October 15, 2011 • Posted by Kim Foster
If you love cooking, you probably look forward to the opportunity to bring homemade healthy snacks to your child’s class or after-school activity. For many parents, though, taking your turn as the snack parent can be a nerve-racking nuisance.
What constitutes a “good snack”? Most of us can agree it’s not a sugary cupcake but are dried fruit and granola too extreme? Throw in food allergies, and snack duty can be a downright draining responsibility. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when it’s your turn to bring the snacks:
- Know the rules
Nearly every school or organization has food rules. You should follow them. My daughter’s school has a strict no high-fructose corn syrup rule and we are expected to adhere to it. If there’s a rule, you should stick to it, no matter how silly or over-bearing you may think it is. You don’t want to be the one that brings cake to the class that is teaching kids to eat their veggies.
- Ask around
If you’ve never done snack, ask veteran parents for suggestions. Find out what was popular, and what worked from a practical stand point. For instance, if the snack is for a soccer program, maybe the snack needs to be an “on the go” snack. Do the kids eat communally at a table, or should snacks be separated into individual bags? Is there equipment to heat up or refrigerate snacks? Should snacks be prepped ahead of time – my daughter’s pre-school teacher wanted fruit washed and cubed so she could just hand it out.
- Talk to the teacher
It’s a good idea to talk to the teacher and ask about their expectations for snack. Sometimes you can tailor a snack to a lesson. If the class is learning about Chinese culture maybe you can bring in Dragon Fruit, Kumquats or Mandarin Oranges. You can also expand the idea of snack – maybe your child’s teacher would love it if you came in and baked muffins with the kids instead of sending them in. You’ll only know if you ask.
- Know the food issues
Snacks for a group are meant for the entire group, so you’ll need to know if there is an allergy or food sensitivity. Does that mean you can’t bring in your famous chocolate chip-pecan cookies, if Jimmy has a nut allergy? Most likely yes, but the only way to be sure is to do your homework.
- What if there is no snack tradition?
Are you attending a school that has no official snack plan? Or are you sick of seeing cookies and packaged food as the snack du jour? Here’s an opportunity to jump in with a plan, setting a standard for what parents can and should be providing for kids. Often, the reason there is no plan is because people haven’t had the time to organize it.
Connect with the teacher or coach, write out a simple blueprint for better eating and snacking – the fewer rules the better - and email it out to other parents. Most people will be happy to help and contribute, and a little enthusiasm and excitement can be contagious.