Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Driving me mad...

Can anybody explain to me the benefit of a 'chocolate drive'? I have never come across one before, but my sons came home with a note last week explaining that they would have to sell Mars Bars to raise money for their primary school. Surely school fundraisers can come up with a more creative and positive way to raise cash? (And don't tell me that if you want to change things you have to get involved, we tried that for much of last year).

And there is a special irony in the fact that yesterday, the day the chocolate packs were given out, was also Day One of Healthy Eating Week in grade prep. "Please send your children in with a healthy lunch today (and we will send them home with a box of high-fat snack food)". I really support the teachers in their efforts to teach prep kids good eating habits and I can't help but feel that they are being undermined, it must be so frustrating for them.

And even more ironic - the money raised from the chocolate drive is being used for the school's environment fund!

Paul and I don't want our kids to be considered 'different' at school, but these are issues that we care passionately about. In our family, fizzy drinks are banned and lollies and crisps are an occasional treat. We don't force these views onto other people and we only ask that they similarly respect our views. We've taught our boys that the best sweet snacks are things like fresh fruit, dried fruit and nuts, or home-made cakes. So we talked with the kids about why we don't think a chocolate drive is such a good idea, about fair trade, about global companies marketing to kids, and about childhood obesity, and it was agreed that we will quietly not participate in the chocolate drive, but instead we will make our own donation to the environment fund and at the weekend we will all make a chocolate cake. We're excited about the chocolate cake and have been poring through the Women's Weekly books to find the best one, a new one that we haven't made before!

Some of the other parents have, of course, been compelled to make a big deal about our quiet protest. At least one mum has already told her kid to try and sell some of his chocolate to my youngest son. She thinks she's being clever but she's missing the point - I don't actually really care if my kids eat a bit of junk food here and there, or go to a birthday party at McDonald's or accept a swig of someone's Coke, or sometimes choose the yoghurt with a picture of Shrek on, and they both know that. It's about helping them to grow up with positive values, and to act thoughtfully and with compassion, and to always question things.

And because it's Healthy Eating Week (which should actually be an all-year program in schools these days anyway), do you like these cute apple stickers I bought from this Etsy shop, found via Anastasia?

38 comments:

mygirl said...

wow wish I was as strong as you,I am going through the same thing with our school. I love your passion

Caroline said...

Way to go Allison and family! You are right in absolutely every sense here, I feel like standing up and giving you a round of applause!

Jenny said...

Good on you. I also refused to sell chocolate for my children's school. A lamington drive is a good alternative especially if all the school families can contribute but what is more common now is that a local bakery supplies the lamingtons at cost price and orders are taken. Honestly a decent lamington is a much nicer treat than an ordinary old chocolate bar any day.

I tried to change our old school's winter uniform for boys from polyester school pants to snug corduroy and I think I am still known as that strange woman who went on and on about school trousers ( I wasn't successful)

Lark said...

Ha ha, thanks Jenny, I also send my son to school in cord trousers on cold days - no-one seems to have noticed yet! Don't give up! I love the idea of a lamington drive with a local bakery as it also teaches the kids about the benefits of supporting small local businesses rather than Coles etc. Good for you!!!

art4friends said...

this story burns me! it burns!

far out. thank you for sharing this, because while this is something I think about in my own little world, I forget about how in the big scheme of things, people are just not willing to accept.

Ok I am not making sense yet.
But I think what that mother is doing is disgusting. But gosh! I don't want to be nasty, because your response to it is just so perfect. Bring up your kids in a positive environment is what counts. And food and chocolate aside, that women is just being down right nasty.

I LOVE the idea of the cake. Because everything you have said here is absolutely right. I don't have kids or anything like that, and I am only very new to the world of organic fair trade chocolate (however I am SUPER passionate about it), and it is fundrasing things like that that really burn me. Because it is bad enough what the big name companies are doing when it comes to unethical practices, but then they want to go and MAKE money from people who are trying to raise money for worthy causes. People would be blind to it. I was. But coming together as a family, greating something, and sharing it with the community is a far better thing and helps a much better cause than any packaged big name chocolate will ever do.

Sorry about that ramble. But I thought this post was fanastic.

Well done, you inspirational mum you!

Renee x

The Glamorous Housewife said...

