Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Junk food as a reward, run amok

Not long ago I posted about Ronald McDonald’s visit to my kids’ school. Now our district has a new program under which kids who have perfect attendance for a certain amount of time get gift certificates for ice cream at Dairy Queen.

Kids who stay home sick are disqualified from the prize. So the program gives kids who have contagious illnesses an incentive to come to school, and penalizes those who don’t. When one parent complained to a school administrator about the unfairness of penalizing kids for being sick, the administrator replied that kids need to learn that life isn’t always fair.

The program violates the district’s own Wellness Policy, which prohibits the use of junk food as a reward for academic performance or good behavior. (Nutritional information on Dairy Queen products is available here. Even the basic vanilla ice cream cone and the plain vanilla shake violate the nutritional requirements that the Wellness Policy puts on foods that are used as rewards. At least one child got a gift certificate for a hot dog, which also violates the policy.) The program also undermines the district’s own policies requiring sick kids to stay home (see page 7-8 here).

As is so often the case with the district’s use of material rewards, the program sends a negative, materialistic, anti-educational message: that school is so aversive that you need to be bribed to attend, and that ice cream is what every normal person really wants.

But apparently it didn’t occur to any of our district administrators that this program might not be such a great idea. Junk food, policy violations, advertising to kids, behavioral manipulation, contagious illness – what’s not to like?


Chris said...

Bettina Siegel at The Lunch Tray chimes in here.

Julie VanDyke said...

oOMG - they did not send a scary clown in costume to the school to promote good health? WTH? Clearly I'm not getting the updates when a new blog posts for you...I'll have to spend some time catching up ;-)

Chris said...

I wrote to the district's Director of Health and Student Services about the DQ rewards, and she said she was unaware of the program but agreed that it would violate the Wellness Policy. She said she would check into it immediately. Stay tuned . . .

Anonymous said...

Did you ever hear back from the Wellness Director?

P.S. Please get a Facebook page. I find myself wishing to "like" your posts and I can't. It would also be great if your blog appeared in my FB newsfeed! It would make it easier to share your blog.

IC Local

Chris said...

IC Local -- Thanks for the comment! I haven't heard back, so I'll check back in with her about it.

As for Facebook, I'm constantly tempted, especially since I can no longer comment on articles in our local paper without a Facebook account. Still, I can't quite get myself to pull the trigger. The more it seems to become practically required of people, the more I perversely want to hold out. I may cave eventually. In the meantime, though, you can still cut and paste a post's URL into your own Facebook page -- not an entirely satisfactory solution, I know.

HomeworkBlues said...

It also violates religious observance laws. When my daughter misses school for our Jewish high holidays, she is automatically disqualified from this (ill conceived) prize.