Provide, Don't Deprive, at School

Ellyn Satter
August 12, 2010

To provide food for children in school, find the middle ground. From the previous patterns of giving kids free access to all kinds of food in vending machines, school stores and on à la carte lines, we have veered to the other extreme of strictly restricting high-fat, high-sugar foods in the name of weight control.

To find the middle ground between the two extremes, provide, don't deprive. Broaden out the lens from restricting certain foods and pushing others. Focus, instead, on doing good parenting with food in the school setting. Feed in the best way, provide children with opportunities to be active, and support their natural growth processes.

  • Provide filling, well-timed meals and snacks and safe places for children's natural activity.
  • Maintain a division of responsibility in feeding. Adults do the what, when and where of feeding, children do the how much and whether of eating.
  • Maintain a division of responsibility in activity. Adults are responsible for structure, safety and opportunities; children are responsible for how much and whether they participate.
  • Do what schools do best: accept children's diversity and teach them to make the most of their natural endowments.

For more feeding children in the school setting (and for research backing up this advice), see Ellyn Satter's Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook, Kelcy Press, 2008 and Your Child's Weight: Helping Without Harming, Kelcy Press, 2005. Also see to purchase books and to review other resources.

Copyright © 2010 by Ellyn Satter. Published at

For more information, visit Ellyn Satter's Facebook page.

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