Wednesday, September 15, 2010

School Lunch the Next Big Challenge

I've been living in a comfortable little nook. That's over now. See, we (by which I mean the kiddo) has transitioned to public school. The Big K. Now most moms do their sobbing next to the school bus as it pulls away, as for me, the panic clinched my gut when I perused the menu.

Here's the first page.

Not so bad right, look these kids are learning about healthy food choices. Look, there is that confusing pyramid thingy.

Funny thing about today's school lunch. Kids can actually CHOOSE from five options. My kindergarten student could be daily making nutrition choices on her very own. And, hey, they apparently spent ten minutes of one day educating our kids on smart choices, so we're all ready, right?

Here's the choices:

At this point, I have a few questions.
  • Where are the healthy choices?
  • Um, does sweet yogurt and a muffin count as a meal, really?
  • Where is the actual food?
  • Who is Tony and why would he be making our kids pizza? Why would branded frozen food be on the menu?
  • In the first half month of school, why are chicken nuggets or a fried chicken item an option 11 of 13 days?
  • Sides offered had some healthier, but “bland and canned” options. Even so, sides also included baked Cheetos, fruit snacks, sherbet, and “tri-taters.”
I have made my own healthy choice since my kid really isn't ready for making her own — if there were decent options available. My choice? We're going to keep packing lunch.

But, thanks to the fantastic school lunch system, I get to have daily struggles over my choice and my child's questions like:
  • Why do the other kids get pizza and I don't?
  • I want to get school lunch like my friends
  • My friend gets juice instead of milk, why don't I?
  • What's a corn dog?
Honestly, I have no clue what a corn dog actually is or contains. As for the other questions, I did some soul searching (and pantry searching). I have a few options for dealing with these questions.
  1. Give in, let my kid eat this junk. Undo all the good I have done so far.
  2. Let her try it and pray she knows it tastes bad.
  3. Do my best to make sure her teacher understands my point of view and does not let her eat junk. Like she isn't busy enough as it is.
  4. Argue. Persist. Educate.
  5. Find options that both my kid and I are happy with.
  6. Fight the system. They’ll get better food maybe by the time my kid is out of college.
  7. Become a lunch lady and just fix it myself.
It’s going to be a blend of options 4&5. It’s a challenge, but I am up to it. Dust off the cookie cutters and make a few star-shaped vegetables. Start cooking interesting lunch entrees on top of all my dinner cooking. Get creative. Go team.

Maybe, just maybe, I am even up for number 6 — changing the school food system — now that I am a card-carrying member of the PTO and a Room Mom.

Seven’s out. Really, the whole hair net thing doesn’t work for me, and I can’t fix other folks’ kids in just one meal a day.

Next posts:
Dark Secrets of School Lunch. It'll scare you more than Halloween. Or corn dogs.


Rachel said...

baked. cheetos. Tell me I misread that, please?!

ExpatChef said...

Nope. Baked cheetos. And sherbet and Froot snacks. For side dishes.