Welcome to Church: Here’s Some Cheetos and Kool‐Aid.

Booty KickerLast year I wrote quite a bit about my efforts to get my son into church. For a while I waited for the church I had been attending (alone) to make accommodations for my son, but once I started to feel like my church was less than enthusiastic about starting a special-needs program (or even just making an effort for my son alone), I decided to look around for another church where I could take him.

I would like to say we have found great success, but, in all honesty, I have completely given up.

I was so encouraged when I found a couple of churches in the area that really seemed to have a heart for special needs, and they seemed eager to welcome my son into their programs. The first church that we found seemed almost perfect. My son seemed to like it and the ministry workers were kind and loving and sincere. They accommodated my son’s needs well and were very careful to try to teach him a little lesson each week. My husband and I were so thrilled the first week when we peeked in the classroom and saw our son working with a teacher calmly and happily.

So, what was the problem?

The problem is the same one we seem to run into everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE we go.


Junk food.

junk food

Now, I know that our country has a bit of an obsession with junk food, but the church seems to be one of the biggest offenders. At least down here in the South, they do! Seems we can’t bring our kids to church for an hour and a half without them needing to have a snack. And if there is a child with a birthday, oh, look out! It’s time for cupcakes! Or sometimes doughnuts!

I cannot for the life of me understand this practice. When I accompanied my son to “children’s church” at my previous church, I would watch as all of the other children (who appeared neurotypical) were served orange food each week before the service started. Cheez‐Its, cheese puffs, or Goldfish crackers were the usual culinary treat, served alongside a cup of orange Kool‐Aid. The kids would wolf down their snacks, and then be expected to sit quietly and listen to a Bible story immediately afterwards. I noticed quite a few kids having a tough time sitting still during Bible story time, and they would get called out for their behavior. I felt bad for them. With what they had just eaten, it wasn’t really their fault.

At the church that we found that was so good to my son, we thought we could manage it. We were careful to make sure to bring my son’s allergen-free cookies with him each week. But as much as my son loves his cookies, he is curious about everyone else’s cookies, too. They look like something he might like. So, he went for them. He would stalk and grab the snacks that belonged to the rest of the class.

Far more dangerous than my son’s food sensitivities are my son’s food allergies. He cannot have nuts and is also sensitive that foods that have been cross-contaminated with nuts. Two years ago we ended up in the ER after an anaphylactic reaction, and we still aren’t sure about what food caused it. Because these processed foods that are so popular now are often made on the same lines and in the same facilities as nut products, we have to watch every morsel of food that goes into his mouth.

food allergies

Add to that my son’s autism, and things get even more complicated. He does not understand his allergy at all. He is completely unable to identify a food’s potential to harm him. All he knows is that if a food looks good to him, he wants to eat it. And he will lurch for it, and he is FAST.

The church we were enjoying found that out the hard way,when he was able to seek out, grab, and shove a vanilla wafer in his mouth before anyone had even realized he had wandered over to the snack area. They called me and I had to leave the church service to go make sure he was okay. We had to check the label of the vanilla wafers to make sure there was not a danger of cross-contamination or a “may contain nuts” warning label.

On another visit a short time later, we found out that this class has a once-a-month birthday party, complete with brightly colored cupcakes topped with sprinkles. Now, if we know about this in advance, I can bring my son a safe cupcake, but it’s not going to be brightly colored, and they won’t have sprinkles. My son ADORES the brightly colored, sprinkled desserts. I have to steer him away from them every time we pass the bakery section of the grocery store. Brightly colored, sprinkled desserts torment my son because he can’t have them. I hate it. I want nothing more than to give him what his heart so desperately desires. But he can’t have them. They are poisonous to him. If they are made in a bakery, chances are they have been cross-contaminated with nuts. They could kill him. And even if they didn’t kill him, they would certainly make all of our lives miserable for the next few days until they got out of his system.

This church is not the exception; it seems to be the norm. When we took our son to a special-needs VBS at another church over the summer, we were hopeful they would be more aware of the dietary issues that often accompany special needs. Apparently, they were not. My husband and I decided to accompany our son during VBS because this was a new church for us, and we were glad we did. They fed the same processed food as other churches, including Goldfish crackers and brightly colored sugary ice pops. All week, my husband and I watched them feed the kids these snacks, and then observed how behaviors went downhill after snack time. One child with autism in particular would behave fairly well in the beginning, but then after snack, he would bolt — making a beeline for any door he could find in the building. He would run circles, around and around the church, with several VBS volunteers either trailing behind him or darting in front of the doors to block him from escaping. He never did any of this before snack time.

It wasn’t just snack time that was the problem, either. One of the art activities involved stringing popcorn — not freshly popped popcorn, but prepackaged, yellow-dyed, stale popcorn. We had to pull our son away from the art table and keep him from participating in that project, because, had he been allowed, he would have just shoved the popcorn in his mouth instead of stringing it, just like we observed another child doing. And no one stopped him.

