Fig Newtons

I arrived early for my first day at the L. Community Center, an after-school center in a low-income housing development in Alexandria, to take care of paperwork and get acquainted with the facility before the kids arrived. Miss Angelica, the program director, was setting up a snack on the peninsula counter of the kitchenette. The Capital Area Food Bank supplies the snacks, and they like to make sure there’s some nutritional value. She poured half-cups of Juicy Juice, and set two Fig Newtons on each napkin. When I started to open another box, she told me to wait so we don’t have to waste them. Huh?

Her goal was to get each child to take at least two bites of a Newton.

Apparently, the children are so used to such highly-processed foods (colored, salty, or loaded with HFCS) that Fig Newtons are simply repulsive to them. I was skeptical. I’ve never seen a group of after-school kids who wouldn’t scarf down whatever was in front of them. From Brownie Scouts to Shakespeare Troupe, I’ve been a snack mom enough to think I know from hungry kids! But she was right, of course. While a few of the kids were eager and enjoyed their snack, most had to be cajoled into even having Newtons near them on the table. And I saw lots of rejected chewed up bits on the napkins later.

I’ve heard at least a dozen different languages in most every school I’ve visited, but this little detail gave me a peek at the reality of the very different worlds we live in.