Food in the classroom

This is a very sore point with me. No, not really sore, but it is something that I stand firmly. I have yet to be swayed the other way and very regularly sway others mine:

Food should ONLY be used in the classroom for cooking projects!
For the most of my career, I have worked in low income centers. There are people out there who can't put food in their child's mouth, yet we send them home with rice glued to the paper. These parents walk in and look at a sensory table filled with macaroni noodles that would last them over a month! But they can't use it because those dirty hands have been all over it, the pieces have flecks of paint all over them, and they are no longer edible.
For those children in a center that don't come from these types of centers, there still is an awareness that other people in the world (other children just down the street) can't put food in their mouths, so we don't play with food.
Another argument for my side that I hear is: we don't play with our food, yet we let them play with their food. That's a weak argument, but it still stands.
My point to every teacher that asks me, "Well, what if we string cheerios on yarn and then they eat the cheerios off the necklace?" is this:
If you want to string something on a string, sting beads. You are getting the same fine motor skills accomplished. Eat cheerios for a snack! Leave the two separate!
There is NOTHING you can do as an activity in the classroom with food items that you wouldn't be able to get accomplished without food. String beads, make collages with pictures, tissue paper, rocks, beads, and all sorts of other things. Put birdseed in the sensory table, not rice and beans!
They don't need to glue macaroni to paper to create art.
You want to do an activity with food? Bake a snack. Cook lunch. Make a fruit salad. You really want to "string" food onto something, make fruit-kabobs (fruit stacked on a long toothpick like thing). You want to "creatively" use food as art; make mini pizzas and let them put the shredded cheese and pepperoni creatively on their dough or english muffin and then eat it for lunch.
Other than that, leave the food for meals!

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