As much as we don’t like to think about it, disasters do happen, and while we may think one will never happen to us, it is a good idea to be prepared just in case.
One of my biggest fears is that something like a major earthquake will strike our area while my kids are at school, making it impossible for me or Erik to get to them right away. It totally could happen. In fact, chances are pretty good that something will happen before they graduate. It freaks me out, but it is out of my hands. The best thing I can do is to make sure we are prepared for such an event, whatever it may be and however bad it may end up. And then we just hope like crazy that somehow we luck out and nothing ever happens.
Every fall, my sons’ school asks parents to send in an ‘Emergency Preparedness Kit’ (or ‘Comfort Kit’) that is kept at the school all year so that in the event that something happens during school hours and they have to stay at school for an extended time, the school will be prepared to care for our kids. I think it is an excellent idea.
The information sheet that comes home along with the one-gallon zip-lock style bag for us to fill includes directions as well as a list of items to pack in the bag. I’ve always felt like such a rule breaker because I never pack everything on the list and I add a few different items that are not on the list. While easy and convenient, the items on the list are not the healthiest choices. I would feel very sorry for a teacher having to care for an entire class of children who just consumed that much sugar! When I was asked by our PTA if I had any ideas for making the list a bit better, maybe a little healthier, I was happy to help. (Hello to any Beluga parents reading this!)
First, I should note, the foods in a child’s kit should be foods they will actually eat. It won’t do any good to pack healthier options if the child won’t eat them. Second, while I would love nothing more than to pack a bunch of fresh fruits and veggies for my kids, the foods have to be shelf-stable and last for at least eight months. So even though we have to rely on prepackaged and processed foods in times of emergency, there are some better options than the primarily high-sugar, low-nutrition foods that are on the original list.
The original list:
- 2-3 boxes of juice
- 1 small applesauce
- 1 small box of cereal
- 1 small pudding cup
- 2 small packages fruit snacks
- 1 granola type bar
- 1 candy bar
- 3 plastic spoons
- 2 large heavy duty garbage bags
- 1 small package disposable towelette
- optional: a note from home and/or a family photo
The list analysis and healthier alternatives:
- Juice: If you do pack juice, choose 100% pure juice with no sugar or artificial ingredients added. Other (better) ideas: small bottled water, individual servings of shelf stable (plain!) milk–dairy, almond or coconut are available. Coconut water is a good choice as well.
- Applesauce: Applesauce is a great addition, as long as it has no added sugar or artificial colors. Other ideas: fruit cups in fruit juice (not syrup and with no high fructose corn syrup added).
- Cereal: The only small boxes of cereal I could ever find are the kinds loaded with sugar. I choose to omit this item. Another idea: a small package of granola.
- Pudding Cup: I choose to omit this item as well. Not a whole lot of nutrition but a ton of sugar and weird chemicals.
- Fruit Snacks: These are mostly sugar with a little fruit juice added–they are basically candy. Instead, opt for 100% pure fruit strips, or freeze dried fruit (they even make freeze dried veggies!).
- Granola type bar: Some have as much sugar and artificial ingredients as candy bars. Read ingredient labels and make sure you can recognize everything listed. Choose low sugar varieties.
- Candy bar: If all the other items are low sugar and healthier options, I don’t mind if there is a candy bar included. I’m sure the kids would appreciate a special treat in such an uncertain situation, but this item could be omitted just the same.
- Nuts and seeds (Unless there is a known allergy in your child’s class)
- Trail mix
- Whole grain crackers
- Protein bar
- Popcorn (natural)
Here is what I put together for my kids:
- 2 juice boxes–100% orange juice
- 2 applesauce cups–no sugar added
- Pure bar–made of fruit and nuts, nothing more
- Z-Bar–real ingredients granola-type bar
- small package of cashews–found at Trader Joe’s
- small package of peanut-free trail mix–also from Trader Joe’s
- 2 Fruit strips–100% fruit, purchased from Costco
- Candy bar–each of my boys picked out a treat candy bar
- I also included a notecard with a family photo tucked inside
Our kits may not perfect, but there are a lot fewer chemicals and much less sugar than suggested in the original list, which makes me feel better.
I can only hope these items will provide our kids a little comfort and some (healthier) sustenance during an emergency while at school.
But even more, I can only (really) hope they won’t end up needing them and they’ll be returned on the last day of school again this year.
Question: Do you have any other healthy packaged snack ideas that I didn’t think of? Do you think your child would be accepting of healthier snack alternatives if they are not already?