First of all, I wanted to say that you handled it wonderfully- much better then I would have. Second of all, that mother that had her boy try and sell chocolate to your son after KNOWING how you felt is just wrong on so many levels.

Thanks doll,
The Glamorous Housewife

willywagtail said...

You are also teaching them to stick up for something they believe in (even if it is your belief) which gives them a certain strength when facing other pressures. Being different can be a bit hard at times but has definite benefits for a child's personality growth. I did do the chocolate drive years ago for kinder and was amazed at how generous people were when it came to yummy food that they could have easily bought elsewhere for half the price. These self same people when approached at a different time to discuss issues pertaining to world conditions have absolutely no interest. Shallow springs to mind. Cherrie

RoLuc said...

Completely hear you on this one. Don't you just love the blank faces when you try to explain this to people?
Especially the grandparents.

Kellie said...

This is an amazing and thought-provoking post ~ and certainly gives food for thought (so to speak) for the next time a chocolate drive crosses my door. I agree with absolutely everything you said and you have inspired me to next time say no. (We often have pie drives through, like the lamington drive a local baker provides the pies ~ I haven't seen a choc drive for awhile, mainly I think there was concerns about the allergies involved and the unhealthy aspect of it!)
Although I am left stunned by the mother who does not respect your position, and gets her child involved! Kellie

dillpickle said...

Yep. I worked at a primary school for a while whose PA used to do fundraisers with Krispy Kreme donuts. And used to run occasional 'hot food days' (no school canteen) which offered pizza. That's it. Not even soup in winter. It made my head spin, really, what do they think they're teaching kids about food? I suspect they just don't think about the impact, or else they're so poorly educated about food choices themselves that they really have no idea. At least by educating your own children there's the chance that other kids in their classes will become more educated and put pressure on their parents to make better choices. You never know!

I'll get off the soap box now ;-)

Josephine Tale Peddler said...

Roluc's comment made me smile. Allison, you are totally on the money here! I totally agree with everything you wrote. In fact, I could have written it almost! The teachers at our daughter's school are fantastic and doing a great job BUT I HATE THE CHOCOLATE DRIVE. I think you raise some really important and valid points and I just wish you were at my daughter's school! That's why I love folk like Jamie Oliver because he tried to improve eating habits in the schools. I wish I could find those posts on the PA you did. I'll have to hunt the archive when I get a chance. Anyway, your boys are lucky to have you as I'm sure they know! xx

bubbachenille said...

I'm sending this post to my kids and hope they agree with at least part of what you say ! I agree with all of it, Good on you !

Michelle said...

Good for you and your family! And seriously, that other mother is so out of line. Talk about a lack of respect.

I mean, the school could do a readathon, or a fun run, or a bake sale or something else. Chocolate are just the easy way out of a financial bind, and don't help the community in the long run.

The Handmade Expo and Handmade Heaven said...

Thanks Mum...BUBBACHENILLE...for sending it through. You go girl...take a stance. I am in agreeance with everything that you have posted about. Makes me do a double take in the thinking department with respect to food choices.

Liesa

Sarah-Jo said...

I think your handling it well and am dreading when my son starts school next year as I just know im going to face the same challenges

At my preschool we do a very successful mango drive once a year
luckily for me my kids are apple junkies and would eat a truck load every day if i let them/could afford too ahahahaa

Hope the choccie drive passes by without too much hullabaloo

Melissa Ellen (Making Honey) said...

Keep up the good work and the quiet protest. We too have had our fair share of being the "strange parents"! My in-laws refuse to buy natural, ethically made toys for our children - but that's a long story - they like the plastic stuff that people suffer in factories to make :-) And yes, our school principal thought it most stange when we asked to have handknitted woolen jumpers are part of our school uniform - but we got them AND corduroy pants - so keep up the good work Alison and EVERYONE. :-D

Cath from chunkychooky said...

Go for it! So glad to read about so many like minded souls! what really gets my goat is that they are not only promoting unhealthy food but also raising even more money for a multinational!!- plus basically giving them free advertising! My little one isn't at school yet but I have already sratrted to face these
"challenges" ... that is all so annoying for you!

dorothybills said...

I so agree, it drives you nuts! We did some how get this big box of chocolates come through our door, and we almost had them all!! Too much temptation and my son was not going to walk the streets seling them, I will know for next time!

