Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I see that you have a community Food Pledge that states "Food should never be used as a reward or a punishment." Why not?

At Harlem Children’s Zone and Promise Academy we believe that using food as a reward (or a punishment) sends the wrong message to our children and therefore it is not allowed.  This means that under no circumstances should any staff member encourage students using food as the incentive.

This Better School Food article describes the negative impact of using food as a reward quite well:

The ultimate goal of rewarding children is to help them internalize positive behaviors so that they will not need a reward. Rewarding children in the home or in the classroom does not need to involve candy or food. Using candy or food as a reward reaches beyond the short-term benefits of good behavior. Rewarding children with food:
- Encourages overeating of foods high in sugar and fat
- Teaches children to eat when they're not hungry
- Teaches children to reward themselves with food
- Teaches children to connect food to mood
- Contributes to poor health
- Undermines healthy habits
By giving children empty calories as a reward for good behavior, we are saying "Here is something unhealthy for you because you behaved so well." Does this make sense?"

We don’t think so. Especially for a generation at risk of living shorter lives because of chronic diet-related diseases, using food as a reward or a punishment simply doesn't make sense. So, we do our best to teach kids how to eat healthfully for life. Certainly there are times and occasions when eating something special might be a way that you reward yourself (at holidays, on your birthday, after running a marathon), but we're here to train kids how to take control of their own relationship to food and how to find that balance in their own daily routine and for their own level of physical activity. That way they grow into adults who can thrive and live to their full potential rather than struggle with preventable diseases.

Read the full article for a list of alternatives to food rewards that can be used by parents. Also check out this article promoting a healthy school environment and providing ways that schools can offer Alternatives to Food as Reward.

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