Junk Food in Gan as a Form of Neglect

sauteed chard

Chard Sauteed with Garlic and Onions

Yosefa writes:

I’ve been reading your old posts under the “olim” (immigrants) section [in my new menu at the top of the page]. I was thinking about the ganenet (preschool teacher) saving NIS 800 a month. Maybe she should have used it to buy higher quality food.  At both my kids’ schools, they get way too many treats. One night after the first week in school Adele threw up. She told me it was because she had too many treats in gan. When I stopped in on Mordechai’s first day, they said I could peek in and see how cute he was. He was eating a lollipop–his first ever hard candy.  While I appreciated their concern for his happiness, I mentioned that I don’t like him to have sweets. The staff said they “didn’t have a choice” because he was crying.

I can’t say I’ve never used sweets in that way. I always bring treats on airplane rides, for example. But the idea that they HAD TO bothered me. Now they both get at least two servings a day of candy, chocolate, wafers, or cookies.  I’m writing this after both my kids “snuck” into the fridge, chose an apple, washed it and are eating it.  And my kids think Mishmish (apricots) is a treat.  I don’t know how to balance wanting to be normal and making my kids feel left out with my disgust at the junk the kids bring home from gan, friends’ houses, talmud torah, and Shabbat Tehilim.

It seems with all the babies in daycare it should be easier to start health education and a “framework” of healthy eating from a young age.  I want to keep my kids enjoying healthy food and not get used to all the junk but they both tell me, “I told my ganenet ‘lo toda‘ (no thank you) and she didn’t listen.”  Yesterday I asked Adele if she thought we should get Pizza for my birthday and she said it’s too oily. Well, enough of my ranting.  Maybe I sh

ould take a cue from the kids: Drop the leftover ice cream into the trash and eat an apple.

There’s another comment on How to Raise Kids Where Neglect is Normal where a parent says that you need to distinguish nutrition from safety and neglect. But it is only a distinction in our culture. It should be considered neglectful to give kids so many chemicals and fake junk passed off as “food.” Instead, its considered cruel to deprive kids of sweets. In France families are taught portion control from infancy and they don’t have all the “food issues” Americans think this would create, they’re just healthier, and this was a government program.

My point is that if any country can do it, Israel can because kids are in daycare so young and they are fed in school, not like America where the parents have to find shelf-stable food to send. it would be easy for the

government to implement a policy of fresh fruits and veggies and no candy during the week.

My comments: Government-run preschools are regularly inspected to make sure they are following nutritional guidelines. They are allowed to give a salty snack or a fruit for the 12:00 PM snack, but the 10:00 meal must include bread, protein and vegetables. Still, when my kids were in gan, it seemed like every other day there was another “excuse” for offering sweets. Kids are offered candy and salty snacks here at every occasion.

Yosefa’s children are in the independent school system and I believe the situation there is even worse.

One of my friends had a child in a gan where a pilot program on good nutrition. The children were interviewed about their eating habits before and after the program. They learned about good nutrition, and there were strict guidelines about what was allowed. My friend was pleased, but I don’t know if anything came of it.

In the US there is an ongoing public discourse about the quality of school lunches for kids. Here, it doesn’t seem to be an issue.

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Comments

  1. take a look at America: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGYs4KS_djg
    the kids in this town eat pizza for breakfast, chicken nuggets for lunch, “potato pearls” that make mashed potatoes are a vegetable. (I watched the episode), and they eat McDonald’s or pizza for dinner half the time.

    My kids might have a tea biscuit or two during the day at gan, but their breakfast includes tomatoes and cukes every day. They eat veggies in every meal. Snacks are sandwiches and fruit- yes, they have a chocolate spread sandwich once a week, but still. I don’t think it’s so bad.

  2. rachel q says:

    weird,
    my daughter’s gan provides less for the kids in general, but that isn’t a bad thing. They don’t provide ANY food. I send my daughter with a sandwich and a fruit. The sandwich is for 9:30 am breakfast. Then they cut up all the fruits and have that as a snack at around 12. The only junk food is on friday and the parents of the ima and abba shel shabbat have to provide it. A bag of pretzels is acceptable. The birthdays they eat whatever cake the parents bring. No more.

    In terms of activities, we paid about 200 NIS for the challah baking, 180 NIS for some sort of dancing, and maybe one more thing that I don’t remember. Nothing more.

    I live in the periphery were services are considerend lower quality and schools provide less. I guess it’s a good thing after all 🙂

  3. Rachel, it’s a municipal gan?

  4. LeahGG:
    Israeli kids eat cornflakes for breakfast. They may not necessarily get vegetables. For lunch they get shnitzel and chips (French fries), or tivol (soy patties). Most kids don’t go home for a hot lunch anymore. Yes, they do eat more salad than American kids. In the afternoon they eat Bamba and Bisli. For supper they may have an egg, chumus and salad but they may also have pizza. In this post I was talking mainly about the candy.