So now, well, my son is not attending church anywhere. I hate to say we have given up, but it’s the truth, I guess. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned to my husband that we should try to take our son back to that church that we all really liked, but just the thought of the food issues was enough to change my mind. I would love to say that I am gung-ho to be the trailblazer, the one who makes change happen, the one who educates and get things done, and as a Thinking Mom, I know that I should. But honestly, at this point, I don’t have it in me. It’s been a tough year for my family. I’m tired. I don’t want to fight anything anymore. I’m tired of looking like the crazy, overprotective mom. I’m tired of being an annoyance to people. I would just like to go someplace that has the foresight to accommodate for food issues before my son ever arrives. I know that is selfish, but I can’t help it. I’ve reached a place of mental exhaustion and I just want people to be thoughtful to kids with special needs and allergies without me having to demand it.

Food Allergy Research and Education estimates that 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies. It is now affecting one in every 13 children. Just like autism, this number is growing. In addition to this, there are many more children who have intolerance to certain chemicals in processed food, especially sugar, artificial ingredients, and dyes.

I want churches to understand food allergies.

I want churches to think about the effect junk food has on behavior.

I want to go to a church that doesn’t feed any of their children junk food.

Is that too much to ask?


~ B.K.

For more blogs by B.K., please click here.

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54 Responses to Welcome to Church: Here’s Some Cheetos and Kool‐Aid.

  1. Brynn says:

    I tried to find an email address but couldn’t.. I know this post is old but it has impacted me on serving snacks for kids in our church. My husband has been gluten free for over a decade and I have many family members who have different food allergies. And while my kids do eat unhealthy things on occasion, compared to most kids they are much more restricted on the things we let them eat. When the request to serve snacks in church came up, my immediate reaction was a no. I didn’t want to deal with figuring out what to serve and how to make sure all kid’s could enjoy the snack. We tried implementing a fruit and veggies only policy but we are a mobile church with no kitchen and preparing the snack as well as it being safe for all ages was hard. What would you suggest a church should serve as a snack if they wanted to offer one? Something like apple sauce pouches, fruit leathers, veggie straws, sweet potato crackers? I really want to make sure that we offer something that the majority can have, that is healthy, and enjoyable for for them. Thanks for your post, as others have said, knowledge is key. Most people never even consider these kinds of things.

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      Hi Brynn, I’m sorry to report that the author of this piece has since passed away, so she can’t answer your question. I’m the moderator, and I’ve been a bit swamped under. I’m sorry I didn’t get to your post sooner. Fruits, in general, make a really snack. If you can’t do organic, try to choose fruits that don’t have edible skin. Berries, in particular, are heavily sprayed with the herbicide glyphosate, making it a poor choice for children who already have detoxification challenges. It’s also best to avoid anything on the most common allergen list. Overall, your suggested list is a huge improvement over the average. Thanks for caring!

  2. katrina says:

    try bring a vegan or vegetarian and being treated like a social outcast everytime there is a church lunch, dinner, or potluck event then!
    My family are most hospitable to others, and people always enjoy all the food they get to eat at our home when they are invited, yet if anyone ever bothers recipricating an invitation it comes with “well, we’d like to have you over, but don’t know WHAT ON EARTH WE’D FEED YOU???” (forgetting all the delicious examples they have eaten over at ours!

    church SHOULD do hospitality well…if people don’t feel included and provided for even within their own church family, where can you feel included?

    When i make hundreds of beautiful vegan cupcakes to share or sell at an event to raise money for the church, not a crumb is left,yet no one even THINKS to ask me for a recipe so they can make something to cater for us..
    every church lunch, when one of the ladies is going around asking people to bring a bowl of this, ir a pot of that…they come up to us and say “oh, do you mind just bringing something for yourself to save everyone the hassle, as you know- you’re difficult to cater for…” worth an apologetic smile….
    how HARD is it for someone to make a tray of baked potatoes, with some vegetarian chilli toppings, or a roasted vegetable cous cous salad, or an indian dhal and rice dish??? It just is as simple as googling a recipe, and using common ingredients they have at home….plenty of meat eaters would consume all of that as well, so WHY does every single dish need to be a meat or dairy based dish then?
    If someone cared one iota for how it makes others feel, when not one family out of 50 bringing things could be bothered to make something to share with you too, then it need not happen…but i have just got to the point where i say “oh look, don’t bother, we’ll just go home” ,and we don’t attend.
    Ofcourse i could make myself a nice dish to sit and eat on our own..thats NOT THE POINT!
    i can go home and eat something i have prepared!
    The point is, it is supposed to be about family, and hospitality- looking after the needs of your guests, and to invite someone to a meal, and then tell them to bring their OWN FOOD is just plain rude and isolating.
    To have to explain to your children at an event like that, WHY you are the only people who are being given food, and why you had to bring your own is just plain awful….
    There are other vegetarians and vegans at our church too, not alot, but each one of us feels unwelcome and isolated in this regards also!
    I have to bring my own soymilk every week if i want a cup of tea, despite having been there for over 4 years…others occassionally ask if they can use some too as they prefer it to cows milk, and i tell them they are welcome to help themselves….

