Looking for Something?

Monday, March 15, 2010

School Lunches

by Marisa

I don't normally talk a whole lot about my personal life. I show pictures of my kids now and then, but nothing too personal. This is silly, I know, but I'm secretly afraid of being cyber bullied, which is why I haven't ever talked about homeschooling my children. When I first started thinking about homeschooling my kids, I mentioned it to a few people, some supportive, but some got down right angry. So at times I'm cautious about who I mention this to, so I may be crazy because I just announced it to all you in blogland. Please don't cyber bully me!

I had just a few reasons NOT to homeschool my kids, reasons like lack of socialization among a few other reasons. On the flip side, I had a whole page of reasons I did want to homeschool. (I am a strong supporter of teachers, PTA, and good administrators and the amazing job that they are doing!) This may seem silly to some, but one of the reasons I wanted to homeschool my children was school lunch.

My oldest son went to public school up until 2nd grade. I volunteered in his class, with the school, and in the PTA during that time. On occasion when I was in the lunch room, I was able to observe the lunch process. Some parents send their children to school with their cute lunch pails full of food. Other parents send them off with their $2 for a hot lunch provided by the school.
I became appalled at what I was seeing. Those cute little lunch pails full of food were barely touched, the chips and juice box were quickly consumed while entire sandwiches and fruit were thrown away. Then there were the hot lunches, which tend to be mostly overly processed food in the first place, the cookie, and chocolate milk were quickly consumed while the soggy veggies weren't even touched and the main course was normally picked over unless it was pizza. My son was right there along with the other kids, picking off the sweets, throwing away the rest!!!

As a mother concerned about the health of the rising generation, which includes my own children, I want my children to enjoy the benefits of healthy food. I want my children to have the opportunity to make good food choices. I know that the time is soon coming when I won't have as much control over their choices (including food choices), and I'm hoping that I can set a firm foundation for them. I'm hoping that I can educate them about their food choices and help them gain a love for healthy food options.

There are some school districts out there that are really making strides in changing school lunches, and I applaud them!

But....I recently saw a blog, Fed Up with Lunch: The School Lunch Project. A teacher is eating and documenting what is served for lunch at the school where she works. It is both entertaining and enlightening!

Is it time to make a stand in your school?

How do you feel about school lunch?


Ecocheapo said...

And here I thought I was the only crazy mom up at this hour blogging! This is such a great subject. I have three children, two in preschool and one in 4th grade and school snacks and lunches are a big issue for me. At preschool, we take turns providing snack for the class and the kids love it when it is their "Snack Day". Unfortunately my joy has turned to horror on many occassions when I see the highly processed and packaged foods that are sent in - think individual jello cups. I can not control what others send in, but I feel I am doing my part by sending in wholesome and zero waste snacks that have converted more than a few in the 3-5 year old set. Some of our favorites are homemade granola bars and our own trail mix.
As for school lunch, I strive to send my son with a zero waste, nutricious lunch and although he has balked at it at times because of the unkind comments of other kids, I arm him with information and I know that he secretly enjoys the care I put in. A typical lunch plus snacks that I pack for the day might be leftovers in a thermos, an apple, a homemade muffin, cheese and crackers, some nuts and some sliced carrots. Plus milk in a thermos. I do let him get hot lunch a few times per month, but he views it as a treat. Balanced nutrition, combined with sustainable choices in food and packaging are part of our lifestyle and although I may not always be in charge of their choices, I have been rewarded many times over when other parents ask "How do you get them to eat like that?"
I am also eagerly awaiting the new show by Jaime Oliver, Food Revolution debuting March 26th on ABC.

Garden Pheenix said...

Here in Ireland, least at our school, there is a rule. No junk food or high sugar food. That even goes down to yogurts with the corners full of crunch or whatever. And they enforce it! And the kids have to take home all their left over lunch and garbage so you see exactly what they eat or don't. Works for us :c)

The main reason I wanted to comment was: Go on with your bad self homeschooling ;c) I'd love to have the patience, financial situation, energy to home school. I admire those who can. Good stuff ;c)

Becky said...

No cyber bullying here :)

Though I haven't chosen to homeschool, I think it's important that each parent make that decision for themselves.

