Many Schools Are Playing Cereal Dominoes with Donated Food, and Why Is This OK?

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Cereal box dominoes in schools should not be a thing.

But apparently it is. When I first read about it in my son’s school newsletter, I was apalled.

“Let’s get CEREALSLY excited about reading!”

In an effort to support our local food bank, the elementary plans to collect cereal boxes, line them up down the hall, and “knock them over like dominoes!” while the students stand crammed in the hallway and watch.

Once the school has had its fun, all of the food dominoes will be donated to families in need.

My initial thought was how furious I’d be if I found out my grocery store employees were possibly damaging the food I’d be purchasing by knocking it around a filthy public floor.

Would any of us like someone playing with our groceries before we brought them home? 

Then I thought about the families receiving these donations.

Jeez, if I wouldn’t want to buy food that’s been handled this way, I certainly wouldn’t donate it either. This sounds like the same vain of thinking where people go through their own pantry right before the holidays and choose the items about to expire or food deemed too disgusting for anyone in their house to eat and load it up for “charity”.

It’s the attitude that the less fortunate should be happy with what they get regardless of quality.

It’s true, damaged food is better than going hungry. But donation recipients should be treated with the same respect we’d show our family, friends and neighbors. And now more than ever in our lifetime, it IS our family, friends, and neighbors who are in need.

Due to high unemployment rates, more families are relying on food banks than in recent years.

These are students in this school. These are children who are going to watch their teachers and classmates cheer as their potential meal is played with like a toy.

If we were personally delivering food to a friend, we would pick a box from the shelf, not food laying on a heavily trafficked public floor. I’d find the least damaged box for my friend because that’s what I’d choose for myself, especially during a pandemic. 

Playing cereal box dominoes shows blatant indifference for the health of the recipients.

I’d like to think schools were using a little more precaution during a global health crisis.

photo credit: MSN.com

Food does not belong on an elementary school floor, pandemic or not.

I also don’t love the idea of hundreds of kids packed in the hallway when we’ve spent a year promoting social distancing to prevent the spread of disease.

So in an effort to have these donations and the families receiving them treated with dignity, I reached out to my son’s school. I asked them to reconsider using food donations as dominoes in their hallway for all the reasons I’ve just stated.

Rather than consider the insensitivity of the practice, the school defended their “project” as a way to get kids excited about reading.

I’m having trouble connecting the dots between cereal, dominoes, and reading. I guess there is the CEREALSLY fun pun that almost ties it together, but that’s all I can muster.

Regardless, the school is planning on setting up the food dominoes just before spring break.

Our school is now back to in-person learning 4 days a week. So they’ll have a school full of students germing up the floors for a few weeks before playing with food donations on them.

And I’ll have the opportunity for a teachable moment with my boys.

“Right, we do not play with food at home. The school is doing it for fun.”

Then I can explain why food that’s being donated and the human beings receiving it should be treated with respect.

In a further effort to defend their food dominoes, the school also sent me a link to a viral video where another school in our state had set up a massive run of donated cereal boxes in their hallway.

Schools all over the country are playing cereal dominoes with donated food and it’s not OK.

I guess the thought process is, if it went viral it must be ok… But it’s not. And it doesn’t make it any less appalling to me.

With a quick google search, you can find that cereal box dominoes is a thing. This article bragging about 1000 boxes being donated is just one example of many if you google cereal box dominoes. MSN.com even ran an article about one school in Wisconsin.

It’s all over as the cool, trendy thing to do. But, it’s not. 

In fact, it made me wonder why is this a thing? Whose idea was it to make a game out of poverty? And how the hell does it tie into reading month?

I’m genuinely confused why no one else has questioned what this practice is really teaching our kids.

These institutions are guiding our children. 

I appreciate the Positivity Project my school boasts, but if we want to teach empathy, respect, and kindness, let’s not send the message that it’s ok to play with other people’s food as long as the people receiving it are less fortunate than ourselves.

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