    We pay tithes…soy milk cost pennies and lasts in the fridge a few good weeks, so i just dont see why the church can’t just be considerate enough to provide for the minority also!

    And my final gripe, is what they will feed the kids, as THEY KNOW our kids are vegan, yet every xmas when “santa” gives each child a gift, it is a cadburys milk chocolate bar selection pack, which they KNOW contains dairy and isnt suiotable, yet they give it to them anyway, and at easter, a big old marshmallow pop full of pigs gelatine, that the kids had half eaten by the time they came out of childrens church!
    It is totally disrespectful to feed others kids things like that, and when my kids have been told they contain pigs gelatine, they are horrified…
    For the same cost, they could have bought the kids a treat pack of starburst or skittles etc which are mainstream candies, but contain no animal products, but they just can’t be bothered!
    The school the kids go to always put them a suitable treats packet together from santa, yet the church can’t be bothered to respect us on that!

    We are talking about a GOOD group of people here…yet failing in such a poor way in the hospitality stakes in this regards,…and as i mentioned, it makes it even worse that these are all people who thoroughly enjoy the hospitality we offer, yet extend none back…
    and let’s not get me started on the aspartame squash they give the kids to drink at snack time 🙁

  3. Alita says:

    I teach Pre-K Sunday School, and I am so tired of all the children whining because I bring fuit for a snack instead of cookies, or donuts, like the other teachers. Why is junk food needed so close to breakfast time? Who made it a rule that you must serve snacks before anyone will pay attention to the teacher?

  4. Karen says:

    Great post! It’s so hard! Almost every time I turn around at church, they are being offered candy or junk food. They have started having veggies and fruit most weeks, but rarely a service goes by without some sort of junk food crossing their paths. The nursery cupboards are stocked full of goldfish and cheerios. Blech. It is very frustrating!

  5. Wendy says:

    As a children’s director I find this article and the comments very interesting. We do serve snacks at our church but children are there for much longer than 45 – 60 minutes. I, as well as others (band families, head usher and families, and the family that sets up coffee for the adults) arrive before 8 am. We have a 9 am worship service, 10 am Sunday School hour and then an additional 11 am worship service. Many families serve at 1 worship service, attend 1 worship service and go to Sunday School too. That means their children are there for at least 3 hours, and maybe 4. I am personally there with my family for 5 1/2 hours. So, yes our kids get hungry. We give our snack during the 10 am hour. So if a family is only coming for 1 hour their kids don’t get a snack. As for what we serve, it is ALWAYS peanut free/safe. This is one allergy that is air born. Our preschoolers only get safe goldfish or cheerios. The elementary school kids are served a type of chip. Why don’t we do something more nutritious? COST!!! Healthy food is much more expense than junk food. I agree we are addicted to junk food but just look in the grocery store and what a bag of chips cost compared to a bag of oranges. It’s ridiculous. I do have one child that has MANY allergy issues and it could send him to the hospital. We have a special snack available for him in the classroom comparable to what his friends would be getting If there would be a special snack to go along with the lesson, I always contact his mom to discuss other options. She is always willing to help.
    I do think part of the issue is just un-education. If you have never had a child with severe food allergies, you just don’t understand. While I haven’t had this issue in our life, I have had many discussions with parents who have. Listen and learn is my theory. Thanks for bringing up this great discussion.

    • Laurie Lee says:

      Healthy food is NOT more expensive than junk food; frankly I tire of seeing that excuse (my over all grocery and health bill is far less than previously). Do all the kids share one bag of chips? Are you aware that those “cheap” junk foods are heavily subsidized (grain, sugar, corn, etc) whereas whole foods are not? Does that matter to you and your Church?

      Even if it were marginally more expensive to provide healthy food there are two options: ask for donations specifically for programs that require food be served or: ask that the kids bring their own healthy snacks. Healthy, spiritual kids need real food. Stop making excuses because what it comes down to is that it’s easier for YOU to serve non-nutritious foods.

      I have felt much more connected to God since my child and I have started eating food that nourishes our body and mind fully. Perhaps Churches could also recognize that food is much more than something that we stuff in our face to fill our stomachs.

      Sorry but Cheerios and fish crackers are not “safe” food. Foods as made by God are safe foods.

