Are candy, cookies and other food rewards for students minimizing classroom nutrition education?

Food rewards minimizing classroom nutrition education can negate proper instruction.

Students are receiving powerful motivation through food rewards. These incentives are used to assist children in learning and achieving immediate and short-term goals in classroom assignments. Sweet treats are also often used to reward or recognize students for good behavior and grades.

Nutrition experts state that in order to promote a healthy school environment, which helps to improve eating behaviors; students need to receive consistent, reliable health information and ample opportunity to use it.

Healthy celebrations are an important part of providing a healthy school environment. Parents and teachers both should know that there are consequences for using candy and food as rewards:

  • They compromise classroom nutrition learning – nutrition instructors teach nutrition principles, but later students may receive candy and other food as rewards.
  • Using sweet food as a reward increases a child’s preference for sweets.
  • Giving students candy, cookies, cupcakes, etc. can contribute to childhood obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cavities.
  • Treats as rewards encourages overeating of unhealthy foods. Food rewards are usually high in sugar, salt and fat. Schools can promote healthier school environments by decreasing the availability of unhealthy snacks, which contributes to childhood obesity.
  • Children need to learn how to respond to hunger cues and stop eating when they are satisfied. Sweets interfere with this mechanism and they learn to eat when they are not hungry to reward themselves. This can lead to eating disorders.

According to Marlene Schwartz from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, rewarding children with healthy foods in a school undermines efforts to teach them about good nutrition.

Michigan State University Extension encourages parents and schools to incorporate alternative treats and healthy snacks for school celebrations and rewards, which will make for healthy school environments for students.

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