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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

School Lunches for My Children

With all the talk about what constitutes a healthy school lunch, I thought back to my children's lunches. If they hated the lunch that day, I made a lunch for them. Sometimes, they just wanted what I was going to send for them. They never had to buy a lunch or to take a lunch. However, some days the only option was peanut butter and jelly with a fruit and something for snack time.

When I grilled hamburgers for dinner, I grilled and prepared hamburgers for my children to take to school the next day. It was cute because they were excited from the moment they knew I was grilling burgers, looking forward to lunch at school the next day. They even went to bed excited at the prospects.  I took the burgers indoors and put the condiments and cheese or pickles on the burgers as each child preferred. I wanted to prepare them and refrigerate them soon as possible. All three reported their lunch was a hit with the other small diners who wanted the same thing.

When my son was in the upper elementary grades, a rumor about the beef stew put him off. "Everyone" said it was dog food. He had proof it was dog food because it smelled like dog food! None of my protestations and explanations could convince him. Nothing would do from then on except a prepared lunch from home. Logic and facts were lost on him during this crisis.

My son had a friend who loved sauerkraut so much that he traded away all his food for sauerkraut. He even traded his milk and dessert, usually cookies. Since a few strands of sauerkraut are more than enough for me, I was appalled. My son said he always had dibs on the cookies since they were best friends.

I am shocked that parents are judged for what they send to school for kids' lunches. I read that lunches are confiscated for not being nutritionally balanced and parents are reported. Whaaaat?  I knew what my child had for breakfast and would have for snacks and dinner, so no one else would be aware of their daily consumption or nutrition. I actually planned their meals around the peanut butter sandwich. And, bologna is not a nutritional powerhouse. One meal is no indication of a whole day of eating.  Besides, having a nutritional lunch on a child's tray is not an indication of what nutrition the child actually consumed.

Plus, kids around the country without money are given a cheese sandwich and milk, so how can the school get away with giving a lunch that is not approved if packed by a parent?

The first school day after Thanksgiving, I packed my youngest in kindergarten a turkey breast sandwich with lettuce and MW. She also had grapes and something for snack time. She got in the car with her paper bag and asked me sadly why I only gave her cookies for lunch. NO one noticed my child had cookies for lunch. She had a place for her lunch but from then on, I put her name on it in very large letters. She was a very good child, so I suppose the rowdy ones got the attention.

My children were very vocal and demanded to know what was for lunch at school each morning. They never complained about what I was going to pack. After a while, they had me trained.

Your turn
Did your children want a packed lunch when they hated the school lunch for the day? How did you handle lunches--buy always, pack one always, or according to the offered lunch? Did they have favorites at school or what they wanted to take?


  1. Packing a lunch for my kids depended on two things...whether they liked what was being served at school that day and whether I had enough cash on hand for them to buy their lunch. Sometimes it was a sandwich, fruit and cookies and sometimes it was hot soup in a thermos to go with the sandwich. There were no "lunch police" telling me they knew better how to feed my kids than I did, thank heavens. I remember a couple of kids when I was in elementary school who brought dill pickle sandwiches for lunch. I always thought that sounded better than plain pb&j.

  2. Vicki,
    We never went the hot soup route. If I did not have cash on hand, I would have written a check. Actually, they paid by the week, so money would accumulate if they did not eat one or more days. Dill pickle sandwiches? I doubt my children would have liked that. lol

    I think any lunch is better than no lunch.

  3. People need to stay out of other people's business. Some lunches won't be as great or healthy as others. I couldn't imagine being worried about what I packed in a lunch so I didn't get reported.

    1. Sonya Ann,
      If I packed carrot sticks, the son would not eat them, the daughter might, the little daughter might. So, what I packed and what they actually ate might be two different things. I suppose if the lunch patrol were judging me, I could just pack a healthy lunch and a sandwich they would eat to stay out of trouble--expensive and too worrisome.

  4. Ugh I can't stand reading about how schools are badly policing children and their lunches. Just like you say, how can they feed children cheese sandwiches and milk if they don't have money and turn around and get on any parents' cases for what they pack for their children? Why don't they start with offering kids, money or no, nutritionally balanced and tasty meals? I feel for the kids the most in this - they're already being singled out for not having money, and what they're being fed sounds pretty awful. And this is coming from someone who actually enjoyed the reduced price lunches offered (we were pretty poor back then).

    For our part, JuggerBaby isn't old enough to care that much what we do about zir lunches but the hot lunch options look awfully unappetizing (again even to me, who likes to eat some pretty awful stuff) we pack it every day to include some fruit, a veggie, starch and protein. Some days ze eats everything we send, some days ze doesn't. You can't force feed them. And the kid will make it up at breakfast or dinner, so I'm not going to make a big fuss over it.

  5. When I subbed at schools, some of the choices were awful. When I did my student teaching, their were options I liked, so I filled up on those. I got my day's fruits and vegetables at lunch. Cherry tomatoes, pineapple tidbits, greens, just lots of stuff that was tasty. At one school, there were huge yeast rolls but you had to buy soup to get one. So, I bought the soup and roll and gave the soup to a student who gobbled it right down. Overall, the choices were either not tasty or not nutritious.

    Look for Justin Rhodes' 100 days of food on youtube. His kids eat everything...well, mostly.

  6. I rarely packed the kids a school lunch. Their cafeterias were fine most days so I only prepared a lunch the days they couldn't stand either option. I think what parents fix is no one's business, unless the child truly does not have enough food to eat

    1. Anne,
      My children are in their 40s, so there were no options then. Not enough food is a different story altogether and the lunch police need to recognize the difference between enough food and not enough food. However, some kids just don't eat much. The food police should just go away.

  7. I had one child who wouldn't eat lunch at school no matter what it was so I filled a lunchbox with non-perishable single servings and he carried it back and forth untouched all week. My other son was happy to eat whatever I sent but the school lunch police decided chocolate was not allowed and he got in trouble one day for having a homemade banana muffin with a few chocolate chips in it. Lunchables were okay though--no chocolate!

    1. Gavin
      Thanks for sharing your story. Some of the lunchables have an Oreo! That kind of attitude is ridiculous! How did you handle that?

      I think it is amusing that the child just carried food back and forth all week.

  8. I was really surprised at the first day of summer camp when they went through my daughters' lunches right in front of me. I also had a short moment of panic as I had the girls pack their lunches the night before. Luckily they had grapes and pb sandwiches so we were approved. For school I usually let them buy once a week if there is something they want. It adds up cost wise especially for my older daughter because she has more choices plus dessert options.
    I am tempted this year to let them buy more though so we don't have to deal with the packing. I have to leave for work a lot earlier than I did in the past and packing lunches is just one more thing to remember.

  9. M Ripples,
    What kind of contraband were they looking for? Were you given guidelines ahead of time? Maybe packing lunches the night before would work. So, the older daughter buys a la carte? I have heard about parents and children making and freezing a week's worth of sandwiches so in the morning the lunches are packed by grabbing things already prepared. Maybe the grapes could be washed and put in baggies the night before.


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