Selina said...

Our school runs a chocolate drive every year and raises around $16,000 profit from it. Absolutely ridiculous. Why on earth are people spending that much on chocolate. I haven't participated in the chocolate drive for the last 6 years and am grateful my daughter is heading off to high school next year so I don't have to deal with the strange looks anymore! We also ran a toothbrush fundraiser one year, oddly though it never did take off....

Great post, stick to your guns, there are a lot of us that agree wholeheartedly with you.

Selina.

Josephine Tale Peddler said...

I had to confess that the chocolate drive was in some ways a small relief to us even though I hated it but my partner could take the box to work and sell them in minutes. Other fund raising activities which involved expensive babysitters etc just was quite stressful to manage and contemplate! I do agree totally in principle Allison. Plus I ate several of the large Freddo Frogs myself which wasn't good at all! And it tortured my daughter to have the box in the house before it went to the office. I do give her treats but prefer homembaked 'junk food' xx

Shannon said...

Allison, I am so stoked about this post! There are a couple of reasons in particular. Firstly, you stood up for your beliefs without imposing them upon others. Secondly, you are teaching your children to be responsible-not giving them mixed messages (like the school). Thirdly, you are highlighting that Cadbury Australia is not fair trade (the UK is now). Thank you for sharing and stay strong in your beliefs - they make you you after all!

Shannon

Jetta's Nest said...

It's lovely to see so many like-minded people and I congratulate your handling of the situation. Considering that most families just eat all the chocolate themselves it would make sense just to ask for a small donation.

I dread coming up on this when my biggest boy heads off to prep next year....chocolate drives and tuckshop menus are going to drive me crazy!!

Little Sparrow - Natural Toys & Handwork Supplies said...

yeh it's a blow isn't it!!!the same thing happened for us even in a Steiner School! As time went on there were several fundraising opportunities that you could participate (or not!) in. I think there is a place for it all, some families make more time for fundraising that is more meaningful to them and others can manage to sell chocolate frogs! My kids are very loud and proud enough to say which they are, plus they loved all the working bees making felt rabbits and cakes for our fairs! Stick to your heart values Allison and you'll be just fine!

Alison Gibbs said...

Great post Allison and good on you for handling it the way you are. It is fabulous that you have talked in depth about it to the boys.They will grow into well balanced caring young men
Alison

fenandned said...

I'm completely shocked at the contradiction between giving them chocolate packs on healthy eating week, how confusing for the children! Luckily your gorgeous lil apple stickers got me out of my anger :)

Hen said...

Oh, I hear you! We have a sensible eating plan for our 7 year old. He does have (and loves) homemade cakes/cookies and occasionally has sweets. However, I do not allow fizzy drinks and on his last trip to the dentist, she remarked how obvious it was that he doesn't have them and how his teeth are loads better than most children she sees. The rules at school are that packed lunches may not contain sweets or chocolate - but then I find out that the teachers just hand them out without parents' permission whenever they feel like it! I too, have tried to change school opinions and policies and found them unreceptive to new ideas.
Hen x

My Love is..... said...

YAY!! Fantastic post. I can hardly believe that schools refuse to evolve with the rest of the world in our sustainable/greener living times.

kitty said...

Wow! What an inspiring post. I back you all the way in the choices you've made. & it stuns me to hear about that mother & the fact that it was healthy week too. I agree with a more community based approach like working bees or lamington drives. I'm so impressed with the chocolate cake idea, heaps better than a chocolate bar & you get to spend time as a family making it. I hope that when I become a mum, I'll be a great one like you & that my kids will be just as ace.

AnastasiaC said...

Allison good for you!! the chocolate run is very common and is an annual event at most schools - our school gives us the option to donate the money instead of selling the chocolates and thats what we do...the schools are contradicting by having such strict food guidlines then trying to raise money by selling chocolates! im sure there are other ways...

Kristy said...

We don't have any banned foods in our house but do raise our girls to make right choices.The odd chocolate bar really doesn't hurt anyone but I do understand how you feel about the contradiction with the healthy snacks week. My girls school only allows healthy snacks and these are actually provided upto age 7/8.
I suppose the school might have a history of raising money with the chocolate bars.They might even have a regular donator? Why don't you approach it side on and try and arrange an additional fund raising venture.That way you wouldn't be pushing your ideals but adding to the schools.
I do respect you for standing up for your values.

amelia said...

