with author Jackie Morgan MacDougall
camp serves soda to 3 year olds
When Leah sent her 6-year-old to Vacation Bible School at her local church last week, she expected him to come home dirty and a little wet -- that's what camp is all about. What she didn't expect was for her little guy to tell her how much he enjoyed having his very first root beer float. Leah shares on her blog, "I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that soda is NOT an appropriate thing you should be feeding 6-year-olds. And before you say to me that I should have told the church about my son’s “diet restrictions” I’m going to tell you that my son has no diet restrictions. But soda is not something that a responsible adult should be feeding children THAT ARE NOT THEIR OWN. If you want to feed your 6 year old soda, that is your decision, but don’t feed it to other children without permission. That is not a “diet restriction” that is common sense."
When Leah called her church to question it, she was told that all curriculum, including snacks, actually came down from the national VBS SKY Group and they were just following program recommendations. Interestingly enough, my daughter was at the same program -- at a different location -- and never received a root beer float. I spoke with Linda, who runs our local program, who agreed that snack suggestions are made. However, her group has "served the same snack for 21 years," opting to serve healthier options than those on the list.
Who is responsible for serving the soda? I reached out to Dan Tancik, the VBS director at Group Publishing, the organization who created the program, who answered my questions via email.
Which ages were offered root beer (youngest being…?)
DT: Group’s VBS is designed for children from age 3 through 5th grade. The same snack suggestions are offered across these age levels.
How long has this been part of the curriculum/snacks?
DT: We recall suggesting soda as a part of one day’s snack one other time—in 2008.
How do you respond to the complaints?
DT: We encourage feedback of all kinds from church leaders, parents and children. Every year we carefully review the feedback and respond accordingly. User suggestions often lead to program enhancements.
Is the concern from parents enough that you are reconsidering offering soda in future years?
DT: So far, we have seen only a few negative soda comments from parents and users of the VBS. We will continue to listen and track all feedback as we plan future VBS programs.
But ultimately, when it comes to responsibility, Tancik says, "Every aspect of the programs is extensively field-tested with children and their families. Group Publishing does not supply the food and drink for the daily snack times in vacation Bible school. Individual churches supply their own snacks, if they choose to offer snacks to the children. Group Publishing does offer suggestions for snacks, which have also been field-tested. Some churches follow the suggestions; some do not. The suggested snack items include a variety of food and drink types that are appealing to children and healthy. This year’s Sky VBS program includes suggested items such as popcorn, strawberries, pretzel sticks, cheese, and grapes."
Tancik adds, "Some of the suggested snack items may contain sugar, such as this year’s root beer floats. Those churches—or parents—who wish to restrict sugar (or salt or gluten or food coloring or dairy or any other item) from children are, of course, free to do so at their discretion."
But sugar isn't the only concern when it comes to childhood development. In a post titled 10 Reasons to Keep Kids Off Soda, our friends at Healthy Child say it's important to skip the soda not only because of the link between consumption and childhood obesity, but they also warn parents that "Phosphorus, a common ingredient in soda, can deplete bones of calcium. Girls who drink more soda are more prone to broken bones." The list also warns about the risk of tooth decay, and acids, said to "begin to dissolve tooth enamel in as little as 20 minutes. Dentists are reporting complete loss of the enamel on the front teeth in teenaged boys and girls who habitually drink sodas.
For Leah, her complaints were enough for her local group to agree to stop serving soda (mom power!). But do you think it's okay for an organization to serve soda to kids as young as 3 years old without a parent's permission? Sound off in the comments!