Last week I had the pleasure of attending the fourth grade hike as chaperone. There were many of us and I was assigned three girls: my daughter, a slow one, and a speedy one.
The field trip was part history walk part hike up Ricker Mountain near Waterbury. It is a fabulous “wike” and I hope to return with my own family or in snowshoes this winter. It wasn’t very hard. Three hours was PLENTY of time.
The kids arrived by bus and the parents by cars. After meeting up with my trio of charges, the slow one quickly sidled up to me while the other two charged ahead. She had lots to talk about. She asked to hold my hand to help her up the train. She was slow. She lacked confidence.
But she was sweet. Not a behavior problem (thank goodness!). Twenty minutes into the hike she asked if she could have snack yet. I suggested we catch up with the other two and eat after that. I delayed the inevitable, as it was still only about 9:30. I asked if she had breakfast that morning. She cheerfully replied, “oh yes! I had a poptart. Actually I had two, because I knew I’d need energy”. Later on the walk, she shared that she ate a lollipop on the bus, “because sugar gives me energy”.
Finally, I relented on snack. The girls sat down. My daughter had an apple. The faster one ate some apple slices, and the slow one? She had a sticky bun (whole wheat, as provided by the school district food service).
No sooner had she finished and we resumed walking did my slow one remark, “I am more tired than before snack!” No kidding. The poor thing was subsisting on sugar, some added vitamins & enriched flours.
I felt sorry for her. I figured her parent/guardian might not have gotten that message quite right about sugar providing energy; he/she might be working multiple jobs and can’t get around to preparing food.
I thought about how her diet was such a disservice to her — not just on this hike, but likely on the NECAP statewide assessments administered earlier in the same week. I thought about how all the teaching of healthy food choices in health classes cannot overcome the influence of available choices presented to her from home; that the modeling of adults in her life have probably left her thinking that a sticky bun and two pop-tarts are appropriate fuel for a day’s hike.
This is the kind of thing that makes me want to get a nutrition/education degree to help children & families.