I got an email today from the class mom. Here it is in an edited form:
We will be having a small St. Patrick’s Day celebration in class during snack time on [date omitted]. We will be providing green bagels for this event and the teacher will be bringing in Irish soda bread. We will need the following items:
Plates, Cups, Napkins, Small Snack (i.e. cookies), Butter, Cream Cheese, A green drink (for all you creative people – good luck!), Apple juice
One by one people stepped up via email, offering to send stuff in. Someone said they would bring green punch. Someone else said they would send in butter. “We will work on making it green!,” they said. Everything, it seemed, was going to be green. Translation: There would be a whole lot of artificial food dyes being consumed that day.
As I sat there all I could think about was a recent gathering I had attended where the kids got Hawaiian Punch. Red Hawaiian punch. Soon after, they were bouncing off the walls. What would happen when a class of 20 kids consumed a ton of green food dye? How would they concentrate? How would their bodies and minds handle it?
Yes, I know that I am in the minority when it comes to watching out for artificial colors. I know that most parents don’t worry about that at all. (BTW: I don’t think it’s that they don’t care. I think it’s that they don’t know.) But still. These are kids. It’s school. You’d think the educators would know better. You’d think those people who care so freaking much about test scores would do everything in their power to keep artificial dyes out of the classroom. You’d think such parties would be taken as opportunities to teach kids that eating healthy can be fun, and that their bodies are worth something. They are not garbage cans to throw more and more crap into. But that’s simply not the case, I guess.
Anyway, I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I wrote a letter to the class mom, CCing the vice principal and the teacher. Here is my [mostly] unedited letter, some of which was taken from this blog post I wrote:
I’m going to send an alternate green juice made with natural vegetable dyes. Also, I’d like to send natural cookies, too, as I prefer that my child NOT ingest artificial colors. They are harmful to children.
About two years ago, The Center for Science in the Public Interest formally petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to ban eight artificial colors that have been conclusively linked to hyperactivity in children: Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Orange 8, Red 3, and Yellow 6.
The FDA this month will finally get around to determining whether or not the ban should happen. Meanwhile, in Europe, there’s already a warning label on foods that contain these chemicals: “Consumption may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”
Here’s a story that you might be interested in: http://www.wbaltv.com/r/26988865/detail.html
I’d think, with concentration being so important at school, that the school would dissuade the consumption of something that multiple organizations and scientists have found to cause serious concentration issues and hyperactivity in children.
Big Girl’s old school did not allow anything with food dyes or high fructose corn syrup to come into class at any time. I’ve stayed silent all year since I did not want to butt in. I simply feed my child, and mind my business. However, when I saw you were going out of your way to request green food, I felt the need to speak out. I’ve CCed [insert teacher's name] and [insert vice principal's name] so they are aware of how I feel about this, too.
Before anyone says that I am ruining a good time, please understand: I’m not saying that I don’t want kids to celebrate the holiday. I’m not saying that we should ban parties. All I am saying is that there are other ways to show kids a good time than by loading them up with chemicals and dyes. If I was class mom I would have asked for some green fruit — honeydew, apples, kiwi, grapes. And I would have encouraged people to bring in healthy sweets without high fructose or artificial dyes.
I can’t wait to see the response I get. I’m sure it will not be good. For example, I’m sure the class mom will be offended. Whenever you point out that one type of food is unhealthy, people take it as a criticism of what they are doing with their kids. And the administrators? Well, I’m not hoping for much. In fact, all I want is permission to send my healthy options in. The last time I asked I was told that I was not allowed to send in anything extra because the moms of the kids with allergies want to duplicate everything that comes into the classroom. I didn’t give them enough notice. Well, I’m giving them two weeks notice, and I’m letting the administrators know, too. In the meantime, I’ll be making a trip to Whole Foods to pick up some of the India Tree natural food dyes that I found, which are made entirely of plant-based dyes. It comes in a three pack of primary colors so you can mix any color under the rainbow. Maybe they will let me send something healthy in. You never know, right?