  6. imustbecrazy says:

    I am astounded at the American church’s approach to food. Not only is junk food bad for your body (and Christians supposedly believe the body is a temple), but most of our processed foods contain GMOs. What is a GMO? A priest from the cult of “Science & Progress” takes a gene from a fish and puts it in a tomato and declares it’s safe. They patent food and claim ownership over the thing created for all of humanity. They claim to be doing good and profit from the suffering of others. And the church is completely silent. Deafeningly silent. Isn’t that what the prophets called idolatry? But what do I know…I’ve lost my faith.

  7. Amanda says:

    Church is for learning about God, not for snack time. I don’t understand our society and the “kids need to eat every few hours” philosophy. My son eats every four hours and is one of the least picky, happy eaters I have ever come across, whether child or adult. We have had our own issues at church regarding this – even after the church permanently labeled his name tag with “no snacks aloud” (and me feeling like I was saying “don’t feed the bears”), the volunteers still gave him Cheerios. He had never had gluten in his life at that point.

    At my son’s Montessori school, birthdays are celebrated without food. Instead, parents can bring a book for the class to read together, or a craft everyone can enjoy. It is ridiculous for our culture to be completely focused on sugar-laden fuel.

  8. jill pena says:

    Have you tried Churches of Christ. Our Church is very conservative and does not believe that you should attract people to the gospel of Christ with cupcakes, parties and special events. We teach the word of God as simply as possible. So, in Bible class, you may see a rare treat. We tasted honey the other day when we were learning about John the Baptist and what he ate. I remember one year we made a ladder our of pretzels and they ate a few of them. And, maybe orange goldfish when they learn about Jesus feeding the 5,000. But, the peppridge farm ones, I have learned do not use dye, they use something else. I agree with you in this. Please don’t let this discourage you from attending services. There is a place for you.

  9. Melody says:

    Our church has been good about letting us know when we need to bring food for our 3yo son w/Celiac & multiple allergies, and he is pretty good about not lunging after the other kids’ food. The problem we have is that kids get crumbs all over their clothes and hands, and bolt from the table w/o washing hands, and all the boys immediately start wrestling or playing tag. Or kids sitting near him wave their sandwiches around flinging crumbs everywhere. We pretty much stopped doing the kids’ fellowships and parties because coming up with an allergen free menu that all the kids might like is pretty cost prohibitive. But we still go to church. We just take turns being the “helicopter parent” for that day. It is really stressful, though. It doesn’t seem fair or affordable to insist that all the other kids eat like us, yet the very fact that we can’t control what the other kids do with their hands after they eat means it would be so much easier if they all ate like us; or if there was no food at events…which seems an even less likely possibility.

    • Alina says:

      Have you tried talking about it with the church office? I am asking because I am wondering if I will have to fight that battle and would like to be prepared. My son (with several allergies) just turned 3 and the kids program starts around 3 in our church. I would be happy to bring a bag of apples to the class every Sunday (and treat it as a food donation) 🙂 just wondering how to approach it. I wonder if they would be open to such “sponsoring” snacks.

      • J P says:

        What about kids allergic to apples like mine was? I am seeing a lot of people suggesting what the snacks should be so that it won’t affect their child with no consideration to what another child might be allergic to. My son has allergies, too, but I just disciplined him on what not to eat. I don’t expect everyone around me to cater to him. I don’t mean to ask you personally, but an apple is not the answer. It’s just someone else’s allergy. Seems,like all of us going to church could focus a little more on the lessons of forgiveness and living in harmony with others.

  10. SL King says:

    I sm sorry you are dealing with this and I understand. Most churches breed gluttony. I wish you were here in Portland. At Destiny Church they use organic applesauce and popcorn and cheesesticks. Because so many kids have learning issues they are working hard at no dyes or perservatives. Each kid has a nametag with his or her warnings stickered on the back. The best part–all last summer they got to be Spy Kids for God–it was the coolest!

  11. Pam says:

    I have just taken over as nursery director at our church and I’m very concerned about this issue. I understand the dilemma of parents who have children with allergies because my son suffered with severe allergies but I’m at a loss for a good solution. Children need a snack if they are there for a couple of hours. We are trying to do healthier things but those tend to be very expensive and our budget doesn’t allow for too much. We thought about going to a policy that kids have to bring their own snacks but that doesn’t resolve the issue of severe allergies (where kids get ill just being in the room with the allergen) or as in your case a child picking up another child’s snack. Also what do you do when visitors come and aren’t aware of the policy. We do have a no sugary snacks policy because well it’s just not fair to our workers. If it’s someone’s birthday they can let us know and we will sing to them. If you have any suggestions please let me know. The other issue I have ran into are parents who expect you to know little Johnny has a severe allergy to peanuts without telling you or reminding you. We can not read minds. I’ve had parents get mad because they didn’t tell me they didn’t want their child given koolaid. How was I suppose to know that especially when I had seen the parent allow them to drink soda. Please help out a concerned nursery/pre-k director.

