Is Your Kid Being Bullied Into Skipping Lunch?

According to dietitians who work with children and some recent studies, a disturbing new trend in school cafeterias is kids being pressured to eat less than than they actually want—or not to eat lunch at all.
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As if we moms and dads aren't worried enough about our kids being bullied for being "too" smart, sensitive, shy, short, tall, or whatever other ridiculous reason, now we also have to watch out for whether our kids are being bullied out of eating lunch. According to dietitians who work with children and some recent studies, a disturbing new trend in school cafeterias is kids being pressured to eat less than than they actually want—or not to eat lunch at all.

Happening to both boys and girls, though mostly girls, the subtle bullying occurs when classmates give dirty looks or make snide comments to a victim, making her feel ashamed of how much she is eating. As a result, the girl avoids eating or throws out her lunch to avoid the bullying and shame. While it's more common in junior high and high school, this lunchtime bullying reportedly even happens to kids in elementary school. Adding a one-two punch, bullying of any kind often leads to disordered eating patterns or clinical eating disorders, so one can only cringe of the consequences of bullying over eating itself.

The best thing parents can do, according to experts, is ask their children about what they ate for lunch—and create an atmosphere where their kids can give them an honest answer. As I discovered recently when I probed deeper into a conversation with my daughter about what happened during lunchtime at her school, even if there isn't any bullying, you might be very surprised by what you find out! My daughter had been trading some of her carefully packed and nutritionally balanced lunch for Fruit Loops for much of the third grade, unbeknownst to me or my husband. Oh, the tricky secret lives of kids!

Ellen Sturm Niz is a New York City-based editor and writer who doesn't understand why people have to be so mean to each other. Check out Ellen's new Etsy shop and follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

Find out what kids are really eating in school-and what gets dumped in the trash.

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