Wednesday, June 28, 2000

Snack attack

Wake up, they're fat! That's the message about our kids that's blaring from the cover of this week's Newsweek, and I'm starting to get an idea as to why that may be. On snack-room duty at my kids' half-day church camp this week, I'm seeing what people are sending in for their first- to fifth-graders to munch on. And I'm wondering if possibly they think the camp is on a desert island and they have to save their little ones from eating rats.

I'm shocked by the amount of food these kiddos are bringing in. To me, snack means "small amount of food to sustain child through a morning's learning." To some folks, it apparently means "lunch." I see sandwiches and chips, I see elaborate Lunchable ensembles, I see thermoses and jumbo-sized lunchboxes packed full. Cartons of yogurt. Tubs of fruit salad. One girl had a pre-fab kit of silver-dollar pancakes, syrup, and a leather-like item that was undoubtedly supposed to represent sausage. Did she skip breakfast? Will she eat lunch?

What makes all this worse is that the kids have a very brief amount of time to chow this stuff down. "Recess" is fifteen minutes, and that includes snack time. So they have about ten minutes to eat and five minutes to run around the parking lot "playing." Someone needs to send a memo home to moms and dads letting them know that this is not a 45-minute lunch break, like in school, and they should pack snack bags accordingly. The memo should also mention that this break comes about one hour into a four-hour day, so far from being starved from all their hard work, the campers are probably still digesting their Lucky Charms.

Poor scheduling, to be sure. Speaking for my own personal kids, they have a hard time putting away even a tiny snack in ten minutes, my son because he so enjoys playing with his food, my daughter because she eats at a pace that makes glaciers look breakneck. And even I would have difficulty gobbling down some of their campmates' brown-bag extravaganzas in the alotted time. I don't think I could even drink some of the enormous containers of juice before the bell.

Since this is after all a church function, perhaps we should be collecting all the uneaten snack items and sending them to a soup kitchen. We'd be offering the homeless the very latest in snack-food technology, that's for sure. The little packages of cookies that you dip in frosting seem to be popular; now there's a healthy snack. Crackers with a raspberry-jam dip might be a bit more nutritionally sound, but just a bit. Fruit roll-ups now come in flavors and colors I never knew existed; one girl had a rainbow number that looked awfully purty. She finished it and then took a large roll of fruit "tape" out of her bag and proceeded to peel and eat that. A balanced snack--two forms of flat fruit! One boy had one of those mini-pizza kits where you squirt tomato sauce, sprinkle cheese, and pop pepperoni on top of a crust the size of a jar lid. I think he about got one assembled before the bell rang.

On the beverage front, it appears that foil juice-bags have bested juice boxes as the container of choice. This I will never understand: You hand your child a bag full of juice and you expect him not to squirt his neighbors with it? I haven't caught any bad behavior, but there do seem to be puddles left behind when the snackers are gone. I have enough trouble avoiding squirting when holding a full juice-box firmly. There are no juice bags in my family's future. But other parents have no such qualms; one mom sent her boy in with three juice bags. One to drink, two for food fights?

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