Sugar in Schools: How it Impacts Learning

You may or may not have seen my post on Facebook this past Tuesday when I posted a picture of sugar filled junk food that my daughter came home with on her first day of kindergarten.

Specifically this, Fruit by the Foot... You can read more about this product here to decide for yourself and your family if it's something you want your kids eating.

For you who read my posts, you an imagine I was disappointed and overwhelmed by the first words out of Story's mouth "Mom, mom! Look what I got! Can I eat it?"

In that moment I realized that many more conversations needed to start today. The other thing I realized was that she had now made an association between learning and sugar. That for going to school, for showing up, you get rewarded with junk food.

What I learned later that evening was that this candy was given to all the students for a child's birthday. It definitely did help the sting, knowing that Story's teacher didn't give it to her, but I still wasn't aware of the teachers intentions on giving out sugary rewards throughout the school year.

So what did I do? I met with Story's teacher to ask questions. But not to just ask questions, but to offer my support to her to make the learning environment 'junk free.'

My intentions were genuine. I understand that everyone has a different lens where health is concerned so I didn't hold anyone responsible. Because you simply can't when everyone has a different perspective. All I could do was share my thoughts, my personal wishes for Story and hope that she would be open to a conversation and accepting of any support I could give. Because let's face it, we ALL need extra support.

And guess what? She was. She was open, responsive and receptive to any support I could offer. Although she was felt she couldn't advise parents what to bring in the classroom for birthday treats, she was open to changing any sugary rewards system that she could control. And she really wants to, in fact she actually agrees with me.

What I can do? Bring in non-food or non-junk food rewards for Story when kids do get them from outside the classroom. And as it turns out I'm not alone. There is another parent who feels the same way so we will be teaming up. That's what's so brilliant about voicing your thoughts and concerns, because there are others out there who feel the same and then they can be support for you.

Here's why sugar and learning don't go together:

Sugar doesn't feed the brain or body in any way. In fact, it requires energy from the body to absorb. When the body is hit with an over load of sugar, from say Foot by the Foot, the body essentially goes into shock trying to remove all of the sugar that's in the blood stream, working hard to regain balance. During this process we reach a sugar high with the subsequent sugar crash.

Here's the thing, having sugar highs and lows disrupts learning. I don't know about you, but can you concentrate when you're blood sugar in low? When you're feeling tired, low energy, jittery and hungry? Because a sugar crash looks like one or all of these symptoms. That's why feeding your body and brain with energy balancing food encourages focus, concentration and learning.

And the more sugary filled foods we consume, the more of a vicious cycle it becomes and one that's harder to break. Addiction is another component.

The other problem:

Kids are being fed an average of 50 teaspoons of sugar a day! The recommended daily amount for children is 4 teaspoons. That's a HUGE difference.

Candy such as Fruit by the Foot contains 9 grams of sugar (or 2 1/4 teaspoons) in one package, which would be essentially half the daily allowance for kids. And the challenge is that sugar is added to everything, even products that appear to be healthy. So eating a lot of sugar is basically easy. It's been made easy for a reason.

What can we do?

Collectively we need to build awareness about our food. Especially when it comes to what we send into schools. Kids don't need anymore sugar or junk. And even if you believe that sugary treats are fine, consider leaving it at home and bringing in alternative noon-food treats to school. I remember being so excited every time I got a special pencil, in fact I remember that more than any junk food I was ever given. You?

Interested in learning more?

Check out my upcoming workshops and classes in the Edmonton area. And if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.

Much health and love to you all,

Amanda