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Farm to school forcing kids to try something? What say you.

Posted by on Mar 31, 2011 in Blog Posts | 10 comments

HI folks! There is a really great discussion going on on my facebook page right now. I feel stuck. Do I re-post it all here? Sometimes I throw something out on FB when I don’t have time for a post, and it strikes a chord. Swing over to Family Feeding Dynamics facebook page or… discuss here. The topic was…

There is a farm to school program where the teacher said he “makes everyone try at least one bite” and won’t let them spit it out because it disrespects the food and the farmers. What do you think?


(FYI, that’s me “milking” a cow, closest photo I could find fast related to a farm…)

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  1. Twistie

    I’m with the majority here, obvs.

    Body autonomy is very important. Teaching small children that they are not allowed to refuse something because it might hurt someone’s feelings is actively dangerous. Most children already want to please adults. And as has been pointed out, there will always be kids whose family beliefs – religious or otherwise – could easily be offended by this practice, not to mention the potential disastrous effect of a child being forced to ingest something (s)he is violently allergic to!

    Giving a child from a vegan household cheese or an observant Muslim child a pork product and not allowing them to refuse or spit it out is just plain wrong. It’s a violation on an even deeper level. And what about the one kid in the class who has a serious allergy to whatever’s being tasted? How about my childhood friend who could go into anaphylactic shock if she used a knife for her jelly that someone else had just wiped the peanut butter off? Would she have been forced to eat something that would almost certainly kill her? Or would she have been singled out as the freaky kid who can’t eat peanuts?

    The best way to encourage experimentation and a willingness to try out something new is to offer it without coercion and allow the experience to be as nice or as nasty as it actually is. Give a child a chance to try okra (or beets, or milk fresh from the cow) and you may well get a child who is willing to try out new things for fun. Force a child to try okra, etc. and you could easily be setting up serious food issues for the rest of that poor kid’s life.

    I’m not a parent. I’m not a teacher. But there is one thing I know: parents and teachers need to pick their battles. You’re going to have enough fun convincing some kids they need to learn to do long division. Why fight them about a freaking beet?

  2. ZaftigWendy

    Another issue this could raise is that of Religious Liberty. Many non-mainstream religions have strict dietary restrictions. Jews, Muslims, and Seventh-Day Adventist Christians are not allowed to eat pork, shellfish, catfish, or other unclean foods. In addition, many Jews do not eat milk products and meat products in the same meal. Many Seventh-Day Adventists and many Hindus are vegetarian. Those students need to know exactly what they’re being fed, and their religious choice to avoid those foods that they look upon as unclean should be respected.

  3. Lisa

    I am not on facebook, so I will put my 2 cents in here: While I would like to see kids encouraged (in a very neutral non-coercive way) to try new things, no one, child or adult, should be made to eat something and then to add insult to injury be told they cannot spit it out. THAT is disrespecting someone’s body autonomy. I am sure the teacher means well, and I don’t mean to come across all dramatic about it, but the idea that someone else’s feelings are more important than a child’s body autonomy is a very dangerous thing to be teaching children – especially little girls.

    I am always telling my daughter “you can trust your body” “your body knows what it is doing” “listen to what your body is telling you” while this teacher is basically saying “Don’t listen to what your body is telling you, the farmer’s feelings are more important”

    • Anne

      THAT is disrespecting someone’s body autonomy.

      This, exactly this. Sorry I have nothing else coherent to add. Well that and, my grandfather was a farmer – and he would not have taken someone spitting out something they didn’t like as disrespect but rather good common sense.

    • katja

      the thing about little girls and body autonomy hit home. My little girl is very “obedient” in general, will do as she’s asked (more by strangers or other adults which is why I will have to pay someone to teach her German bc she refuses to speak it with me…) We had an incident in a swimming class where she was totally terrified, screaming, but still doing what the teacher said. She start to swim, pull up her head and scream, then swim. I hesitated a second bc some kids just need to push past a little fear and then will flourish, but this was different, so in spite of snarky looks from the teacher, I pulled her out (it was a sub, and they handled it really well afterwards, and she loves swimming again.) Anyway, it was scary to me that she kept doing what she was asked. She was just 4 at the time, and I struggled with how to talk to her about her body, and how she should only do what she is comfortable with. it was a but jarring to see how easily an adult could make her do something against her will…

    • Heather

      I agree completely. I don’t want to my child to believe that he has to sacrifice his autonomy over his own body to please someone else (or that it is okay to disrespect anyone else’s body autonomy), and I feel like that’s the message that this teacher is sending.

  4. Jerome

    What if the child is vegetarian or vegan? If it was my child and s/he was forced to eat meat against their will, I would go absolutely ballistic. Just sayin’.

    • meerkat

      As a lifelong vegetarian, mandatory eating of things at either school or workplace is my worst nightmare.

  5. Kirsten

    I’m not a teacher, nutritionist or dietary specialist. I’m not even a parent! But I definately have an opinion about this.

    Having tried something (as an adult) and finding it so distasteful that I spat it into a napkin, I can not imagine preventing a child from spitting out something same reason. I would naturally be inclined to think that a child, with an immature gag relex and lacking the mental coping skills required to work past that, would end up vomiting everywhere. How is that better than ‘disrespecting the food and the farmers’? If nothing else, it’s disrespectful of the child and their right to not ingest what they do not like. And, what a way to set off disordered eating.

    As someone who previously (and will again in the very near future) live and work on a farm, I can tell you that the last thing a farmer needs to be doing is cleaning up the vomit of a child (which is very often projectile in nature! so it’s going be twice the mess lol). There are already enough chores to attend to without adding to it.

    Just the fact that you got the wary child to put the perceived-as-dubious food in their mouth in the first place is real win. Whether they end up liking it or not has nothing to do with it. They tried it. They found they didn’t like it. Refusing to let them spit it out is not going to force them to ‘learn’ to like it. If anything it will cement the hatred they have of that particular food, regardless of how it’s prepared.

    Case in point: At age 4 I was forced to try okra. I can still remember how tough and stringy the pod(?) was, how all the juice inside looked just like certain nasal secretions, and all those seeds….ugh….I can still easily sensory recall the whole thing, and it makes me sick to remember it.
    Even today, 34 years later, I would not under threat of death put a piece of okra into my mouth, regardless of how it’s prepared. Not even the battered and fried kind that is so popular in some southern areas. Nope. Not going to happen. Ever.

    Of course, that is just my experience with okra, and many many others may disagree. Fair enough, and each to their own. I know a girl who can not bring herself to eat oranges because she can not get past the pith and the pulp. This is not a problem for, but it is for her. Again, everyone is different. She’ll drink the juice……….but only as long as it’s been strained to within an inch of it’s life!

    So, my opinion? It’s good to urge children to at least try something. It’s not good to force them to continue with it if they clearly find it nonpalatable. Certainly not good to prevent them from removing the offensive item from their mouths.