Back to School Sticky Situation #1: Candy Rewards at School

Single package of Smarties Candy sitting on an empty school desk.

Photo by Arvind Grover.


What will you do if your child comes home and tells you her teacher is using candy as a reward? This was one of the first sticky situations I encountered when my oldest started school. With a family history of diabetes it was important to teach her healthy habits from a young age to help her avoid getting this and other diet-related diseases later in life. The major health organizations recommend not using food as a reward so it was disappointing to see this was a common practice in schools.

I met with my daughter’s teacher and explained my concerns about using food as a reward. Eventually I worked with the school council to strengthen the school wellness policy and end the use of food as a reward. I also asked the district to address this in their wellness policy too. Policies are not always followed or enforced so I have also made a deal with my kids to say no thank you to offers of food as a reward at school.

Sample Script

Here is a sample script you can use if faced with the sticky situation of food as a reward at school:

I’m concerned about the practice of using food as a reward in the classroom. The major health organizations discourage it because it can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. With diet-related disease such a problem for so many, I’d like to work with you on helping to improve student behavior in ways that don’t make more kids sick. Here are some alternatives to consider:

List of constructive classroom rewards by Center for Science in the Public Interest

Additional Resources

Here are some additional resources that can help you make the case for not using food as a reward.

Food as a Reward Infographic

The Use of Food as a Reward in Classrooms

Constructive Classroom Rewards

What are your suggestions and resources for handling this sticky situation?

Published on: August 19, 2014
About the Author
Photo of Casey Hinds

Casey works tirelessly to create a healthier food environment for kids and instill a love of physical activity. To keep up with what she's doing, you can follow her on Twitter and her web site

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