Return to School Lunches

So, I’m doing the NaBloPoMo for September, and the theme for the month is “Return”. I probably won’t stick to the theme every day, but in case you were wondering at all about my uptick in posting, or why I am writing about certain things, I thought I would point this out.

I read a blog article on Slate the other day about school lunches. This mother of four outlined her school’s “rules” on lunches, and added some of her own concerns regarding what other people would think of HER because of what is (or is not) in her kids’ lunches.

I was a little taken aback.

I send Flora and Kate with lunches every day (or almost every day). If school or daycare offer cheese pizza (or, in Flora’s case, grilled cheese or mac and cheese), I will ask if the girls want to buy their lunch. They usually also get a fruit and/or vegetable and a dessert with bought lunches.

(Yeah, so much for that “one choice” thing. It’s too ingrained a habit! Curses.)

As far as what I pack, I have not ever received a list of acceptable food stuffs, and I have never worried about what others think of me or my daughters because of the contents of their lunches bags.

Am I just lucky? I know that food allergies are on the rise, but we’ve never received a notice from any classroom regarding nuts or peanuts. A peanut butter sandwich is a regular staple in Flora’s lunch. If it became verboten, I think we could deal, but I have to admit I’m grateful I don’t have to think too hard about it. (Knock wood.)

As far as healthy lunches go — or food in general, really — I don’t think hard about that either. Neither of my girls are extremely picky eaters (knock on wood, again! I’m hoping Michael will be the same). They have their preferences: Kate loves hummus, Flora does not; Flora likes peanut butter, but not PB & J, and so on. Sandwiches are on whole wheat bread or multigrain tortillas. I do buy pre-packaged snack foods, including chips, dried fruit, string cheese, and tubes of yogurt. I seldom pack candy or cookies — sometimes a week or so after Halloween or Easter, they get candy treats. I never pack pop (or soda, depending on where you live). The girls get chocolate milk, water, or 100% juice — usually milk.

Do your schools concern themselves with what your children are eating at lunch? Is this becoming more normal? Should it? I know childhood obesity is on the rise, but I would resent a lot of rules concerning my kids’ lunches. (Yeah, I *still* have problems with authority. What of it?)

I don’t pack healthfully to impress anyone, or to “be better” than anyone. I grew up eating a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, yogurt, and cheese (and Oreos, potato chips, and candy), and I just want my kids to have a normal relationship with food. Nothing is forbidden, although personally I don’t buy foods with high fructose corn syrup in them. I’m sure they get food with HFCS — I don’t control all of their eating 100% of the time, let’s face it — just not from me.

Oh, also, my favorite new development in this area: Flora packs her own lunch. She puts dried mangos in a baggie; she chooses her chips and remembers her chocolate milk. Kate wants to pack her own lunch, too, and I will let her — when she starts preschool on Wednesday. I don’t know if the novelty of packing lunch every night will wear off, but for now I’m going with it. I will try to make it part of their pre-bedtime routine, because, let’s face it, it’s one less thing I have to do! I supervise, make suggestions, and help with sandwiches when needed.

How do you pick your kids’ foods? Do you worry a lot about it? Are you trying to make healthy eating second nature to your family? How’s it going?