With my daughter heading to kindergarten in the fall, school lunch is something I've given a lot of thought to. I am a former teacher and I can attest to the terrible excuse for lunches that were served to children. My kids will not be buying their lunches. We've already started talking about how we'll pack her lunch together each night so she can pick out healthy foods that she likes to eat. I told her that I'd bake cookies each week so she could have a cookie with each lunch. We'll pick the fruit/veggie/sandwich/etc. together and I'm hoping that she'll eat it.
I've been pretty surprised by how many sweets/cookies/donuts she's been given at preschool. Instead of saving them for birthdays and holiday parties, they have them almost everyday. I'm not trying to keep her from those things but I'd rather her view them as an occasional treat. Anyway, I'm rambling but thanks for the post. I totally agree with you on the school lunch! Yuck!

Wendy said...

We homeschool, and so the only thing you'll get from me is total support for your choice :) - although as a long-time homeschooler I strongly disagree with the idea homeschooled children lack socialization. I won't go into my observations about it, because you asked about school lunches ;).

Jamie Oliver just did a great piece for TED on this very subject.

As for my opinion, I don't send my children to public school for a whole boatload of reasons, the joke that is "school nutrition" is just one of many.

Steph in Canada said...

None of the public schools I know of in Canada serve food (except highschools), so I have no opinion on "school lunches". Lunch is whatever mom packed, or whatever you can trade for I guess.

Homeschooling is great, though, and there certainly are many more reasons to homeschool than nutrition.

Check out PW's homeschooling section of her blog for some inspiration:

Suzanne said...

I think that is wonderful that you home school! There is a lot of women around here that are joining the ranks and I applaud them. If my daughter was not at the school she is at now, I would home school her. Lunches for us is a bitter sweet combo! I make her lunches and she gets "school lunch" every other day. However, at her school, they have a different business that provides the meals and I really enjoy knowing that she gets healthy food from there. Yes, they do give pizza, but she also gets turkey wraps, salads etc. I applaud you for home schooling. With the direction that public education is taking lately, I think the criticism will become much less on home schooling. Have a lovely day! -Suzanne

unschooling grrls said...

yes! my oldest daughter also went to school until second grade. i wouldn't say that lunches were the deciding factor, but they are atrocious. we live in chicago, where many families have no choice. school lunch or no lunch. i love mrs. obama's plan to tackle childhood obesity, but until they mandate healthy school lunches (with a vegetarian option please!), there is little point.

(oh, and we are backyard farmers too!)

marisa said...

Oh, I also want to say that I fully support those that choose not to homeschool. I know that their are families/children that it wouldn't work for. There are really great public school/charter schools/private schools out there.

I'm so glad to see that there are schools offering yummy healthy choices! And parents working with their children to send them with healthy food they will eat!

Tressa said...

My girls are given the option of 5 school lunches a month if they choose because I figure I can make them a healthier lunch for less. I'm cheap like that. They like this option and like the lunches I make as they get to help pick out their lunch items when we go shopping. This way I know what they eat and they still get to have some "fun" variety at school like orange chicken or ground beef gravy over potatoes. :)

Lindsay said...


I love your post! I am in the heart of homeschool-ville and I want to say THANK YOU for not degrading the schools in your post! It is always discouraging to hear that type of commentary, and an instant turn off to people who may consider homeschooling otherwise and especially to those who wouldn't. Most of the homeschoolers I know do a fantastic job, and the youth really stand out in my community.

I am glad one of the above posters has had such great success, and people ask her how she gets her kids to eat healthy foods! That is great. I have one child like that, and I have two who are not! My children love anything fake because they rarely get it...fake cheese, fake potatoes, fake homemade goodies...! I hope my real food offerings will EVENTUALLY make a difference! I hope having them plant foods, harvest them, and put them up will SOMEDAY tempt their tastebuds! :)

I gleaned from this post and the comments, thank you for bringing it up. I would sure love some good ideas for packed lunches, healthy and picky eaters included!!

Kate and Crew said...

Oh school lunch is one of my major soapbox issues sure to incite a rant from me. Our school serves lunch on STYROFOAM trays to boot! It's over-processed crap and they do NOT put veggies or fruit on the kids trays - the kids have to ask for them. None of the kids ask for them, so I see trays full of corndogs and chocolate milk or pizza and strawberry milk.

My son is only in kindergarten and he has been mentally programmed by me that junk food is unhealthy so he's very happy to bring a healthy lunch every day. I know he eats it because he brings me all the leftovers since we use hand-made cloth sandwich and snack bags.

