How to address a child’s nutrition at school


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Q: You’re concerned about your child’s eating habits at school. How can you communicate nonmedical concerns with the teacher without sounding like a pesky parent?

Schedule a face-to-face conversation with the teacher, clearly stating your concerns.

Make him or her part of the team by providing all the information and resources — don’t hold anything back.

Brainstorm together what solutions might work so that you both can support the child in making sure she or he gets proper nutrition.

Some solutions include eating with the teacher or eating with the nurse or lunch monitor — even eating with a friend.

Voice religious or family food restrictions, but accept that it is not the school’s responsibility to enforce these concerns.

If the child is in a more serious condition, go straight to the nurse or administration with documentation from a pediatrician or therapist.

Teachers are often the identifiers of eating concerns — but there is still a strong need for parent-teacher communication on the subject.

— Maria Rago, clinical psychologist, Rago & Associates

Start by reading up on the school’s wellness policy so you’re in-the-know about the district’s goals and ideas around nutrition.

Identify the right decision-maker — teachers rarely have a say over what happens in the cafeteria.

Reach out to whoever you have a relationship with and say, “I know you might not be the right person for this, but can you help me understand who to talk to about this concern?”

When you’re ready to voice your concern, come with an open mind. The problem may not be what you think or the school may already have measures in place.

Gain support by talking to other parents, setting up a parent advisory committee or taking the concern to the school board.

For example, food restrictions put a damper on birthday celebrations at school. In this situation, think creatively with the teacher about how to make the day special, whether it’s gifting trinkets or taking a class photo.

There are so many ways to celebrate without relying on unhealthy food.