As I’ve said before, kids get more candy at church than a rat can find in a trash can at the movie theater. Maybe it’s holier there.
Following is a letter to our church’s deacons, education committee, nursery supervisor, and pastors. Food counts. You count. Your kids count. A friend with kids told me recently, “I give up.” Don’t give up. I’m not.
June 16, 2013
Dear Deacons, Education Committee, Nursery Supervisor, and Pastors:
Over the past year, due to some underlying medical problems, our family has overhauled the food we eat. I was shocked at the health problems and the 12 prescriptions we were able to leave behind just by aggressively changing our diet. Since this simple discovery, we have worked hard to promote plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to our three daughters and to remove any processed foods at all.
I am concerned about our snack policy. Every Sunday my children (in three different classes) tell me what snack they received in their 9:30 a.m. Sunday School: Skittles, M&Ms, Laffy Taffy, Dum Dum suckers, gum, jelly beans, seasonal chocolates, Oreo cookies, donuts, donut holes, Goldfish, vanilla wafers, animal crackers, and fruit snacks complete the list. After Sunday School, the children proceed to children’s church where, one Sunday, my daughter woefully described “four rounds of candy, Mom!” Inventory of children’s church snacks tallies up cookies, jelly beans, Laffy Taffy, peppermints, butterscotches, Skittles, Willie Wonka candy, and seasonal candy.
I am no food-saint. When I taught Sunday School in South Carolina before moving here, I was that teacher—the one who brought packaged mini-muffins, homemade cupcakes, and fruit snacks. Please hear me when I say I understand it is hard to change old habits, and many teachers are only trying to be kind. However, since food intolerances, obesity, ADHD, and autoimmune disorders are skyrocketing, I suggest we as a church endeavor to provide a “safe zone” for our children.
Families are struggling with food assault at school, extra-curricular classes, church, and even while running errands to the bank or grocery store. Many moms in our church and elsewhere have told me they know their child reacts badly to red food dye or sugar, but they cannot control what happens outside their homes at school and church. I have even heard of a local family who skips church only because of their young child’s anaphylactic reaction, knowing that at most churches food is handed out freely. It is estimated that 1 in 12 children today have food allergies.
If we are trying to reach out to others in the community, having a policy of only fruits and vegetables could be a wonderful blessing to many who have been fearful of letting their children attend a class where they might receive a health, or even life, threatening food.
Our Sunday School teachers should in no way feel obligated to bring any snack! Most children have had breakfast and will soon be eating lunch. If the church feels obligated to offer snacks at all, fresh-cut fruits and vegetables benefit our children the most and would offer the least detrimental effects to the most children. Processed foods of any sort—gluten-free, dairy-free, or otherwise-free—need to be eliminated from our children’s classes. I’m shivering now thinking of the effect of fruit snacks on children’s teeth.
I fear that we are using candy and junk food to attract and hold the devotion of our children at church. I ask that we find another way to promote Bible verse learning, attendance, and fun. Because of our food choices, nearly 70% of the American adult population is overweight, putting hearts and knees under horrible strain; adults are reinforcing the same poor food habits in our children.
How can we best serve Christ if the bodies and brains He gifted us with just don’t feel and function well because of our repeated poor food choices? How can our kids function best to learn about and serve Christ if their brains are “ADHD’d” by the red food coloring in the juice box or Dum Dum suckers?
Although I neglected it for years, my body is the temple of the Holy Ghost and so is yours. It is a magnificently designed vessel to serve God when provided the proper building nutrients and not assaulted by ill-chosen food choices, which make the temple’s edifice and foundation crumble.
We are busy praying to God, as we should, about knee replacement surgeries, blocked coronary arteries, and diabetes complications, yet we continue to reject the simple foods that God brings forth in abundance to nourish our bodies in favor of food of our own processing. Our temples are crumbling due to our negligence and disrespect for God’s powerful creation, and we are passing on that disrespect to our children.
Please consider implementing a snack policy of unprocessed, low allergenic foods. I believe most of the parents in our church, and many who have not yet started coming, would be grateful.
With heartfelt concern,
Terri Fites, M.D.
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