  12. Jeanne says:

    Thank you for publishing this. My family began homeschooling my grandson because of constant school issues with snacks, birthday parties, math lessons, etc., all involving junk foods with artificial colors, artificial flavors, gluten, yeast and yeast extract, various bad sugars, and so on.

    Today at my grandson’s karate lesson, they had a visit from Santa (in a karate uniform–cute!) “Are you giving a treat?” I asked. “Just candy canes,” was the reply, but they said they would tell the kids not to eat it until their parents said it was okay (making parents the bad guys). This is from a karate school where they have character education that includes healthy eating lessons. They ended up not giving the candy canes. They must have been able to tell from my face what I thought.

  13. dawn says:


    Our Pastor just shared this article with the Children’s Ministry Team. We have had many cases of children with special dietary issues over the years from Red Dye to Eggs to Nuts to Vegetarian by choice to juice sensitivity. We still do snack, and, I confess, cookies, candy, cupcakes, cheeze-its and pretzels are norm. Many curriculum also use “snacks” for teaching lessons (the do warn about the possibilities of allergies). I have brought fruit and veggies before and kids like them just as much as other things (at least if they are truly hungry). I appreciate mom’s bringing things like this to my attention. I did have one mom who brought her child a snack and he knew that was what he would eat at snack time if he wanted snack. When we would make things as part of the lesson, he would make one for his sister. I rememeber a very scary lesson I learned when making a bird feeder pinecone with peanut butter. Once child was allergic and, while we didn’t consume it, she put her fingers in her mouth. Thank God she was okay. Keep on telling the churches (even the ones you child is not a part of) and the parents and teachers that we need to do better for our children. Unfortunately, it is faster to grab a box of crackers and have them on hand then to buy and prepare fruit and vegetables. However, based on what I am reading from you, it would be better to forgo snacks completely. Funny, our church service is only 1 hour, but so many kids say they are hungry after 45 minutes — of course, that is about 11:15 and if they ate at 7 or 8 am, I can understand. Besides fruit, what would you recommend?

    Thank you for the insight from a parents perspective.

    • Jen says:

      I have a kid who has been diagnosed with congenital sucrase-isomaltase deficiency, which means that he does not produce enough enzymes to digest sugar and starch in foods-and we are not talking added sugars and junk foods, NATURALLY occurring sugar in fruits and vegetables can make him very very ill for days. A cookie could land him in the hospital. He spent most of last year in bed, starving and malnourished while we tried desperately to figure out what was making him sick. Turns out the answer was ‘nearly everything’. He is required to take a specialized and very expensive medicine which must be refrigerated every time he eats. It is not practical to take to church for one snacks hat he doesn’t want or need. We tried to work with the nursery coordinator at church, but she just didn’t get it, so we had to pull him from church/church activities just to stabilize his health, because it didn’t matter what we did at home if the woman running the nursery gave him crackers.

      Now that he is stable, we are trying again, because we really like the church. I had a meeting with the nursery coordinator and the children’s ministry leader (her supervisor) and brought handouts and written explanations. The ministry leader helped to get the nursery lady on board and corrected her when she insisted on giving everyone a snack my kid can’t have and giving him something different-because it is too dangerous at his age (he’s three). So I will be sitting in church this week PRAYING that the people taking care of my son are listening this time.

      If it doesn’t work, we will be going back to catholic mass, because there is no snacking at mass. So to answer your question, yeah, it might just be easier on parents of allergy/food sensitive kids if we didn’t have to worry about snacks in church. Our case is extreme, but there are kids with allergies to fruits and veggies, nuts and wheat, eggs and dairy, so if you try to accommodate everyone there might not be any ‘safe’ foods left.

      But seriously, why are there even snacks in church? It’s one hour. (I grew up catholic and I really do not understand it.) It would be really, really nice to have just ONE social activity for my family that didn’t somehow involve food, that didn’t somehow make my kid feel ‘different’, even if it was just church services and we had to skip the rest of the fellowship events.

      • Shelley says:

        We have 3 adopted little ones who have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FSD). We gave up on trying to attend church as a family because of their sensory issues and their behaviors.
        I have an on going battle with the children’s school over sugar snacks and feeding my kids in general. There is a pizza party for everything, cupcakes for kids birthdays. I think the school should not be using food and candy as rewards. We wonder why American children are over weight? It is not just a lack of activity. It is because they are learning to reward themselves with a sugar treat for their minor achievements.
        I am sorry that you too fight these issues. I take comfort in knowing I am not alone.

