Food glorious food

8th October 2020

Given the current situation, we are giving some thought to issues around food and hydration in school.

Firstly - a disclaimer!

This is not a lecture on how to parent your child! This is a full explanation of why we are taking a stronger stance on issues around food and hydration in school. We simply want to explain to you why we feel it is such an important responsibility for us to properly care for your child's health during the school day and to show you that we have carefully considered health and safety research and advice on these issues.

A quick 'Scooby' snack?

Hanger Management!

We have all seen the advert starring Joan Collins. Set in a football changing room, she accuses a team-mate of stealing her deodorant. She is given a Snickers bar to eat because she is ‘acting like a diva’ and transforms back into a football player. The advert is funny and effective but from our point of view it is a reality that we see every day when working with children. Perhaps you have noticed it at home too?

The biology of being hangry

It would seem that 'hanger' really is a thing. There is a physiological reason why some people get angry when they’re hungry.

When you haven’t eaten for a while, the level of sugar (glucose) in your blood decreases. When your blood sugar gets too low, it triggers a cascade of hormones, including cortisol(a stress hormone) and adrenaline (the fight-or-flight hormone). These hormones are released into your bloodstream to raise and re-balance your blood sugar.

The release of cortisol can cause aggression in some people. Also, low blood sugar may interfere with higher brain functions, such as those that help us control impulses and regulate our primitive drives and behaviour.

So, there truly is a medical explanation for being hangry. It’s a biochemical reaction due to low blood sugar — not the same thing as being crabby when you’re tired, sick or otherwise feeling out of sorts.

Hanger at school

We see it all of the time and there is often a recognisable pattern and time frame. For some children it is a long time since breakfast or they may have refused breakfast. The period between 10 O'clock and lunch is often a peak time for hanger. This coincides with playtime and then the lesson before lunch can often be a struggle with low mood, lack of concentration and irritability. This is peak learning time and can be completely lost if children are not on the ball.

What can we do about it?

If we could afford to feed the children a substantial snack for 'elevenses' we would. As you know, the children in Early Years and KS1 receive fruit and we always encourage you to send fruit with the older children. But sometimes fruit won't satisfy the hunger and sometimes children don't like the fruit that is on offer. Sometimes, the children seem to need something with more starch and different carbohydrates, but we are really trying to avoid allowing sugary snacks such as breakfast bars and we don't want snacktime to be a second lunchtime so snacks before lunch shouldn't be too big!

So from now on we would encourage you to look at these options and send one to school each day for your child if you would like to:

  • A slice of bread and butter or spread.
  • A slice of cold buttered toast (some people love it apparently!)
  • One slice of bread sandwich (but not peanut butter please due to allergies in school.)
  • A small amount of crackers - although please avoid the over-salted ones.
  • Any fresh or dried fruit or veg which can be eaten with fingers.

These snacks should not be part of a child's packed lunch. Please put snacks separately in the child's backpack or coat pocket, adequately wrapped and please tell the child what they have so that they know it is there. Please avoid plastic 'tupperware' containers and use sandwich bags, foil or clingfilm if possible to avoid containers becoming lost. The free fruit for KS1 will still be available if this is what you prefer.

Health and Safety and what is NOT allowed for a snack

Sorry but we can't allow the following as daily snacks - even though some (not all) of these may appear in packed lunches:

School Bars, dry cereal, pasta, Yoghurt Fruit Flakes, Fruit Strings, Fruit Winders and Bear YoYos, nuts, chocolate bars, breakfast bars, crisps (not even in sandwiches please!) yogurts.

We cannot provide refrigeration or cutlery for snacks. Bags and coats are kept in cooler areas of the building such as cloakrooms and children are watched carefully when in these areas.

Depending on the age of the children, snacks may be eaten in the classroom or outside on the playground, hence the need for no cutlery. We are always wary of children moving around when they are eating and we assess choking risk.

Very important - due to the very real and proven risk of lethal incidents of choking, all grapes (and in some cases small tomatoes) should be cut up lengthways before sending them for snacks or pack ups for children in Early Years, Y1 and Y2. We will not allow children of this age to eat grapes that are not cut up lengthways.

Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink?

