Tai­lored snacks for kids at kinder­garten de­bated

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By WUYAN wuyan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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”.

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