like any other business and if you don't like the business the best thing to do is stop paying them.
Many Thanks to everyone. We are packing her breakfast and lunch and asking her teacher to give her those everyday. I agree that we can't build walls, exclude, or forbid things as they would only cause rebellion -both with our daughter and the school. My wife mentioned our concern about sugary foods to the manager and it was 'received' because it wasn't safe for me...

You can't keep your kids away from sugar and other such unhealthy snacks forever. If its sugary cereal EVERY morning, I'd definitely be concerned.  (is it possible they sugar 'em up and tire them out for nap time?)

Number 1 issue is that you and your wife weren't on the same page before you took you daughter to school. It sounds as if, correct me if I'm wrong, your wife had talked to the lady at the daycare without you knowing... Never a good thing.

I would make sure to pack the lunches and feed her before dropping her off. Personally, my husband and I were appalled that the USDA has decided that french fries are considered a fresh vegetable!




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