This sort of thing makes me see red! However, I grew up in a similar household, no bans on foods, but an emphasis on homemade and healthy. I would get really excited to have junk food when I went to birthday parties. But now that I'm in my 20s, I just don't have a taste for it; although there are very few fresh baked goodies I would turn down!

Christie said...

I COMPLETELY agree with you & why on earth is the other mother acting like a child herself? What a GREAT example she is for her child(!!), aren't we all allowed to have our own opinion & make our own choices!?

In our house we don't have fizzy drinks or chips etc in the house. If the kids go to a birthday party they are allowed to eat whatever they want & last night we went out for dinner & they each got to have a lemonade with their pizza which they were ery happy about! I LOVE sweet food (as do my kids) but they don't get 'treats' every day & I wouldn't be happy if my son came home with a box of chocolate bars to sell, I just think these days there are too many other options for fundraising. My son's school (like most I'm sure) really push the healthy eating message & I think a chocolate drive goes against this message.

Tui said...

I'm with you on this. I'm not a food nazi but our family doesn't visit Maccas, drink cola and we don't send the kids to school with a lunchbox full of processed junk. Fortunately, our school has had a rethink on chocolate drives. In fact, I think it has become Victorian state school policy not to allow them. I know that they're banned from all tuckshops now.

Joanne said...

Great post and comments!
We participated once in a choc drive, sold about half of our box and didn't want to return the other half unsold so bought the rest ourselves. Back then I didn't know about child labour and chocolate.
I think that is the problem here- some people, teachers included, just haven't gone down those mental pathways yet. We each make the changes at our own time and pace. If it were me know, I would quietly not participate, as you did, but I would also send a polite letter or email with plenty of links for the school principal to investigate if she wishes.
I have to comment too, about being different. I know that none of us want our kids singled out for torment because of being different but you know, they all are! Every kid IS different and at some point in their school career, those differences, whatever they may be will be noticed and played upon unkindly by someone. So its far better to help our kids understand that and turn it to a positive.

Pear tree cottage! said...

Allison what a great post - but you already know that.


What I feel is that the school takes the easy road to be seen to be making money, and this "a chocolate drive" why this way? because it works - yes! not that it is right, but it does work. The school does very little towards the efforts of the children and then the school is seen to be "trying!" to help themselves at the head of the schools department I am sure.


Our grandchildren were in a selling spin at their school in Melbourne but they sold tubes of trees and dffodil bulbs (now that WAS wonderful) every nanni at the school I am sure bought something. I know I did (twice!)


WHAT IS THE ANSWER? I wish I knew but I don't I just understand their "simple" and "it worked before!" attitude so make a stand and changes will follow I am sure.

Have a lovely day.

Lee-ann

cristy said...

Oh gosh, I would be seeing red. Well done you for dealing with it so well and keeping your cool.

Why is it that people feel the need to attack people who don't follow the norm? (OK, so I kind of know - defensiveness etc, but it is still painful).

At my vegan wedding reception my brother-in-law asked my (3-year-old) nephew to approach me to demand some steak. Of course, this wasn't mean-spirited like the mother in your story. In fact I can see how he thought that it would be funny. But it demonstrates people's overwhelming desire to have a go at those of us who make choices that go against the status quo.

The Toy Society said...

Thank goodness I'm not yet at the point where I have to contemplate this, my guy is only 2!

Have you heard of this school fundraising programhttp://www.livingfundraisers.com.au/
They're a Victorian based company and they started it to provide "fat-free" alternative to fundraising in Australian schools.

Andrew said...

I whole heartedly agree...
We seem to have some kind of fund-raising event every month at my daughters primary. Usually we are given a big box of chocolate bars to sell. We have no family here, and friends are based around school. Sweets are an occassional treat for the children. Futhermore the chocolate is poor quality and sugary. So my wife buys a bar and puts in between $5-$10. When I'm in a steady job, I just about put put up with it, but it is causing serious arguements now I'm out of work. I just cannot imagine door knocking neighbours (whom we don't know) to sell them cheap chocolate.
I've less objection to healthy events.