  5. What a timely post! My 5th grader wrote “chocolate” on this week’s grocery list. I asked him why. He said it’s for the meitzav test on Thursday. “?” (that’s me looking at him funny). He told me the teacher said the boys should each bring a chocolate snack so they have enough energy for the test, that the chocolate will help them concentrate.

  6. I work in a gan in a kibbutz. Our breakfast is salad etc (Fridays is cornflakes, for a no of reasons). Mid morning is normally fruit. Lunch is catered – our present catering incl a lot of home-made food, but several previous ones were bought shnitzels etc. The 4pm snack (we’re open till 5) is often bread & chocolate, biscuits or bamba. On a birthday, the parents bring in bamba, chocolate etc & a cake. And nearly all the drinks are water (in the winter we offer tea once or twice a day).
    We certainly don’t give them hard sweets or lollipops – even if parents bring them, we say we can’t give them out.
    It’s not ideal, but it’s not bad. On the other hand, we have the facilities etc to provide healthy food. Gans that don’t have a working kitchen as such & a local shop maybe find it harder to worry about healthy stuff.

  7. BookishIma says:

    I think a major problem is that the increased industrialization of food has deeply confused the boundaries between junk and treats. For example: home-made schnitzel is not health food by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s significantly healthier than processed chicken bits made into a patty and deep-fried with preservatives and other additives. You could even say the same of cakes and cookies. At my son’s gan here in the States they give snacks (that’s all he has there, it’s not a long program) that are “pseudo-healthy” – apple juice and processed crackers, for example. They’re aiming to provide something decent for the kids to eat, but in my mind it’s a poor choice. It’s hard to start a conversation about it, though, when the crackers have a “whole grain” sticker on the front.

  8. Hannah, Yes, municipal gan (only gan in fact). next year’s gan kids start staying late and get lunch, we’ll see what they provide. I hope is not the processed shnitzel.

  9. My ulpan teacher said the same thing! Our first day she explained we needed a sweater (yeah right) and chocolate to give us energy.

    LeahGG – The official brunch my kids get is head over heals better than what most schools in America serve. (Something to the effect of tuna sandwich and cucumber.) Two main differences – in America buying lunch is optional and most students pack (at least when I was a student. My mom let me buy once a week.) The other difference is all the “excuses” I think mother in israel migh be talking about. There is a birthday, holiday or some other excuse to give the kids candy almost every day. When my kids were in preschool in the US there was a birthday most weeks and they had a treat for their “Shabbat party” but it was usually a cookie and apple juice, never taffy, lollipops, and hydrogenated fat filled, chocolate covered wafers. I saw kids eating bisli for breakfast, but the official school policy was no candy and no sharing.

    Here in Israel, I feel like I’ve lost control because no one asks, “can I give your child this candy?” I let my kids play right outside our front door in our “common area” and within two minutes their friends come downstairs and give them giant sticks of sugar and other candies. I’m grateful there are so many nice families in our building, but I wish they weren’t so “generous” and “polite’ with the sharing. Kids come over to play and bring treats to share. On Shabbat I had a birthday party for my daughter and three kids showed up licking lollipops and hard candy. A two year old came with a baby bottle of chocolate milk (or maybe chocolate formula, which they have here.) But I digress…yes it upsets me when parents make choices I consider destructive, but that’s their choice (who knows, maybe they’ll turn out to be right) but how do I take control of my family’s diet without keeping my kids in a bubble?

    Julie & Bookishima – I think you touched on something I’ve observed: Israelis (including kids) drink water. Sweetened beverages are cited as a huge force behind American obesity. Many Americans think kids won’t drink water. In camp in the US my kids got punch and ice pops, and they were supposed to bring juice boxes to school. Here the kids bring water bottles to school.

  10. My daughter is in municipal gan (kindergarten year) and they get sandwiches and cut up fruits and vegetables every day. The only treats are on Fridays, unless one of the other children bring in something to share (I usually push for plain popcorn or pretzels when my daughter wants to share).

    At zaharon she is given a changing menu of homecooked food, with vegetables (which she isn’t eating, but that’s her issue not what’s on offer) and side dishes, never tivol. Heck, they don’t even serve hot dogs since the owner saw a documentary on how they make them. Yes, they have a chocolate sandwich available each afternoon and I wish they wouldn’t, but when I checked I found that it isn’t on offer until after they’ve eaten a fruit snack, and a sweet baked good is only on Thursdays as part of their cooking class (and it’s often based on petit-beurs or something relatively innocuous anyway).

