Tailored snacks for kids at kindergarten debated
An afternoon snack menu for children at a kindergarten in Shanghai municipality, which offers vegetables to overweight children, and milk and meat to underweight children, has sparked public debate, thepaper.cn reported.
The kindergarten, located in Jiading district, has more than 130 students.
Its menu of afternoon snacks this week includes boiled Chinese cabbage, boiled bok choy, boiled baby cabbage, boiled lettuce and steamed pumpkin for overweight children, and eggs, milk, meat balls and biscuits for underweight children.
The kindergarten also prepares special meals for sick children, which contain no allergenic foods such as eggs, mushrooms and seafood.
Wang Yaqin, the head of the kindergarten, said that the differentiated meals are out of health considerations. All menus are suggested by dieticians and undergo nutrition analysis to ensure the children maintain a healthy diet.
She added that overweight and underweight children are categorized according to national standards.
Wang said that parents’ permission was obtained before the implementation of the tailored dietary program, adding that although they eat different afternoon meals, they eat the same food for breakfast and lunch, so they are not undernourished.
A mother, surnamed Li, whose child is a student at the kindergarten said: “Extra meals are different from formal meals. It is good for my overweight child to eat more vegetables.”
However, one parent said his son is in the critical stage of physical development. “If he is overweight, he can exercise more. But malnutrition will affect his development,” he said.
Other parents raised concerns that differential treatment might impact the children psychologically.
Children are sensitive and afraid of being treated differently, and different meals might repeatedly remind them of their differences, they said.
Liu Yeping, associate professor at the Counseling Center of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, said teachers and parents need to help children understand meals in the right way.
Labels such as “overweight” or “underweight” should not be given to children, Liu said, adding that teachers and parents should tell children that “we eat the right food and do exercise to make our body stronger”.