When did sugar become an institutionalised part of our children’s lives?
When did the once-occasional sweet treat become some kind of human right, administered on a regular and formal basis, not just by misguided parents, but by schools and sports teams?
I first noticed this insidious trend when my daughter was in Year 2 and I found an empty packet of chocolate lollies in her school bag. At that age there was no sneaking out to a nearby shop, so I was puzzled where it had come from.
Turned out it had been a ‘reward’ from her teacher. In the classroom.
I was appalled, but my complaint about introducing sugary snacks between meals, without first checking with parents, or offering teeth cleaning opportunities, was treated with indifference by the headmaster.
Mind you, he’d clearly already marked me out as a weirdo for asking why children were routinely allowed to bring birthday cakes into the school for classmates to share.
When did that become accepted policy? It certainly wasn’t allowed when I was at school. Apart from the issue of adding to the spiralling daily sugar load, I couldn’t understand why they would allow such a disruption of the school day.
A room containing 30 six-year olds plus one big old sticky cake equals a whole load of clearing up – and a lot less learning time.
At the same school – and all the ones they played against – sporting fixtures feature a post-match tea of universally sweet treats, from home-made cakes at best, to the very worst corn syrup catastrophes supermarkets offer and bowls of actual lollies.
It’s relentless through the school year, but the sugar culture reaches its height each year in the week before the Easter holidays, during the annual charity fundraising competition, where kids compete to raise the most for a nominated cause.
It seemed a laudable initiative when I first heard about it, until I went along on the day when parents were invited to join the fun and saw that while the kids’ stalls were fun and inventive, in every single case the reward for trying the game was the same: sugar on top of sugar on top of sugar.
Starting to feel increasingly hysterical about the impact of this sticky torrent on my child’s newly-hatched big teeth, her blood sugar and her already tenuous ability to pay attention, I contacted the head teacher with a proposal for the following year: the Tooth Fairy Award.
The winner would be the child who raised the most money with activities not involving sugar as a reward. I would endow the school with the Tooth Fairy Cup to present at the annual speech day and match the amount raised.