    My older one takes a healthy breakfast from home and eats lunch and dinner at home as well. If he eats pizza, it’s nearly always homemade pizza that his father has made, takeout pizza is our last resort for busy nights (much to his chagrin LOL).

    All in all, not great, but definitely not awful, and our school system and private zaharon are not that unusual in our middle and working class city.

  11. Okay… let’s take the menu that they gave us at the beginning of the year – this is a private gan.

    breakfast:
    Sun:french toast, cottage cheese, veggie salad
    Mon: hummus sandwich, tuna, veggie salad
    Tues: (hard?) cheese sandwich, scrambled eggs, veggie salad
    Wed: white cheese sandwich, hard cheese, olives, veggie salad
    Thurs: (hard?) cheese sandwich, hard boiled egg, veggie salad
    Fri: bread with cheese/cornflakes with milk

    10am snack: fruit (every day)

    Lunch:
    Sun: Fish sticks, beans in sauce, rice
    Mon: meatballs in sauce, potatoes, pasta
    Tues: Schnitzel, beet salad, pasta
    Wed: chicken, couscous, vegetables
    Thurs: meatballs in sauce, potatoes, rice

    Snack (4pm)
    Sunday: cheese sandwich (they had fish for lunch)
    Mon: cookies and fruit
    Tues: chocolate sandwich
    Wed: hummus sandwich
    Thurs: cake

    It’s not amazing for every meal, but overall, they’re eating decent food, and almost everything is homemade. I’ve seen them get cookies and cake, but no hard candies, and chocolate only once or twice and only very small amounts.

    Often dinner is just fresh veggies and cottage cheese or scrambled eggs because they eat such a heavy lunch.

  12. I just wanted to add something, under the concept that it should be easier in Israel. Two things that come up in America when looking at obesity are (1) junk food, sugary cereals, and fast foods is advertised during children’s programs on TV and (2) low income households have trouble getting fresh fruits and veggies because they are more expensive than processed foods and less available at minimarkets whick are more common in “inner-city” areas.

    First – in Israel (from what I’ve heard) cable has no commercials and reigious people don’t see much TV. Second – the minimarkets have a lot of fresh stuff, veggie stands are more prevalent, and fresh fruits and veggies (except imported stuff) are really cheap. The minimarket across the street doesn’t just have apples and bananas, but pears, cucumbers, tomatoes, persimone, kolrobi, sweet potatoes… You don’t even have to go inside! The good stuff is being advertised right out front!

  13. rachel q says:

    Yosefa, all what you mention is true. In israel kids are used to more vegtables and fruit. But junk food is simply too available here, no TV needed for that. The worst part of it is that parents do not think that it is junk food. Try explain to a mother that bamba is not healthy and it is indeed junk. Or the premade corn or chicken schnitzels. When you go to the park and a child is crying, the mom offers bamba. How about finding out why is she crying or consoling her without food? Parents give junk food left and right for every reason without thinking of it as junk.
    I’ve had whole conversations with mothers rumors they’ve heard of what is healthy or not (most of those “rumors” are based on ignorance) while serving thei kids non healthy food.

    For examply; Talking to a mom on how she heard that milk products aren’t healthy, or how she used silan instead of sugar so the cake is now healthy (same amount of sugar). All of this while she serves her children crackers and white bread. Finish conversation by complaining that her kids are never hungry for dinner. Repeat 2 days later with a different mother.

    I guess I’ve found some sort of equilibrium on how to deal with the junk. I don’t buy any of it and always say no when my daughter asks in the makolet (no tantrums, she expects it but keeps trying for a yes). What she gets outside home I cannot control and I think it’s cruel to take away from my daughter a candy once she got it or if every kid gets except her.
    I make sure her lunch has little meat/chicken and plenty of whole grains and veggies, and I feed her dinner early, so when we go to the park or friends’ houses I know whatever she eats won’t interfere with dinner.

  14. We are new olim also. My son is in a private gan half-days (I pick him up after lunch) and I have no complaints about what he’s eating. Not sure what the 10:00 snack is, but he’s definitely learning to “eat Israeli” (gevina levana, chummus, etc) and these are not junk foods. Lunch is a protein, starch, and vegetable–schnitzel and chips on Thursdays, but freshly made chicken, rice, and veg or meatballs and pasta on other days. On birthday party Fridays there is cake; normally there is homemade pizza and challah.

    My daughter is in a city kindergarten (not tzaharon), and I send her every day with a sandwich (cheese or avocado, usually) and fruit–sometimes I slip in a cucumber in addition. She gets lunch at home.

