Food for Thought

I was going to make this a simple post showing off what we do at our library in terms of treat giveaways (such as during Nat’l Library Week, or Valentine’s Day), but then it took on a life of its own. So, to save you the time if you’re not interested in me going into why I changed our library’s food policy for programs, I’m putting the “what we do now” up here at the top as Part 1. Part 2 will be the why’s behind what we do now in case you’re interested. Okay, on with the post!

Part 1

Any time we want to mark a day as special by giving out food treats to the kids, we do this:

We get a fruit snack and tape a blurb about the library on it. Boom: healthiness and marketing. The only thing about these particular “library blurbs” is that they’re not in our official font. But the lady who made them is no longer with us, and I don’t think she truly understood the concept of branding too well. However, I will not waste all of the cutouts she made to make new ones – they’re gonna get used. Also, even kids with most allergies (or are on a gluten diet) can have these. Woot!

Part 2

Back when I started at my library, I had the honor of being allowed to start running the 3rd-5th grade storytimes. There were some exceptions where I was basically told in so many words by my supervisor that I had to do certain storytimes and/or activities. And those usually involved food.

During that time I still had my Food Handler’s card for the state of Nebraska (I’ve had many others from other states since I would work in bookstore cafes), and I was very aware of how poorly things were handled at the library. Such as, when putting out frosting for cookies, you don’t lick your fingers and continue on with adding more food-related items (and that’s just for the set-up, folks – I witnessed other things that would churn your stomachs).

The other thing that absolutely broke my heart is that there was a really shy girl who never participated in these activities. I gently asked her one time why she didn’t want to make a special cookie and she informed me that she has a gluten allergy. I immediately notified my supervisor (since I was already wary of doing food-related activities for the mentioned reasons – and the myriad of others such as terrifying peanut allergies). She blew off my concern, and did nothing. That really bothered me to my core.

Eventually I became my supervisor’s supervisor, and one of the first changes in policy was no more food activities as the storytime craft. It opens up the library to a lawsuit, making children sick, and/or alienating children with allergies or special diets.

I’m in no way saying that if you have a special food-related program that you should stop. We still provide popcorn at movie events, but always encourage attendees to bring their own food if they’d like. Otherwise, unless it’s a clearly-advertised food program (like the successful cooking basics for 6-12th graders that we had), then we don’t add food to a normal storytime. It’s the whole thing of having food be the craft where the child and parent goes into it not knowing that food will be involved that I don’t like.

I also don’t like to give out candy for holidays since I’d rather promote kids being healthy. Plus, it keeps us from having candy lying around tempting us to eat it (when it should be going to the kids).

It’s worth thinking about these things (thus the title of the post – see what I did there? Heh), especially if you’ve never considered them before. Also, if you regularly do food activities, then it would be worth having your supervisor (or yourself if you’re in charge of the events) get a food handler’s card for your state. Just learning the how’s and why’s of food handling can be a real eye-opener.

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