Mothering Monday / Training Tuesday: School lunch

Since I didn’t post yesterday on Mothering Monday, I’m combining it with Training Tuesday… mothering and nutrition…

Growing up, I remember my mom giving me a dollar every morning for lunch.  I’d get to school, and every teacher had a different way for ordering whether you were going to get the hot or cold lunch and white or chocolate milk.  For one of the years, I can remember putting rectangle sheets of colored paper (brown for chocolate milk, white for white milk, blue for cold lunch, red for hot lunch) into a pocket with my name on it, all stapled to a bulletin board outside the classroom.  I’m pretty sure I always ordered the hot lunch with chocolate milk.  I remember the cold lunch being a disgusting looking triple-decker peanut butter and jelly sandwich cut diagonally, stacked together to form a tall triangle and wrapped in saran wrap.  I remember the jello with the little pieces of unidentified fruit in them.  Canned peaches or pears constituted the fruit selection.  I remember learning to fill my milk carton with my untouched green beans because Mrs. Evans wouldn’t let you take your tray back if you didn’t eat your vegetables too.  I’m pretty sure the lunch used to be 70 cents but I don’t remember ever giving my mom the change.  Pretzel day was Wednesday and they cost 10 cents and ice cream day was Friday and that cost a quarter or 30 cents for the nutty buddy ice cream cone.  We didn’t have a snack at school, but I never remember being hungry during the day.

Now, 30ish years later, I’m sending my boys off to school mostly with their packed insulated lunch boxes.  But of course, there’s days when I woke up too late to pack the lunch or days that they choose to buy lunch.  But oh how the elementary school cafeteria has changed.  Lunch is now $2.45.  You can still pay cash, but the kids all have accounts that you are asked to send cash or checks in with large amounts of money so that the kids have an endless supply of funds.  The kids have account numbers that they use to pay for their purchase.  If you happen to let the account run out of money, they still let your child purchase food (because they wouldn’t want your child to go hungry…) and your account has a negative balance.  You then get an annoying automated phone call and email telling you to add funds every day until you do.  (Can you tell that I have experience with this?)  This bugs me for several reasons: <<stepping on soap box>> 1. The children are learning all about a cashless society living on credit when they don’t have enough to pay for something.  (Huge problem today in our society)  2.  The children can buy something without my permission or consent.  3. No one is assisting the children in making smart decisions.

It’s not just how you pay that has changed in the elementary school cafeteria, but the choices as well.  They still have a hot and cold lunch – but now instead of peanut butter they have sunbutter.  But they also have an additional weekly option that includes a nacho fun lunch (tortilla chips, cheddar cheese, salsa) or a monthly alternative (this month it is a hot ham and cheese pretzelwich).  The lunches also still come with a vegetable (steamed peas, steamed carrots, fresh carrot sticks, steamed corn…) and some type of fruit (fruit cup, pears, mandarin oranges, applesauce, pineapple…) and milk.  But here’s the kicker – they don’t make the kids take these things.  In fact, last year, my first grader didn’t know he was supposed to.  When he bought pizza, he only took the pizza.

But then he’d get to the end of the food line and to the big, bright, beautiful display of every kind of chip you’d want and the cookies and the ice cream and he’d take some of this too.  (They even offer fresh made funnel cakes because of course every child should have the option to have a funnel cake every day of his life if he wants, right????)  When he got to the drink section, he’d take the milk because he likes milk.  But my older son doesn’t and he’d take the capris sun or lemonade instead.  Well that stuff isn’t free – the chips, cookies and ice cream cost 50 cents or 75 cents and the lemonade costs 60 cents and the capris sun costs 75 cents (at Giant, I can buy 10 for $1.99).  No one was telling them, “No you get milk with your lunch.” So now the lunch was costing anywhere from $2.95 – $3.70.  Also, they were going up and buying snacks when I packed them a lunch.  So, I have a financial issue, of spending way too much money on lunch without my consent.

In addition there’s also a nutrition issue.  When they came home asking for a snack, sometimes I’d give them cookies or ice cream not realizing that they already had that at school.  I was giving my oldest water instead of milk to drink at dinner thinking he had milk in his cereal and milk for lunch not realizing that he bought a capris sun  instead.  The nutrition of the school lunch is already pretty crappy, so let’s throw some junk on top of it.  And then of course, make sure to send in a snack every day for their morning snack time because apparently our children will starve otherwise.  (OK, sending a snack doesn’t bother me that much, it’s just throwing that on top of all the snack choices they are given at lunch.)

So what does the school say when I ask about it?  I can check online every day what they purchase and to talk to my kids about making the right choices.  Well, yes I can, but to be honest, I have a lot of issues to battle and work on and this really is not a battle I want.  These are elementary school kids.  At home, I don’t say to my kids, go get yourself some lunch or dinner, I do it because their choices are never going to be as good as mine.  I could freeze their account and not allow them to make purchases – but my oldest son is autistic and has melt downs about certain things, and I’d rather he didn’t have a melt down because the lunch lady is not letting him purchase something.  No, I’m not really happy with those options.

What I’d like is for the school to not offer 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10-year olds cookies and chips and doritos and ice cream and lemonade and funnel cakes every single day.  What I’d like is when I pay $2.45 for school pizza, is for them to give my kids the carrot sticks and the pears and the milk that I’m paying for with it.  Because if that was all they had, they would eat them.

I think I need Jaime Oliver to come to my school…

♥Becki, imperfect nutritionist

P.S. If you are in Phoenixville School District, our district’s contract with Chartwell’s is up for renewal this year.  I am sending emails to superintendent, Dr. Fegley, and to asst. superintendent, Dr. Palubinsky, voicing my frustration and disappointment in our school lunch.

<<stepping off my soap box>>



2 thoughts on “Mothering Monday / Training Tuesday: School lunch

  1. I agree with you…I only by the boys 5 lunches each a month and somehow my balance is negative before they buy their 3rd one! If they don’t like what I packed that day, they choose to buy their own lunch (thus wasting a perfectly good sandwich and some fruit and yogurt). The system they came up with was good in theory, but it just isn’t working. I will try to get an email out to the superintendent too.

    1. Don’t you wish they’d at least bring home the uneaten food! I had to laugh because after I wrote this, I got the message that B’s account balance is negative 40 cents and I thought, I packed him lunch and a drink today… how is it negative????

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.