  14. justa says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about all the trouble you are having finding a support system at church. It is really hard making sure everyone that volunteers on a rotating children’s church staff to understand special needs diets but food allergies should not be a question. I’d make sure there is a person that oversees the entire childrens area and make them aware. If they don’t take you seriously, move on.
    We have a small congregation of about 100 and at least a third are children. Our children’s food issues run the gamut from milk, peanut and egg allergies to special needs diets. We provide snacks for our own children but so many of us are able to share now. For church potlucks I sometimes bring fruit or enjoy life cookies to share. The other moms are always happy. But not as much as the kids 🙂

  15. Shar says:

    The question is, have you really asked the church people and explained to them your situation? I have been to a number of churches and worked with people there in the youth/children department. Most people would be alarmed, make steps, and educate other workers/parents/etc. if an allergy issue or junk food issue is brought up. The trick is to get to know people who are in the leadership or influential position in these specific ministries and tell them how your son was brought to the ER, etc., and propose some do-able steps as suggestions.
    We cannot really assume that adults are aware of these things because sometimes they were raised without good eating habits as well. But when they know that a life can be endangered such as kids with allergies who are also with autism and therefore cannot make informed decisions, people can sympathize and think of steps to do, and possibly make it even a formal policy at church events. It is better to solve this problem by approaching them first than only blogging about it. But thank you for raising our awareness.

    • B.K. says:

      Yes, I did. I always attend a new church alone and talk to leadership about my son’s issues before I ever bring him. I didn’t just blog about it. I would never just drop him off and expect everyone to understand his needs. If I did that, I would be putting my son in danger, and his safety is my first priority.

  16. Toosweet says:

    Lead by example. Tonight is a birthday party for Jesus in the children’s area for my daughter (and not for my son who has allergies) but I was asked to bring a finger food like cookies or candy, however I have made a huge fruit tray with organic strawberries, grapes, apples, and neatly sliced oranges. I always bring fruit or vegetable trays to every gathering and it always get eaten and enjoyed by all. I also get comments about how wonderful it was to have fruit or veggies for a change. We always bring our own food/drinks too because of food allergies. For our Thanksgiving fellowship I arranged for an allergy free table with food my son could eat and the other person that contributed food has similar allergies as my sons so it worked out well. We each brought 2 dishes and I brought desert and it worked well. My son was so excited to be able to eat good food and have some choices.

  17. Jared says:

    I thought of a similar situation that Michele describes. I have recently converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. There is not children’s church during the liturgy, everyone is present in the service, from the babes to elderly. My church has a large population of children, I swear 50% or more of the church is under the age of 16! And like the Catholic Church, most Orthodox Churches have a coffee hour (with snacks) or meal following the liturgy where much of it is homemade. (In the Orthodox Church it is traditional to fast from food and water from after dinner on Saturday until communion during the liturgy so the meal/coffee hour is used to break the fast, although many children do have a little food before the service) And most of the Orthodox Churches I have attended, there are usually several people with food allergies so there are usually additional options to what you might bring! Most importantly, much of it comes down to education… Most people are oblivious to the needs of special needs children and people with food allergies. It takes time to teach people new ideas and ways of doing things. I know it my family awhile to adjust to meals at family gatherings to be “nut” free when one of my nephews was diagnosed with a nut allergy, but we made the needed changes. Best of luck and don’t be afraid of the “older” churches! You might just find a deeper faith…

    • Nicole says:

      My thoughts exactly. And my experience. Also, the ethnic culinary traditions in many Orthodox churches help bring variety and this creates versatility I. The people preparing the food. +1 for Eastern Orthodoxy!

      I would also say that the active, multi-sensory experience in Orthodox worship is very soothing and engaging to many ASD kids. It’s beautiful to see, to smell and to hear, all at once!

      Blessings as you try to find what you’re looking for!

  18. JMG says:

    You have conveyed exactly how I have felt for years. Even now that my kids are old enough to “know better” and they no longer grab other people’s food, they no longer want to participate because they are social outcasts over their food issues. A place of worship should not be a place where people are outcasts because they don’t eat junk food. Every youth event centers around food. My kids are fed up with it and don’t want to go. It’s time for churches to wake up and stop making everything centered around food.

    • B.K. says:

      That makes me so sad, but is a great example of what it is like for the kids who have more awareness. SO sorry this has happened. Thank you for sharing that. <3

  19. I am sorry you’re having so much trouble finding a good worship environment for your whole family.

    I do think, though, that it’s unfair to expect a group of people – like a congregation – to understand the dietary issues of your son if you don’t help educate them in advance. I hear what you’re saying, that you’re tired of explaining, but unfortunately if people don’t KNOW what happens when your son is fed certain kinds of foods, then they aren’t the bad guys.

    I have a feeling that they would welcome changes if someone helped them learn the right way to do it. Churches are notoriously filled with old white-haired ladies who think all kids need candy and cookies. They volunteer their time and donate their food. But either no one tells them the specific things to bring, or the church needs to have a knowledgeable coordinator for children’s snacks.

