Preschool teachers ban lunchbox lollies

"Preschools are probably leading the way with healthy-eating strategies in schools," Council of Catholic School Parents Executive Director Danielle Cronin has said, defending controversial checks over children's lunchboxes.

Ms Cronin - who has a daughter at Red Robin Kindergarten - said that moves to check student lunch-boxes and healthy birthday cake recommendations were helping youngsters develop good habits.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that preschool teachers are inspecting lunch boxes and decreeing which ingredients are acceptable in birthday cakes in a dramatic escalation in the war against childhood obesity.

Chocolate frogs, lollies, cakes and fruit roll-ups are among foods banned at some NSW preschools and kindergartens. If daily lunch-box checks reveal such foods, they are sent home uneaten.

And parents who send in a cake to mark their child's birthday are being left in no doubt: small plain cakes are in, big creamy chocolate cakes are out.

The crackdown in preschools comes as junk food is being officially phased out of canteens at the state's primary schools. But some experts, including leading nutritionist Rosemary Stanton, say lunch-box inspections take the healthy eating strategies too far.

Dr Stanton said efforts to cut junk food from lunch boxes should be a group decision made by parents.

However, Ms Cronin has defended such measures but admitted that lunch-box inspections could prove controversial.

"Parents want to make sure that their kids are not hungry at school and they have the tendency then to load up the lunch box with all sorts of things," she said.

"There is a sense that it is their right as a parent to fill their child's lunch box with whatever they choose or whatever their child is telling them they want. It possibly could be a bit a bit controversial. Some parents might object and some kids might object."

Ms Cronin is tackling the task of creating a healthy, but tasty, birthday cake that her daughter Virginia, who will turn five this week, can take to kindy to share with her friends.

"The healthy cake option for us will probably be a plain homemade vanilla cake. We may put Smarties on top but we won't be doing the icing and cream option," she said.

Chocolate birthday cake is out, lunch-box checks are in (Sydney Morning Herald, 14/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)

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14 Aug 2006