This week’s blog post comes from Coach Jim Davis, a co-worker of mine who is not only an elite coach, elite advocate, elite thinker and elite presenter, he also an outstanding mentor to young student athletes, encouraging them to make change not only in their own lives, but that of others.
Our Powerlifting team once hosted a bake sale that brought in more than $700. That’s a lot of brownies.
That winter, we supported a family through the Infant Welfare Society. We used the bake sale money to buy toys, clothes, and food for a family who, without our help, would not have been able to celebrate Christmas in quite the same way.
We dropped off the gifts as a team. One of our athletes dressed up as Santa Claus to add an extra touch of flare to the moment. It was a truly memorable day.
During the next team meeting, we celebrated the accomplishment and students took turns sharing their favorite parts of their experience. Some mentioned the look on the children’s faces when Santa came into the room; some thought shopping for presents with their friends was a great bonding moment; one clever kid made the comment, “what if we did smoothies?” I didn’t really know what she meant…
What she meant was, next time we wanted to raise money, we should consider selling smoothies instead of cookies and brownies and cake.
Many of the students disagreed. The bake sale had done so well! Why would we want to switch to something else? Her logic was clear. As a powerlifting team, as a group focused on strength and wellness, we should confront the fact that we were selling our classmates food that we would never thoughtfully recommend – ‘unhealthy’ food from a team focused on health.
We had to confront that.
That day, I introduced them to the phrase Does Your Behavior Match Your Goal? It’s a cornerstone concept in our work these days and it applies to all things. In this case, did our behavior (selling brownies) match our goal? First, we had to come to terms with what our goal was. Turns out, there were two.
One of our goals was to raise money for the family. Yes, our behavior matched that goal.
Another goal of the team – a constant pursuit – was to promote health through strength, both for athletes and within the school. Pumping our classmates full of sugar did not meet this goal. We had to own that fact.
These days, we sell cider, hot chocolate, and tea in late autumn as students come into school. Though it’s not perfect, it is a step in the right nutritional direction and it falls in better alignment with our goals. We are still able to adopt a family each year.
So why aren’t more areas of the school making similar decisions when it comes to nutrition? Because it’s hard.
It takes two or three drink sales to bring in the revenue raised through one bake sale. When we brought that up in a team meeting one of the students noted that “one of our goals wasn’t for this to be easy.” She was right. That’s an idea teachers and administrators everywhere might want to consider.
If we serve ‘unhealthy’ food in the lunch line, we have made an institutional decision. We have decided that income is more important than health. That is a hard pill to swallow, but I would be happy to hear it framed in any other way.
If a school’s vending machines are filled with Cheetos and Mountain Dew because “they are top sellers” then we have drawn a clear line in the sand.
I do not intend to stand on some moral high ground. Schools are certainly not obligated to prioritize healthy nutrition – it is possible that in certain schools there are bigger fish to fry.
That said, all schools should recognize that the U.S. is currently struggling with a multi-billion-dollar obesity epidemic. Health education is one way to get ahead of the epidemic. It begins in the classroom. But once the students leave the classroom, they have to go out into the hallways, past vending machines and snack bars. What then?
For schools who teach healthy nutrition as part of their curriculum, who say their aim is to enhance the mental and physical wellness of their population, who would like to teach lessons which last a lifetime, take a look around… the question is simple: Does Your Behavior Match Your Goal?
Disclaimer: the opinions herein represent a style of thinking, one that asks a health professional to take a close look at the behaviors of an organization within which they operate. This approach does not intend to critique or analyze anyone’s nutritional decisions, it only asks that we be honest about them.
Please consider following my awesome co-worker, and author of this post, Jim Davis on social media. And if he’s ever presenting at a conference near you – you NEED to check him out!
If you liked this blog post, you’ll also like “Rethinking the way we talk about nutrition, body size, and health.” by Drew Miller