An open letter to schools and teachers

Learn more about the School Mealtimes movement, and find out what else you can do to create safe and empowering school food environments. 

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Dear Educators,

Thank you for your commitment to supporting the growth and development of our children. We appreciate that schools are dedicated to promoting good health and we understand the complexities and challenges of working in this space. 

We are writing to raise our concerns about some emerging trends in how schools approach food and eating behaviours. These include:

  • School policies that prohibit certain foods for ‘health’ reasons
  • Recommendations that parents only supply ‘healthy’ foods and nothing else
  • Teachers and other members of staff policing lunchboxes and dictating eating behaviours. This includes:

a) Preventing children from eating supplied foods when the food is regarded as ‘unhealthy’
b) Only allowing certain foods to be eaten at certain breaks (eg only fruit and veg at recess)
c) Conducting lunchbox audits or other food checklists
d) Insisting that children eat particular amounts of food from their lunchbox
e) Determining the order of consumption of foods (eg sandwiches must be eaten before yoghurt)

Although these activities are well-intended, they have significant long-term consequences. Practises such as these foster a fear of food and increase the rates of fussy, restrictive and other disordered eating behaviours in children (1-4). They increase the stress and anxiety of parents around the provision of food (5,6), and unintentionally disrupt household eating patterns (7). Additionally, they disproportionately affect children with disabilities, those with feeding or sensory challenges, those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse populations (8). 

Thank you for considering this proposal. We appreciate your desire to do the best for your students.

 

Dr Kyla Smith, APD, AN
Paediatric Dietitian

Supported by:

Dr Andrew Leech, FRACGP, Dip. Child Health, MBBS
Kids GP
Dr Bianca Petterson, BSc (Nutr), DPsych
Clinical Psychologist
Dr Vanja Rozenblat, MAPS
Clinical Psychologist
Dr. Nelu Jayawardena, MBBS, BMedSci
Paediatric Fellow
Dr Gemma Coleman, APD, AN
Paediatric Dietitian
Catrina Smith, SW
Eating Disorder Counsellor

Co-signed by:

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Maddison Pike
Registered Psychologist

Sabine McKenzie
Eating Disorder Recovery Coach

Penny Blunden
Paediatric Registered Nurse

Dr Claire Bowden
General Practitioner

Alison Cassidy
Eating Disorder RPN

Dr Sarah Ledger
General Practitioner

Kristy Townsend
Speech Pathologist

Dr Katherine Hanks
General Practitioner

Bec Newton
Paediatric Occupational Therapist

Jessica Ruescher
Accredited Practising Dietitian

Jodie Mechielsen
Psychologist and Exercise Physiologist

Hannah Knowlman
Social Worker

Gabrielle Malone
Occupational Therapist

Sarah Efklides
Paediatric Dietitian

Dr Rebecca Byrne
Accredited Practising Dietitian
& Senior Lecturer

Amy Lee
Medical Doctor

Megan Parker
Accredited Practising Dietitian

Anne Finch
Accredited Practising Dietitian

Caylah Batt
Accredited Practising Dietitian

Dr Laura O’Connor
General Practitioner

Jessica Dreaver
Occupational Therapist

Dr Vanessa Che
General Practitioner

Amanda Webb
Accredited Practising Dietitian

Meg Howgate
Dietitian

Dr Megan Berry
Medical Doctor

Jo Crutchett
Dietitian

Rebecca Willis
Pharmacist

Dr Claire Mohr
General Practitioner

Emma Falconer
Accredited Practising Dietitian

Erikka Hennessy
Mental Health Dietitian

Jeanette Blandford
Accredited Practising Dietitian

Rebekah Saw
Occupational Therapist

Tamar Cohen
Registered Psychologist

Dr Jan-Marie Fonseca
General Practitioner

Amy Gordon
Accredited Practising Dietitian

Gina Journet
Accredited Practising Dietitian

Dr Claire de Burgh
General Practitioner

Dr Amy Doyle
General Practitioner

Olivia Bates
Dietitian

Nicole Stucki
Clin Psych, Behaviour Support Practitioner

Tamara Bushell
Child & Adolescent Mental Health Clinician

Dr Amelia Harray
Dietitian & Paediatric Nutrition Researcher

Dr Natalie Johnston
General Practitioner

Alison Grattan-Smith
Accredited Practising Dietitian

Dr Georgia Peters
General Practitioner

Shelley Judge
Public Health Nutritionist

Dr Melissa Lau
General Practitioner

Dr Lucy Cowper
GP Registrar

Natalie De Pasquale
Accredited Practising Dietitian

Sade Fortuin
Occupational Therapist

Dr Arthee Yogendran
General Practitioner

Kate Peters
General Practitioner

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    An open letter to schools and teachers

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