This post is part of a five part series on sugar and healthy eating. Check them out by clicking this link!


Yesterday I wrote titled: SUGAR OVERLOAD!!!!! Again… This is how much candy JUST ONE of my daughters brought back from school after being sick last week.

candy1

We did an “everyday math” project* to calculate just how much sugar is contained in the combined goodie bags… and guess what? One day’s stash (comprised of two birthday party “goodie” bags) contained… (drumroll please….)

140 GRAMS OF SUGAR!!!!

That’s the equivalent of 3/4 cups of refined white sugar!

The Benefits of Talking with Your Kids about Sugar

Lucky for me, we’ve been talking ALOT about sugar so when my girls brought all this crap home they didn’t just eat it up. But, can you believe all this sugar? And this is with a NEW district policy that supposedly went into effect this academic year prohibiting excess sugar in the schools!!! I’m proud SFUSD is leading the way in setting higher standards for the health and well-being of our kids. But these policies mean nothing if they are NOT ACTUALLY BEING IMPLEMENTED in our classrooms.

I don’t blame my daughter’s teacher on this—she already goes above and beyond! And I don’t blame other parents either; they are just doing what they’ve always done. Sugar has been in our kids classrooms for a long time now, and we’re not going to change old habits in a day.

Nonetheless, the district has had ALMOST A YEAR, to design a communication plan around the new nutrition policy and I can bet this “plan” if it even exists is shabby. Leave it to district administrators to set a policy in motion and then provide NO support to schools in communicating the new policy to parents and staff.

Like Writing an Email and Not Clicking “Send”

I just checked the SFUSD website and found some GREAT information about the new nutrition policy (if you’re into reading policy documents and that sort of thing.) For the rest of us, there is also a new guide called the BeWell Booklet with illustrations and simple summaries of some of the key points for families. Here are some screenshots to give you a preview (with my annotations in HOT PINK!):

SFUSD_BeWell

First of all, this is AWESOME! I’m so proud of our district for adopting this policy and the booklet is GREAT!!! (I’m also proud of our city and state for leading the way.) Research overwhelmingly shows sugary drinks contribute to obesity and diseases such a diabetes, heart disease, and gout! These outcomes are even worse for communities of color. We also know kids receive a high amount of advertising about sugary drinks. I agree schools shouldn’t be teaching kids about healthy eating and then serving up sugar and unhealthy food at school. And, as a parent (and former cancer surviver) who advocates for healthy, organic nutrition, I’m glad the district nutrition policy supports our family’s adoption of a low-sugar lifestyle.

SFUSD_BeWell_1

I like the fact that the BeWell Booklet spells out the fact that the nutritional policy applies from the beginning of school each day to 30 afterwards. I also like the fact that it includes snacks, family meetings and fundraisers. I’m assuming birthday and other class parties fit into this expectation, but to be sure, I wanted to check out what the SFUSD’s BeWell Booklet had to say…

SFUSD_BeWell_3

Yep! Classroom birthday parties are included… So how/when is all this GREAT information supposed to be shared with families?

SFUSD_BeWell_2

Hmmmm…. This sounds great… but you can’t actually ENGAGE families, it you don’t communicate with them.

I am a VERY INVOLVED PARENT and have never received any of this specific information. I doubt teachers have either. (We get the regular “make sure you bring healthy foods for your kids reminders… but I’ve heard nothing about the new policy)

Even worse, I checked the district website and learned this is NOT AVAILABLE for Chinese and Spanish-speaking families. How can the district expect teachers and principals to implement and uphold a policy at schools where the predominant language of parents is Spanish or Chinese?

FYI: This is a Lau Plan Violation, a CA Ed Code Violation and also goes against SFUSD’s Family Engagement Standards

:/

And even if we overlook the fact that this information is not available for non-English-speaking families (which is unacceptable)…. how am I supposed to even know about this AWESOME guide if nobody tells me about it? I’m left wondering, was the district just expecting parents like me to keep clicking on a link that was never there before, in happy anticipation of a policy I never knew about?

And again, I don’t blame our school site for not letting us know. There are so many changes in school policy these days… teachers need to be able to focus on INSTRUCTION. It’s high time the district did more direct communication with families. The central office also needs to provide more resources to support teachers in communicating with families. I’m not letting teachers TOTALLY off the hook, it’s crucial for teachers to reinforce district policy. Nonetheless, it is unfair for the district to rely on them to be the primary communication link with families when it comes to educating them on new district policies, which they themselves are just learning about!

In Summary… (And Another Thing)

This is a clear case of GREAT policy, POOR implementation.

Note to district administrators in SFUSD’s Nutrition Department: The BeWell Booklet is a great first step in getting the word out to families. Nonetheless, you need to actually WRITE A COMMUNICATION PLAN and implement the plan to ensure people know what you are doing. When you don’t do this, parents and teachers (and kids!) get confused with all the mixed messages, and it ends up taking more time to clear up misinformation that it would actually have taken if you it right in the first place.

Not only does sloppy communication planning waste time, it often puts teachers and parents at odds with one another. For example, if I didn’t work at both the site and district level, I might not understand the district component in all this. Instead of connecting with district staff responsible for implementing this policy, I might just come storming into my kids’ school to find out what’s going on.

The conversation might sound something like this…

Me: “Teacher, why are you allowing kids to bring this crap into school?!?!”

Teacher: “What do you expect me to do? Translate all this NEW policy information into Chinese AND Spanish? I can barely keep up with all the new curriculum and assessments in Common Core English and Math!!!”

Me: “Well, the district says there’s not supposed to be sugar in schools! Why aren’t you following the rules?”

Teacher: “I seem to remember YOU brought in a whole bunch of cupcakes for your daughters’ birthdays.”

Me: [Looking the other way… while backing slowly out of the door] “That was before I knew about the new rules. Now I know, and… er…”

You get the picture. Let’s just chalk it up as one more example of parents and teachers being the last to know.

Thankfully, the district has listed an email for parent questions. I’m going to reach out regarding my communications questions. Be sure to subscribe to my blog to see updates on this topic (or email me if you’d like to share a guest post!).

You can also email the SFUSD Nutrition department with your own questions at: BeWell AT sfusd.edu

How is your school implementing the new nutrition policy? Did you even know about it? What ideas do you have to help the district improve communication with families around the importance of healthy nutrition and physical activity?

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About alimcollins

Ali Collins is an educator, community organizer and mom. She lives with her husband and twin girls in San Francisco, CA.

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Happy & Healthy, Parent Voice

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