Water bottles

As the name implies - please fill the bottles with water only. The children keep them on the desks and are never denied the use of them - except when teachers are giving input on a lesson. While the children are working at their desks they are encouraged to sip their water all day long to keep rehydrated.

Here comes the science part.....

The importance of water for health and education

Our brains are predominantly made up of water, and they need proper hydration to function normally. Brain cells require a delicate balance between water and various elements to operate, and when we lose too much water, that balance is disrupted and our brain cells lose efficiency. Drinking water improves memory and focuses attention.

Children may not remember to drink when they are thirsty and rely on caregivers to provide drinks for them so it’s important to encourage children to drink regularly throughout the day. Children of this age should have about 6-8 cups or beakers of fluid a day (about 150ml-200ml per serving).

Infants and young children have a higher proportion of body water than adults. They are also less heat tolerant and may be more likely to get dehydrated, especially when being physically active and in hot climates.

Plain tap water is a good choice and this should be made available throughout the day.

It's this phrase 'throughout the day' that means we rely on and trust parents to only put plain water in the children's bottles. Please read on.....

Why water not juice? The tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth....

Sugary food and drinks are one of the main causes of tooth decay. Acid is produced when the bacteria in your mouth break down the sugar. The acid dissolves the tooth surface, which is the first stage of tooth decay.

Whatever you drink and whenever you drink, the liquid touches your teeth.(Straws help but are not allowed at school.) If a child is drinking water, there is no sugar or acid touching his/her teeth each time they take a sip. A child can take an awful lot of sips and 'swigs' of the bottle in a single day. So at school we just can't condone this amount of sugar and acid touching your child's precious teeth every day.

But what if the juice is sugar free? Even if it is sugar free, it is not acid free. Acid is just as bad. Please read on.......

Are “diet” drinks better for my child's teeth?

Diet drinks, if they are totally sugar free, may sound better for your child's teeth but if you check the label you will see that they normally contain hidden sugars. For example, sucrose, glucose and fructose are all sugars in different forms. Some drinks which are labelled as low calorie can sometimes be misleading because they may contain a combination of sugars and artificial sweeteners.

Many food manufacturers claim that their products are low in sugar but low in sugar still means that some sugar is still present and even in small amounts it can be harmful. Also, beware of 'natural' products. These may contain hidden sugar.

Are fizzy drinks safe for my child's teeth?

No, and certainly not to be sipped all day. All fizzy drinks contain acids which can dissolve away the teeth. Even the diet or sugar free sort are harmful and non-diet fizzy drinks also contain sugar.

We are not saying that children shouldn't ever drink juice or fizz!

We are simply saying that we are not able to have juice in the children's water bottles, as these are sipped from all day long.

We are not banning juice - just reiterating why the children can't have it in their water bottles every day. We will still be using juice for tuck shops and events in the future.

My child doesn't like water so what can we do about it?

Please put water only in the bottles - please don't be put off by your children's insistence on juice.

Don't worry if you cannot face having a battle with your child refusing to drink water at home - we will manage the situation about what your child has in the water bottle school. Often a child prefers water that has not just come out of the tap and has stood at room temperature for a while. Usually, the children just drink it at school because the teacher has asked them to!

Sometimes children say at home that they don't like water but what they really mean is that they know that juice is available and that's what they would prefer so they are holding out for juice. If all else fails, please speak to / email your child's classteacher and send an empty bottle in to school, we will do the rest!

Teachers are going to continue to make a massive effort to ensure that children are sipping their water throughout the day as they already do. It is high on our priority list so you don't need to worry that children will be dehydrated. (We are also aware of dietary and medical requirements for some of our children.)

At lunchtime the children will drink whatever you provide with their pack ups and also we provide water jugs on the tables for hot dinners. From now on we will occasionally give the hot lunch children juice or milk with their meal paid for by school - this is much healthier than in their bottles.

In addition....

Thank you for reading right to the end and for your support as always. We want to do our best to care for your child. If you need any help with the water bottle or snack situation, please speak to / email your child's teacher in the first instance, as this is a class based matter.

Finally - if the science and the health aspect of water doesn't persuade you about the water bottles, please consider the times when your child works hard to produce work of a high standard and often puts heart and soul into pieces of art and writing for example. Imagine the horror of spilling a bottle full of juice all over it....... water ruins work far less than juice!

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