Thursday, May 24, 2012

School lunches

Check out this astonishing blog from a 9 year old documenting her school lunches - in less than a month, she's achieved over a million views, changed her school's policy on serving sizes and availability of salad and fruit, and gotten tweeted at by Jaime Oliver. Astounding.

Without kids of my own, school lunches pretty rarely cross my mind. But when I think back to my own school lunch experiences, I'm pretty horrified. I clamored for years to get to buy lunch like "all the other kids", even though there were really no vegetarian options besides a nasty cheese pizza with oil pooling on the top of it. My parents finally caved in and gave me the $2.50 per day or whatever it cost.

Only I didn't use the money to buy lunch. At least, not all of it.  Every day for all of junior high, I bought off-brand oreo cookies and chocolate milk, $.50 each, and saved the "leftover" $1.50 for my own purposes. No one who worked in the cafeteria noticed or said anything to me. I'm horrified at the unhealthiness of that "meal" and shocked that I was able to concentrate in the afternoons lacking any significant nourishment. And I knew better, in terms of health, but I guess I just wanted that extra money to spend as I wished - it probably doubled my allowance.

Sadly that wasn't my only brush with bad school food. In high school I went to boarding school for a little while, and the cafeteria there alternated between "okay" and "horrifying". At one point it came out that they were sprinkling baking soda in the milk cooler to hide the scent of sour milk, and I remember getting sick off the milk more than once, which kicked off my years-long boycott of it. The bigger problem was that the cafeteria was only open until I think 6 a.m. for breakfast (classes started early) and I never managed to make it there on time. At that point, I totally got out of the habit of eating breakfast, something that carried through college and well into my adult life.

It seems a little thing to pick a fight about - kids who get fed at home are probably going to be okay if they get sub-par school lunches - but it is during these formative years that habits are created that will stay with those kids for the rest of their lives. When I'm a parent, how will I react to my childrens' begging to "be like everyone else" and stop taking their lunch?

I don't even know.

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