    Churches, I have found, are actually pretty interested in getting new members all the time. If all it took was to offer healthy snacks for kids instead of koolaid and Cheetos, I really believe they’d do it in a heartbeat.

    But you need to be that advocate for your child. And if you’re tired of explaining over and over again, that’s understandable and okay. But then you have to accept that people will probably not meet your expectations – NOT because they don’t care but because they simply don’t know.

    For example, until I had a baby I had no idea how diapers were sized. (this is just a simple example). Once I had a baby, and understood how they grew and how fast, and how diaper sizes weren’t about age but more about weight, then I knew. But I wouldn’t expect my friend, who’s unmarried and without kids, to be able to go to the store and buy diapers for me. She could guess but she could be WAY off base.

    I hope that made some sense and didn’t offend you.

    • B.K. says:

      I am not at all offended. However, as the article states, 1 in 13 children now are affected by food allergies. Obesity among children is also rising, as well diabetes. Now, I completely understand that the average parent with a healthy child wouldn’t understand the food allergy thing. But children’s ministry leaders should not be in the dark about this. They should be seeing this regularly now and it should motivate them to educate themselves and make some changes. It shouldn’t be because a parent like me comes in and has to “make” them. It should be a priority for them to serve healthy snacks to kids (if they insist on serving snacks at all).
      Thanks for writing! 🙂

    • Laurie Lee says:

      Serving junk doesn’t seem very Christian imo. Whole foods as provided by God is the food we are designed to eat.

      Processed foods aren’t good for anyone, as can be seen by epidemics of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and all manner of modern diseases. God didn’t intend for us to eat garbage and suffer lifelong illness.

      It’s completely reasonable to stand up and oppose food that does not nourish the body, mind and soul.

  20. Tammy says:

    I can totally relate. However I want to encourage you… God can give you the strength to at least educate.
    What I have found in our church is that most are simply uneducated about food allergies. Perhaps God is opening a door for you to help the other families in the class who may not have the food education that you do. I will be praying for you! Blessings… Tammy

  21. Meadow Davidson says:

    I so get your frustration! I myself have often wondered why more churches are not aware of the effects certain foods have on one’s health. Even the one’s that preach about staying fit and healthy, will still have the sugary treats and rewards for youth and lots of sugary desserts at the traditional pot-luck. North and south, it’s been the same. I have been lucky that the parisheners have tried their best to be accomidating with the wheat and dairy thing, but I still cringe at the corn syrup, food-dye, soy ridden replacements.
    Wouldn’t you think that a God respecting community would be more cautious about what they put into the bodies He has given them? You would think they would be more respectful and cautious to the precious gift He has given them? Honestly, I think most don’t look at it that way at all. They willfully work at refraining from all kinds of sin, and look at food as a “free-bie”….all access pass of sorts.
    It’s too bad.

  22. Laura Hayes says:

    Spot on, B.K. Thank you for writing an article about this. The food issues you mention, plus the fact that churches do not want to engage in talking about the other ways in which we, as loving parents, are poisoning our children (e.g. vaccines, GMOs, pesticides, toxic cleaners, etc.), is tragic to me. Once again, it appears that it is we who will have to be the trailblazers…we, as in those of us who already have so much on our plates, who have already had more than our share of “battles”, and we who are perhaps the most tired and who could really use some help from others in blazing some much-needed trails. Sigh. Onward we march, doing what we can and the best we can each day! Great article, thank you 🙂

  23. Kristen says:

    I’m with you. I don’t understand why kids who have just eaten breakfast need a snack at ten o’clock, especially considering there will be food at fellowship after the service. At least the fellowship time is optional, and one could just leave after the service to avoid it. This is rampant in the north as well. We tried one church, and I went to the Sunday School with my daughter. To my horror, as a food allergy mom, the table was COVERED with sweets for decorating cookies. That was the lesson they had planned, ugh.

    • B.K. says:

      My husband and I are always talking about how we never got food in church when we were growing up. It’s almost like it’s a bribe, to make them like church better. Or at least, I often wonder if it is.

      • Kristen says:

        I think you’re right about trying to make them like church more. They never had snacks when I was a kid either.

