My son is in a faith-based day camp this summer. He’s absolutely loving it. They have daily field trips to swim in local lakes, hike, and even visit the local college’s campus. They have a fantastic balance of quiet inside time, outside time, and games, “they have a board game with SOCCER!” he told me after his first day. “Foosball?” “YEAH!”
The counselors- amazing! Every time I drop him off, we are greeted by name, and energetic teens and young adults with smiles bright blue camp shirts whisk him away for a day of fun and worship.
And he’s also had more candy in the last 2 weeks than he had the previous year. Where did he get this? Camp.
Having a child with special needs (special needs and the church is another… hard… post for another time), and moving fairly often we have done a lot of church hopping, trying to find the right place that works for our family. I have been in and out of faith-based activities- church, Christian schools, faith-based camps, bible studies, ministries, and so on since I was a teen, and the last decade that I have had children, the children have been involved too.
We have been involved in quite a few secular activities too, from disability services to public schools to community sports.
What I’m getting at is, I’m seeing a pattern from being exposed to many many many churches, religious organizations, secular organizations, and public and private schools. This is not an isolated incident.
And that pattern is that the vast majority of uncomfortable situations I’m in regarding food are at church and faith-based events.
And quietly talking with other moms with young children, it’s not just me seeing this pattern.
No, it’s not at all faith-based programs. We have a church locally that I love that also has fruit and vegetables at their fellowship table, and the nursery workers carefully mark on a child’s name tag if they are allowed snacks or not. Older children sit in service with their parents, so obviously will only have what the parents supervise.
But— no joke, the hair dressers always ask me before offering my children a lollipop. The public school sends out an email to let me know when there will be a class party, and I can reply back to let the teacher know that my child needs to stick with fruit, or can have one treat, or whatever is acceptable to our family at that time. The children’s museum camp gives requests that parents send all food- they’re not giving out jelly beans and soda to kindergartners or having a ‘candy store’.
The disability programs (also, like church, these programs rely mostly on under-paid and volunteer workers) assure parents that dietary wishes will be honored. The gym daycare doesn’t give out any food unless parents give written permission.
It’s church and faith-based activities. That’s where 99% of the junk food that my children recieve is from.
Before you shout back with offence, ‘Persecution!’ “You are bitter!” “You are entitled!” “You are making an idol out of food” Please hear me out.
I’m not persecuting because I respectfully am bringing up an issue that I have seen over and over again. And it’s not just me, there are many other mom friends that I know that will avoid churches that we otherwise like, or activities like Awanas because of ‘the food issue‘ as we call it.
Yes, I am using strong statements, but it’s only because I have seen concerns just like this be ignored, brushed off, and belittled time and time again.
Allow me to explain further.
It’s not every day that YOU are giving my children candy, but if they are involved in 2-3 activities, they are getting candy every day from someone.
Donuts at church on Sunday, candy as a snack at day camp Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Awanas Tuesday evenings, and treats at the nursery while mom as bible study Thursday morning. Not to mention, I might like to bake a cake or cookies with my own children, but I can’t do that because they have already received more sugar and empty calories than I feel is healthy for them.
Do you see how this adds up? Some people are comfortable with their children having one or two pieces of candy every day, and that is FINE.
Those who want to limit it to a special occasion because their children’s health are affected by it struggle with it being so much a part of the church culture.
No, it’s not always an ‘allergy’. There are lots of (very good!) allergy precautions in many churches now. But junk food is more than an covered-in-hives need-an-EpiPen issue.
Yes, I do need to teach my own children our health values
And I’m teaching them that there are some things that are sold in grocery stores that cause cancer, are addictive, and are contributing to the rise in childhood-onset type II diabetes, obesity, and lifelong chronic health problems for everyone. I’m even teaching them that different families have different priorities, and it’s important not to act like we are doing anything better than anyone else.
This gets a little confusing for everyone involved when the people I am teaching my children to respect, look up to, and learn from are handing out candy and sugary treats right and left.
Moms aren’t speaking up
“Well, I don’t see why you can’t just bring up your concerns.” It’s because we have, and when we do, we get accused of not trusting God with our health, we get told that the church doesn’t want to imply that you have to eat healthy to be a Christian. I’ve heard the same thing when friends have tried to hold a book study talking about The Maker’s Diet – you can talk about healthy choices in church, it’ll be okay.
We get told that we are entitled to expect volunteers or under-paid teachers to change.
About the entitlement- I’m not expecting, I’m asking.
Or we are informed that we should better parent our children so they say ‘no thank you’ or accept the treat graciously and then bring it to their parents rather than eat it. This may work with some very compliant children, but most of our kids are normal children who also are going to want the sugary junk food if it’s being served to their age group. Plus, have you seen a preschooler who can’t have a cookie when everyone else in their class is having one? Sadness. We don’t want to bring our children to church only to have them feel alienated… church should be a time of feeling accepted.
So, no, you may not hear about this issue, but I do. And I’m speaking up.
No, it’s not a salvation issue
I know. Neither is drinking or smoking but I don’t see most churches handing out cigarettes or beer in their College and Career group.
I am trusting God with my health. I’m trusting that God gave me a solid amount of common sense and the ability to choose what is right for my children to consume.
Do you trust God with your health? Why do you get yearly physicals? Bring your children to well baby appointments? Seek medical care when they are ill or injured? Being proactive or making changes to our life to help our families be healthy does not mean that we don’t trust God with our health.
I’m not judging you
Zero percent judgement here. I really am passionate about helping the people who want to change their eating habits, but if that’s not something you are called to do at the moment, there is not any judgement from me. If you feel judgement, that is coming from somewhere OTHER than me. I promise, I am not. I am just doing things differently from you. And that’s okay.
On a similar topic, I’m not doing this for attention. Or to be different. Or because I’m bored. My children can’t handle junk food. It would be easier for me to go with the flow and let them eat it, but for whatever reason they can’t.
It’s not 1988 any more
We know better now. We know that candy and junk food isn’t just empty calories that get burned off when kids run around. We know that sugar is addicting, that the pattern of eating junk food daily sets our children up for lifelong habits that will be harder for them to break.
The church does not need to be the last place to change over.
I’m not asking for anything that costs anything.
Our children will be okay during a 45-minute Sunday School lesson or even during a 2-hour service without snacks.
I’m not asking for you to feed my children – that’s my job.
I’m just asking that the church and faith-based organizations PLEASE stop handing my children junk food.
Love is enough.
Comments will be moderated. Please feel free to disagree with me.
Bullying, off topic arguments, criticisms that do not provide anything constructive, or parenting advice from people who have never met my children will not be published.
Update 7/7/2016- comments on this post have been closed.
Based on feedback from this article, you also are finding similar problems with soccer snacks. Click here for healthy soccer snack ideas (and reasons to opt out of gatorade).
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