    What drives me crazy is when she gets treats for “no reason”–toffees or wafers not in connection to birthday celebrations or whatnot. Also at the children’s tefila on shabbat morning, though it is rare that I can get everyone to agree to go and dressed and up the hill to shul on time. 🙂

    Like Yosefa noted, Israeli parents are always willing to share what their child has without asking you first–on the one hand, generous, on the other hand, my kid doesn’t need chips or bamba at 5:30 when we’re eating dinner in 20 minutes.

    My kids do whine for dessert at home, but it’s certainly not treats every day–most of the time it’s a “special” fruit (berries, melon, mango, grapes, watermelon) compared to what they eat in school (apple, banana, clemetina). And they know they have to eat a vegetable every day. Usually when all is said and done they’ve had at least two.

    But really it’s about teaching them to make good choices for themselves and not feeling undermined by the people who are in charge of their care. So yeah, I’m there too.

  15. Wow, I can see that this is something I need to watch out for in the future. I think Israelis tend to assume that what they eat is “healthy” when too often, it’s packed with fat (though not usually as much processed food as in the US). I’ve lost some weight in the last three months because I’ve realized I have to watch what I eat, not just assume that it’s “healthy.” The obesity epidemic is on the rise in Israel too– you just need to look at kids in the street to see this. Good for you for helping your kids eat healthy, Yosefa! (We need to get together some time, and I look forward to eating your healthy food. 🙂

  16. I’m not saying it’s all perfect, but the average Israeli child eats fresh or cooked vegetables daily. This is not true of the average American child (unless French fries or ketchup are a vegetable)

    Israeli children walk a lot more than their American peers.

    I don’t think some bamba or a krembo undermines all that.

  17. We are new olim also. My son is in a private gan half-days (I pick him up after lunch) and I have no complaints about what he’s eating. Not sure what the 10:00 snack is, but he’s definitely learning to “eat Israeli” (gevina levana, chummus, etc) and these are not junk foods. Lunch is a protein, starch, and vegetable–schnitzel and chips on Thursdays, but freshly made chicken, rice, and veg or meatballs and pasta on other days. On birthday party Fridays there is cake; normally there is homemade pizza and challah.

    My daughter is in a city kindergarten (not tzaharon), and I send her every day with a sandwich (cheese or avocado, usually) and fruit–sometimes I slip in a cucumber in addition. She gets lunch at home.

    What drives me crazy is when she gets treats for “no reason”–toffees or wafers not in connection to birthday celebrations or whatnot. Also at the children’s tefila on shabbat morning, though it is rare that I can get everyone to agree to go and dressed and up the hill to shul on time. 🙂

    Like Yosefa noted, Israeli parents are always willing to share what their child has without asking you first–on the one hand, generous, on the other hand, my kid doesn’t need chips or bamba at 5:30 when we’re eating dinner in 20 minutes.

    My kids do whine for dessert at home, but it’s certainly not treats every day–most of the time it’s a “special” fruit (berries, melon, mango, grapes, watermelon) compared to what they eat in school (apple, banana, clemetina). And they know they have to eat a vegetable every day. Usually when all is said and done they’ve had at least two.

    But really it’s about teaching them to make good choices for themselves and not feeling undermined by the people who are in charge of their care. So yeah, I’m there too.
    Oops…forgot to say great post! Looking forward to your next one.

  18. one other thing – When I’m looking for something my 15 month old (who has very few teeth) can eat alone, tea biscuits, bamba, pretzels, and cheerios require no preparation. To give him apple or cucumber, I have to peel and cut.

    I’m an essentially lazy person… I’ve been known to give my daughter leftover string beans (cold) in her snack cup when we’re going out… but the little one can’t even chew string beans properly.

    The fact that a close friend’s daughter is dangerously allergic to peanuts has made bamba a less welcome snack in our home (because we can’t take it to shul or anywhere we plan to meet them)

  19. just now:
    me: “Hey Adele, Mordechai told me his school is more fun than your school. What do you think about that?”
    Adele: “Heh, my gan is more funner because I get more treats.”

  20. 1. Tamiri: when my 18 year old did Bagruts, the teachers would buy them chocolate.
    2. Worse is that the Baby and child clinic tell parents to give children Bamba.
    3. In our gan the children bring breakfast, my little girls requests spreads that are healthy, but the ganenets give out a lot of sweets etc. We tried asking them not to, but it was not much help this year, however, my advice to all new mothers beginning kindergarten, is to go along to the first parents meeting and ask them not to give sweets, the problem is that at least 60 percent of the other mothers agree, but each think it is only them. Ask that treats for birthdays not be food, and that at kabbalat shabbat there hsould be healthy things, out of junk foods, some things are less damaging than others!

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