Have you ever spotted diet culture at your child’s school? We have! It may have been an assignment about “good” and “bad” foods. It may have been a well-meaning staff member commenting on your child’s lunch. Or, maybe, your school conducts weigh-ins. Schools are a part of our culture and diet culture is pervasive in our culture. So, it’s no surprise there’s diet culture in our schools.
We have a vision to make our schools diet-free. Sunny Side Up Nutrition and the National Alliance for Eating Disorders have created 5 letters for Parents and Caregivers to keep diet culture out of the classroom.
Another Diet Culture-Filled Lesson
I wished I had had these letters earlier this year. My Kindergartner read a book in her class, as part of the county English curriculum, Wants Versus Needs: Food and Drink. This book took the concept of wants and needs and collided it with diet culture messaging. The book used the terms “wants” and “needs” to "teach" children the concepts of "good" and "bad" foods. My daughter came home and said, “Mama, the book says hamburgers and chocolate are wants and not needs!”
Food is a need.
Food is a need. Period. Every family is different. How we approach food and what we eat is different and no one can say a certain food is a want versus a need. Food insecurity is a big, big piece of this. No other person can tell another person if a certain type of food is needed or not. Only the person making the food decisions can. The shame and confusion a book like this creates is heartbreaking.
When my daughter came home questioning this messaging, I felt compelled to do something. I’ll be honest with you, however, I didn’t want to. I had a lot going on with work and home and I thought to myself, “Really, I have to do this, again.” I didn’t want to look like “that mom.” I didn’t want to take the time to write an email and explain the harm that this book can cause. And, I acknowledge my immense privilege in this scenario. It’s way easier for me to tackle this than lots and lots of other people. I emailed the teacher, briefly expressed my concern, and inquired if the book and lessons were part of the county curriculum. I learned that the lesson is a part of the county's curriculum. I was able to find out the curriculum contact with the school district, had a conversation with him, and then followed up with a long email, citing references and information. I then shared that email with the teacher so she knew why I had the concerns, in case that could influence any further lessons on the topic. It took lots of time and energy. And, I’m not always going to have the bandwidth to do this. For many parents, for many reasons, including the fact that they are not in the nutrition field, addressing diet culture in schools feels like and is a huge task.
Letters for Parents and Caregivers
This is exactly why the Alliance and Sunny Side Up Nutrition have created downloadable and fillable letters for parents and caregivers. If you see diet culture in your child’s school, you can download one of these letters, personalize it and send it to your child’s school. We hope these feel supportive and practical and empower you to fight for diet-free schools.
Check out the 5 letters:
- Introductory Letter to Your Child’s Teacher
- Letter regarding School Weigh-Ins
- Letter regarding a Harmful School Assignment with Diet Culture
- Letter regarding Food Police in the School Cafeteria
- Letter requesting your Child Opt-Out of An Assignment
Diet-free and Developmentally Appropriate Nutrition Education
Are you curious about how we can teach children about food and nutrition without the harm of diet culture? Check out these resources:
- Podcast Episode: Early Childhood Health with Educator and Advocate Shawna Daniels
- Podcast Episode: School Nutrition and Health Curriculums with Sara Ganginis
- Teaching Children Nutrition: What's In Season
- The Berry's Journey: Learning Where Food Comes From
- A School Nutrition Lesson: Edible Parts of the Plant
We'd love to hear from you how you use these letters. Keep us posted!