I need to start this post by declaring that I am NOT a food snob. I do not judge anyone for choosing regular milk over organic. I am a realist. Sometimes fast food is a must. Sometimes it’s a take-out chinese or delivery pizza night. Other times, a pre-made rotisserie chicken is considered gourmet. I also don’t think the occasionally cookie or piece of candy is bad. Believe me, my children are masters at asking for dessert after dinner and I do indulge them many times.
I also understand that children are picky. I have seen and dealt with my fair share of picky eaters in my daycare. I have seen the natural vegetarians who refuse any meat. Then there are the carb-only kids. Some children I know refuse bread and pizza, but will eat all vegetables and fruit (yes, this really happens). Others like my little sister sustain themselves with weird choices like cereal, jello, and garlic bread (don’t ask).
I get the fact that children refuse to eat certain foods. But does this mean it is okay to pack your child their favorite lunch of Wheat Thins and an M&M cookie… and nothing else? Because this is what one little boy sitting next to my daughter at lunch actually brought from home to eat.
During the first two weeks of kindergarten at my daughter’s school, parents are asked to take turns volunteering in the lunch room to help the kids open their lunch boxes and remind them to stay in their seats. So, I helped this little boy open his lunch bag and watched him pull out a juice box, a giant M&M cookie, and a bag of Wheat Thins. I was shocked to realize that this was his entire lunch.
Then I scanned the rest of the table of ten children. Eight out of the ten had brought their own lunches. But, this does not mean they were eating healthy. Some had sandwiches with fruit and crackers. My daughter brought a sandwich, a cheese stick, orange slices and Wheat Thins (ridiculously I had been concerned about my lack of creativity). Others brought yogurt and noodles. But, far too many brought only junk. Other than the cookie and Wheat Thin boy, there was another who brought a snack bag of Cheetos AND a snack bag of Oreo cookies with his sandwich. Which two of the three things do you think he ate?
There is so much media attention on the poor quality of food being served in schools, that I always assumed bringing a bagged lunch from home was healthier. But, one look at the contents sitting in front of these five- and six-year-olds told another story.
The school lunch that day was a baked potato, a fruit cup and some vegetables or taco meat on tortilla rounds with fruit and veggies. To me, there is no comparison. Many of these children would have been much better off buying the school lunch. I know this is in contradiction to many reports I have read and even to the popular and eye-opening show “Food Revolution” with Jamie Oliver, but it is the truth.
And, I cringe even mentioning this, but I am going to say it. My school is not a low-income school – only 7.65 percent of the children attending this school qualify for free or reduced lunches. To me, this means these parents can afford to do better. Or maybe this is my ignorance/naivete talking. Maybe I am the fool that was led to believe that people living at a certain income level in a single-family home only community should know better.
I contrast this to my neighborhood growing up and it is so frustrating. My high school had a 31 percent free and reduced lunch program. I know my elementary school had an even greater percentage. Many of the children I grew up with really had no other choice. They would have been lucky to get a cookie in their lunch, or a lunch at all.
Maybe this is why it pisses me off to see this kid sitting there with such a deficit of a meal – when more than likely this isn’t a case of no other options.
Often parents I know (many neighbors) talk about going to farmers markets and buying only local, organic foods from expensive gourmet grocery stores. Is this just talk? Is this just a status symbol? Are these same neighbors making these poor choices for their children, even though they are well-versed in what constitutes a balanced meal?
If parents can’t make good decisions for their children, then they should hand over the daily responsibility of providing lunch to the school (our school has even been recognized for its high standards in serving healthy meals). Sending your child with only a cookie and crackers does not cut it. I don’t care how picky your child may be. Don’t give up. Throw in some grapes. Maybe some cheese or an applesauce. Did he really need a giant-sized cookie? Give some healthier options because if he is hungry enough, he will eat it – especially when he is surrounded with other children eating.
Not surprisingly, this boy was having a lot of trouble staying in his chair. For the last 10 minutes of lunch, I watched him bounce in his seat and “fall” to the floor repeatedly.
What should anyone expect? I felt sorry for him. It’s not his fault. It’s his parents’ fault.
Would this bother you? Am I going overboard in my judgement? Should the school get involved and better monitor what children are bringing from home? I want to hear from you. Please leave a comment or join the discussion on the Tiny Steps Mommy Facebook page.