  24. Susan says:

    I just went through this fight too. Our youth pastor opened up the discussion about what we feed our kids and I let the whole church know what my problems are with snack time in general and what we choose to feed as a whole. I wanted to abolish snack but there was a huge backlash from people. Pastors and parents were more concerned about making sure the kids who were not fed before church got food and the rest were topped off before the end of service. No one was interested in starting a no snack kids church room and we have trouble getting enough volunteers to run our rooms as it is. As parent workers my jusband and I can say snack time is more a time filler since most kids just pick at the food offered without any real interest. For the past year I had provided our own snacks which usually went well for us except it was hard for the variety of workers (ESP the youth room helpers) to remember that my kids couldn’t be offered anything that was not directly approved by me first. After a long any mentally draining attempt to change food policy at our church I had some success. I managed to convince them to buy Annie’s crackers for the kids. It became a cost issue and people felt strongly that there ought to be a variety of crackers and cookies offered so now Annie’s are served to my kids while everyone else is given dyed junk again. The times I have made real food snacks like whole grain pretzels the kids would not eat them except for my kids who know what real food looks like and tastes like. Overall the biggest improvement is that one of the Wed night workers now buys undyed cupcakes (which we still cant eat) for the constant kids birthday parties. I will keep fighting and praying that our church will find the same value in feeding our kids (& adults too) dye free real food as I do. It seems they would rather pay to sponcer a missionary over seas somewhere than to feed real food their own kids at church. Missionaries are great but we seem to collect them like trophies at the cost of funding “small” things like the kids food budget. I have been told that we spend enough on our kids food at church and it is the parents job to feed a balanced diet to their kids. Apparently church food is by definition non food (aka not a meal or meaningful eating) to them so why pay/offer real things to our kids then. With our youth pastor trying to grow our youth programs our already strained kids food budget will be completely depleted. He doesn’t believe me that by getting rid of the junk food and offering fresh yummy real food we could have the largest and best kids programs in town!

    • B.K. says:

      Our society is addicted to junk food, kids and adults, and honestly I have heard so many parents (and even doctors!) say that not letting kids have junk food is “depriving” them. It’s crazy. Snacks SHOULD be abolished if they aren’t going to serve anything of nutritional value. Otherwise, they are only contributing to an epidemic. Keep on trying!!!! Thanks for writing! 🙂

  25. this is so well said! thank you BK!
    We have our own challenges with food at church from the nursery giving my highly allergic daughter the wrong snack to the preschool ministry teacher mocking behind other parents backs that they brought “special organic snacks” for their children and why wasn’t her day-glo lucky charms good enough for these “spoiled” kids. um- well- for some of us it is a HEALTH issue a bonefide health condition for our children…
    so we have struggled to find a church not only where we feel safe but where my kids ARE safe…. doesn’t seem too much to ask… but why IS it so hard?
    and it is exhuasting and I pray you find some peace this Christmas and that you receive a New Year’s blessing of a church that gets it and is safe for your family…. big hugs.

  26. Shannon says:

    Wow. I live in Texas and schools and churches are so scared to feed kids anything the parents hasn’t brought. I will say that I know the younger classes are offered Goldfish and lemonade or crackers and lemonade for early service but we go to late service where snacks aren’t served. I make sure to tell the teachers my kids can’t have gluten or casein. I don’t now of any school or church around here these days that would serve cupcakes that a parent didn’t bring and even then most make you bring things like gummy fruit or things like that.

  27. Sandy Burke says:

    I don’t understand why churches have to serve snacks of any kind to children, much less junk!

  28. Michele says:

    Why would you need to eat food at church? We go to our Catholic church, we’re there for 45-60 minutes for Mass. Kids can certainly go that long without food. And food is definitely not allowed inside the church. Food only comes into it if we have a morning tea for a reason or after Mass communal dinner. Then everyone brings a plate of food which we share together after Mass. The food is 95% home made – parishioners bring beautiful dishes of slices, cakes, rice dishes, meat dishes etc. We have a range of dinner and dessert dishes – it’s just lovely. My kids have breakfast before Church, but that’s it. And we can’t eat an hour before communion (which is during Mass), so even if they did have something horrible (which they don’t), by the time you get to church, their behaviour wouldn’t be a problem. Why not try a Catholic Mass, as food is a beautiful meal celebrated by the parish, not a quick fix to fill up the kids.

    • B.K. says:

      Maybe my next blog will be, “B.K. Converts”. LOL. 🙂 Thanks for writing!

    • Michele says:

      Sorry, I also should have commended! I was so focused on why all that junk food would be served at church, that I forgot to say ‘good on you’ for being so diligent about your childrens health. There are so many horrific chemicals in the ‘food’ that is marketed for kids today, and they cause so much damage our kids bodies, both short term and long term. So congratulations on being such a proactive and diligent Mum about your kids health, and for giving them the best chance for a happy and healthy life!

  29. Jan says:

    I’m sorry you are going through is… it stinks for sure but don’t give up. Try to find a small church, a really small church, where you can sit down with the Christian Education committee and see what can be done. It’s not just the junk food but kids being overweight!! Our church has moved to things like apple and orange slices WHEN a snack is part of the plan and it certainly isn’t every week. They also use teaching about food that are eaten where Jesus lived like hummus, and pita bread, olives, etc…
    it can be done, but it’s much easier on a smaller level.
    Good luck and the right church is out there somewhere and willing to do the right thing by all their kids!!

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