Thursday, March 18, 2010

Served With Love

A few weeks ago I asked you guys about what you feed your kiddos for lunch every day. You had GREAT suggestions.

Yesterday I read about a teacher who is eating the school cafeteria lunch every day for a year and blogging anonymously about it. She's doing it undercover because she'd prefer not to lose her job. You understand. She calls her blog Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project.

I've been bouncing around reading some of her old posts and really thinking about this. She, and some of her guest bloggers who volunteer to contribute because she has obviously hit a nerve with this topic, all have such a caring attitude about the students. They CARE what these children are eating for lunch. The know that in many cases, it's the best meal the student gets all day....and this is it.

Actually, having taught in public school for 11 years, you would think I would shrug and say, "yeah, I knew that." But honestly, I'm kind of appalled. I only ate on certain days in the cafeteria. We staff members knew what days were worth going through the line for and what days to drop our students off at the cafeteria door.

The thing is, my old school (built in 1934) had an actual working kitchen and cafeteria ladies. You probably did too when you went to school. These days, it just costs too much to equip every new school with a kitchen and staff it. So they truck lunch in every day in little pre-measured, disposable containers. It's horrible. At least our cafeteria food had been prepared that morning!

But what she says about what is served vs. what they are actually eating is enough to really push you over the edge. All of this affects behavior, academic performance, EVERYTHING. Don't even get me started on how long they have to eat it and the fact that recess is practically a thing of the past. As a homeschool mom, I have the tremendous blessing and responsibility to feed my children healthy foods. I never really thought of it that way before.

Not only that, but my children can be served with love. I can sit at the table and talk with them and listen to all the things they want to tell me. Talking is allowed at lunchtime! I can read to them. I can't tell you how many lunches I've wasted sending them to the table to eat while I do something else or eat standing up in the kitchen.

This blog is making me realize how much better lunchtime could really be. I want that for these children in the public schools. I really want it for my own children. Here are some things I'm thinking about:
  • having special placemats (my girls made some today out of posterboard)
  • having some fake flowers in a vase to put on the table (hello dollar store)
  • having a menu plan for lunch instead of just throwing something together each day. They could look forward to what is on the menu
  • sitting with them to eat--am I really that busy?

What else could we do to make lunch special? The nutrition part will fall into place with a menu plan I think. The serving it with love will take a bit more effort and thought. There is supposed to be a post about daycare menus coming up on her blog and I am interested to see it. My girls really liked most of the food at the daycare they went to before I came home. I wonder how it is across the country?

What are your thoughts?


  1. "I can't tell you how many lunches I've wasted sending them to the table to eat while I do something else or eat standing up in the kitchen."

    This pinched a nerve in light of your post. You are absolutely right. We can serve a homemade, fresh, lovely meal to our children at lunchtime AND enjoy that time with them. If our children were at a public school, they wouldn't have that opportunity. Or the opportunity to even hardly chew and swallow, school lunchtimes are so short!

    As to making the meal special, I love your ideas! Here are some more that I have done: * cut out veggies, cheese, lunch meat, bread, whatever with mini-cookie cutters so they have fun shapes for finger foods.

    * giving them a compartmentalized tray and allowing them to put together their lunch (i.e. makings for tacos, sandwiches, whatever.)

    * using toothpicks instead of silverware for anything. My kids love that!

    * allowing them to make their own lunch, telling them they need a protein, veggie, fruit, etc. I haven't done this, but I think I will! Would be a good lesson!

    Looking forward to seeing what other people say! And, I'm gonna go to that blog!


  2. I was shocked when I started reading that blog. My own school lunches from elem. and up to high school were REAL meals. They served us picadilly sytle and the food for the most part was good. I was sad to see that some precious babies are being fed out of those paper tv dinner trays. I am proud of this teacher!

  3. Before I add my thoughts, let me just ask...

    Popcorn Chips??? Ewww...

