Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Ain't no such thing as a free lunch

Lauren is in full-day kindergarten. They have a lunch period around 1 PM or so. In the first month of school, I packed lunch each day. It's not a gourmet lunch, but it's reasonably well balanced. Lauren's teacher insists that their snack should be packed separately, so she has a plastic container that's big enough for a juice box and a granola bar, and her lunch box accommodates the 2 by 3 Pyrex I use for cold lunches and thermos for hot lunch. It should not have surprised me about 6 weeks into the school year Lauren began to ask to buy school lunch, since everyone else did.

Now, I'd had an active albeit futile role in the district nutrition committee last year, and I go out of my way to make sure we eat meat and dairy that's been farmed with higher standards. I still begrudgingly agreed that she could purchase the school lunch one day a week, and we'd discuss which hot lunch or deli sandwich because she wasn't permitted to buy cereal with chocolate or strawberry milk (because that's not an adequate lunch) or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (because why pay $2 for something we can make at home?). She agreed and on Sunday we discuss the school lunches and which days she's going to buy. One day bridged into two days, and yes on some weeks when Alec travels it even goes to three. Until...

There were a couple days in a row when Lauren came off the school bus famished and cranky. She's generally Tigger-like in great leaps and bounces, but that day she dragged herself off the bus and weakly handed me her backpack.

"What's wrong?"

"I'm just so hungry."

"What did you have for lunch?"

Now Lauren occasionally dips her toe in the small lie, but even she knew that this was information she could be busted on too easily with the menu posted on our refrigerator.

"Cheerios with strawberry milk on them."


"Well, Lauren this is why I told you not to get cereal for lunch. It's too long of a day to just eat a quarter cup of cereal."


I snapped. "We're having grapes for snack. I guess you're going to be hungry." To top off the punishment, I refused to allow her to buy lunch for a week, not that humus, pita, and baby carrots over Tasty Tacos are punishment. But it did make the point. This week when we discussed lunch, she carefully considered her options and went with today since it's International Pancake week and they are serving pancakes and sausage for lunch...


Round the Bend said...

refusing to feed the starving child - I don't know if that's great natural consequences or just additional torment for you.

But I think that in the tradition of Zero Nutrition Thursdays I can't award any points for objecting to cereal and strawberry milk.

(your school has a lunch program? with hot food? how strange is that... I've never seen a school in Toronto with a hot lunch.)

karen said...

+1 WMP for refusing to feed the starving child. If the boys don't eat their lunch in school, they don't get to eat it when they get home (typically shortly before dinner).

We try to avoid letting them buy lunch altogether. The daily alternate "Bagel Bag" choice is a brown bag containing a bagel, a packet of cream cheese, and an apple or banana. To Lars' complete delight, you can trade the cream cheese for butter and the fruit for a roll! In two quick trades, you can go from a marginally healthy lunch to a meal of carbs, fat, and carbs!

@round: be glad Canada has public health instead of school lunches...and if America ever gets public health? Be very afraid.

Kids Special Needs said...

+1 point for you for letting her be hungry. I think kids learn really well from their own choices.

emmay said...

In total agreement on the point.
And Cherrios with strawberry milk sounds vile.

Ashley Long said...

I love that she chose pancake day. At least it is more than a quarter cup of cereal...and hot lunch...sure would be great if the school did not consider pizza every friday with hotdogs and various other crap thrown in during the week a good nutrious lunch. I would love to send lunch with my kids but right now the private pre-k they go to does not allow that...so, I have to be extra careful at home or the kids end up eating pizza twice in one day...talk about yuck!