I think it helps that my boys have never been to a fast food restaurant - never been to a McD's or BK or anything... they have no interest in them so far so they aren't getting the mixed message from us that healthy food is best - but fast food is okay too. So no fast food here... and only healthy lunches.

If I could "fix" our school lunch program I would. I visit my son and eat lunch with him from time to time and it's not unusual to see a kid eat one corn dog, 2 chocolate milks and 2 chocolate ice cream cups for lunch and that's it. In-sane to me! Just insane.

Kate and Crew said...

Me again - I noticed another poster wrote about how surprised she was by all the junky snacks her preschooler gets. My Kindergartener gets an afternoon snack every day. Parents are asked to bring in snacks for the entire class and leave them with the teacher. She doles them out daily. I learned that my son has colored artificial juice (Kool Aid and such) and Doritos or bagged cookies, etc. This is 5-days a week! I don't want him to feel singled out by being the only kid in class who can't have the "fun" food so I haven't said anything, but it's tough. I go to all this trouble to give him a healthy yummy lunch and then every day he gets a pile o' junk on his desk for their afternoon snack.

Ugh. Told you it's a soapbox issue for me - LOL

~liz said...

hi! i'm new to your blog and i love what i read!
i am a first-time commentor because i, too, am an advocate of yummy, healthy LUNCHES and we homeschool our kids. i love my daily schedule of hearty breakfast, yummy, hearty lunch and family dinner. it's part of my mothering role here in our home: hearty, filling, healthy foods.
we raise our own vegetabes, chickens, sheep, honeybees, and eventually beef and MAYBE milk (we're in the researching stages of raw milk ourselves!), so we find gathering our very local ingredients helps our kids see that food cannot be wasted. it's part of the learning process afterall! :)

Judy said...

You are so right about the school lunches! My daughter goes to a private Christian school and their lunches are unbelievably UNHEALTHY! Probably even more so than the public schools in my area. And because the private school is so crowded, the kids only get about 15 minutes to eat (if they are lucky after standing in line to get their food). So, they gobble it up as fast as they can. No wonder I've had to pick her up from school early on several occasions for a stomach ache! Plus, when she gets home, she eats the same way. She shoves everything she possibly can into her mouth and chews/swallows fast... I hate this!

I applaude you on homeschooling your kids! Socialization with the wrong kids is worse than no socialization at all. I mean at least they can socialize with other homeschooled kids and with other families at church.

Jennifer said...

What an interesting issue. I know my comments steer away somewhat from your angle, Marisa, but I hear ya!

When my son was in 1st grade (he then attended the same school as Marisa's son, by the way), the home lunch/school lunch divide was reinforced by the fact that the kids who brought lunch from home had to sit at a different table! I hated that.

We're in a different district now, but I still feel that school lunch suffers from the bottom line: it seems to be cheaper, and easier, to serve processed foods made elsewhere. But at what cost to our children's health and performance? Also, efforts to be efficient prove extremely wasteful. For instance, if you need a napkin (and nothing else) at my kids' cafeteria, you must open a little plastic packet that also contains the plastic fork, spoon and straw. Three of my children take home lunch, and I tell you, keeping on top of reusable dishes and their lids can drive you nuts!

Some of you parents have commented about the level of food waste you see during lunch time. I've seen an interesting contrast between elementary schools where recess follows lunch, and those where recess is first. By having recess first, children work up an appetite. Also, they're not throwing away their food just to make it to the playground the quickest. It might be an idea worth pitching to your PTA or administration.

-Sydney- said...

I live in Huntington WV (the famous/infamous city where Jamie Oliver started his food revolution show) and I have to say I have been quite surprised with the quality of the school lunches. Everything is made from scratch and lots of whole grains and veggies, etc. It's one positive in a city full of negative health issues.

BUT I still pack my kindergartener a lunch every day because I want to see what he is and isn't eating (anything he doesn't eat he brings back home). Another reason though is because we don't eat CAFO meat and I know they aren't using local beef for their sloppy joes.

Saffron said...

lots of changes have been made in our schools here.. the vending machines were emptied off all unhealthy snacks and the "Pop" machines only have real juice and water. The schools offer the kids healthy free snacks like fresh local fruit and veggies available at the counter at the office. My younger kids can order lunches made by a local restaurant that we know is striving to make healthy food and a wonderful church a half block away from the high school makes the older kids good food on Fridays. I find my biggest issue is my high school aged kids can leave at lunch and buy stuff at the store.