    When I was in elementary school, the food was great. A lunch room full of little old black ladies who cooked the food that they wanted to eat. Mostly soul food, except on "Pizza Day" which was Wednesday.

    It was not uncommon to be eating the kind of stuff most families eat for a Sunday meal. Fried Chicken (actually fried in the kitchen that day), Mac 'n' cheese, greens, cornbread.

    Even as I got older and the food was more like your typical school lunch, your typical school lunch was still actual food that someone cooked not stuff in little containers slapped on compartmentalized styrofoam plates! It is quite sad the way kids, whom people purport to care so much about are treated. My kids have always brought their lunch from home.

    Rant over. I think it's great that you're thinking about your kids' lunch with such deliberation. I, too, have a tendency to eat lunch on the fly while doing something else. Of course, Lil' Princess started asking me to sit with them, so now we sit and eat lunch together.

  4. Umm ok. Not every school trucks food in. The ones our boys will be going to DO have a kitchen and staff, and serve good lunches. So going along with a couple people that obviously hate public school and believing that is all there is to school lunches is just weird.

  5. Mrs. W,

    I appreciate what you're saying, but the authors of the blog Brenda linked to are not a couple of people who hate public school. These are public school teachers, who obviously care about their students and who probably hate the very idea of homeschooling.

    I'm sure there are schools in smaller districts where the lunches are better, but in larger districts like the one my kids are in, the lunches are very much like what these teachers (from various schools) describe.

  6. The blog author actually has a toddler. This is one reason why she became interested in school lunches. She knows one day her baby will be there, eating this stuff. She also sees how her students throw away half the food on their tray and finish their school day on a red popsicle and some chips. Nutritious! Where I taught, 90% of the students were on free/reduced lunch which meant they ate breakfast, lunch, and after school snack at school. Thank goodness we had a working cafeteria! But the cafeteria ladies are not in charge of what is served. And oh there are MANY school lunch guidelines. And with all that in place, how is lunch looking so crappy?
    I know of MANY schools where lunch is trucked in. It's mostly in the newer schools (around here anyway) and it's becoming very common.

  7. It amazes me that home schoolers have to try to dig up anything they can find to invalidate public schools. My husband eats the cafeteria lunches at the one he works at, and it's always good, healthy food, and I find it hard to believe that MOST would truck in unhealthy food. If you want to pick apart public schools, find something worthwhile.

  8. I'm not ONLY a homeschooler.....I also have 13 years experience attending public schools, and 11 years teaching in public school (like your husband). I think 24 years worth of experience with cafeteria food qualifies me to write my opinions about it on my blog. :)

    Now....any other suggestions for those of us with children at home on how to make lunch more special?

  9. I must admit that I have encouraged my children to actually do school DURING lunch time. I'm not sure when this started, or why, but I am not doing it anymore. Thank you, Brenda. I have not been giving my best in this area.

    I think what I'll do is sit down with them, and we'll plan lunch menus together...they would probably LOVE that.

    Karly- I have let them make their own before with specific guidelines, like needing a protein, a fruit, etc etc and they DO like that. It's fun for them to be in charge for once. :0)

    And Mrs. W- I don't think this post was about knocking public school at all. It's about how we home-schoolers can do better by our kids at lunch time. I, for one, need to kick it up a notch and welcome the ideas!

  10. The Dollar store had some of the little "lunch trays" not to long back. Soooo stinking cute. We do a menu plan for lunch, but alot of that is just an outgrowth of the nutritional plan we are on. I can't survive on it without the menu plan.

    I am something of a nutrition czar at our house. Much of what I have read talks about how kids appetites are naturally bigger for breakfast and lunch, but decline for dinner. When we started having better lunches I noticed that the kids will eat veggies and fruits and clean their plate for lunch without a struggle because it is more 'natural'. But the same meal would be a struggle at dinner. So I find that I can pack more nutrition into their day by planning lunch.


I don't get to talk to a lot of actual grown-ups during the day, so your comments make me really happy! :)