Healthy Classrooms: Conquering Food As A Reward


The days of food rewards in the classroom are quickly coming to an end. A combination of food allergies and health concerns are making many teachers and school officials aware that food must be treated differently in school than it was in the past. The following tips can help teachers, administrators, and parent volunteers navigate the sometimes murky waters of dealing with food in schools.

Reward Wisely

In the past, a cookie or piece of candy was a just reward for students that behaved or turned in their work on time. Today, schools are becoming more aware that serving sugary on unhealthy processed treats can lead to future health problems and obesity. Rewarding with food can also teach children to eat even when they aren't hungry, "because they deserve it."

Switch out the small candy rewards for non-food prizes or experiences. Ideas include:

  • Game time
  • Extra privileges
  • Pencils
  • Stickers
  • Books

Party Wisely

Popular classroom rewards in the past used to include ice cream or pizza parties. Today, instead of couching the food as the reward, teachers and administrators can instead make an event the reward – even if food is still involved. For example, work with your school's nutrition services company to provide portable lunches and let a classroom celebrate with a picnic outdoors or lunchtime in the classroom with a movie.

Rethink Classroom Parties

Classroom parties aren't usually given as a reward, but as a celebration of a birthday or holiday. Parent volunteers usually provide the food, which can pose several issues, including unknown allergens and lack of nutritional information.

It can be difficult to separate the food from these types of classroom parties, in part because parents have fond memories of their own parties. One option is to schedule the parties over the lunch hour, so the treats are served as an alternative to the treats the children would normally have been served with their lunch. Another option is to limit treats to healthier options. In the case of allergies, food treats may require full banning.

Limit Celebrations

If you opt to allow some food at your classroom celebrations, then you should limit them to no more than once per month. This way kids look forward to them as a rare treat, instead of expecting food-centered rewards regularly. For example, if your classroom celebrates birthdays, celebrate every child's birthday that is that month on the first Friday of the month. Teachers may need to work with parents to coordinate these efforts.

For more information about school food options, visit New Horizon Foods.


22 June 2015

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