An Austrailian school sent a note home after a three-year-old had a sweet treat packed in with his lunch and the note has gone viral. Why? Food shaming, that’s why.
Here’s the story: after a mom packed (homemade) birthday cake leftovers in her son’s lunch, she got a pre-printed note from her kid’s school that said “You child has [blank] from the Red Food category today. Please choose healthier options for Kindy.” The blank was filled in with “chocolate slice”.
The mom showed it to her best friend, who happens to be Melinda Tankard Reist, an author and women’s advocate. Reist posted it on her social media accounts and now it’s the frowny-face note that will live in infamy.
Presumably, this is part of a healthy-eating, healthy-habits program the school has that teaches kiddos to eat good, fresh food and stay away from processed foods. And we applaud that. This month especially, National Nutrition Month, we agree that solid habits start early and we can all spend some extra time working on good routines.
However, this note is pretty lame. The birthday cake was homemade and didn’t break the rules of the “Red Food category” – the mom checked. And this note does nothing to explain why this is a “bad” food or what “better” options would be.
And sure, maybe this was covered in some first-day-of-school pamphlet but if you’re the school, why pass up the opportunity to educate and inform? And quite frankly, the bigger problem here is the food shaming: labeling foods good and bad, without context or explanation, and making some kids (and parents) feel less than because of the choices they make.
As Grub Street lay outs, studies have shown that food-shaming isn’t an effective way to “spur diet changes” and in fact can lead to body-image issues. We can see this kid having feelings about birthday cake the next time he sees a slice.
Look, a piece of chocolate cake from your mom is ok (in fact, we celebrate it). Teaching kids healthy habits is ok (in fact, we celebrate that too). But food shaming is uncalled for and should not ever have a seat at the table. Maybe the mom and the school can get together to discuss a better way to reach out to parents.
Kid, we hoped you enjoyed your cake at home with your loving family. School, we applaud the effort but not the execution. Everyone, be nicer to each other.