"Mommy, could you e-mail him so that he could come to my school and fix the lunches so that I can eat them? Madison says that I'm allergic to the school food."
"Basically, you are."
"Mommy, can you ask him to come and help to make healthy food that won't make us sick?"
Then she stood there and watched the beef demonstration of what comes from where and what happens to the leftover bits and yuck.
Watching that and knowing that is what they are serving our children in the schools brought me to tears.
My daughter knows that school lunches aren't an option for her. What does our school district provide? They provide a cold breakfast and hot lunch to all K-5 children in the entire district. The breakfast is a whole grain cereal or whole grain muffin, but they both have sugar-- more than I'd prefer. They provide milk at each. Breakfast has either string cheese or yogurt provided. Lunches are atrocious. I did not know until this year that their lunches are served to them on little styrofoam trays with food in individual cellophane wrapped formed square dishes with a chicken leg, nachos, chicken nuggets, pizza (the vomit inducing kind which is what tipped my child over the edge), macaroni and cheese, a cheese roll (I'm thinking something like a filled bun), taco, hamburger and a day that actually has a chef salad! K- only ate maybe 10 school meals tops last year and I've sworn them off forever. (That is unless Jamie comes to rescue us.)
When I was volunteering at the school, I ended up getting into an interesting conversation with the cafeteria lady. Mrs. S- is wonderful and I hesitate to call her a cook. She'll tell you that all she does is warm things up. I told her about how my daughter cannot eat school food because it "makes her vomit" is how the gym teacher finished my sentence. She knew exactly what I was going to say. Mrs. S- hates that she is only able to warm things. Neither the gym teacher, the cafeteria lady or the nurse are surprised by our personal findings with the quality of school lunches served and my child's digestive reaction.
I get up each and every morning and take about 15 minutes to pack my child a wholesome meal. No juice box goes to school. K- has a Klean Kanteen that is filled with water. (By her request. Believe me, I used to send apple juice.) There was a stretch of time where K- wanted to take a salad each day. She wanted some turkey, soy nuts and mozzarella cheese with some homemade croutons. (I cheated and bought those in Amish country.) She usually takes turkey on double fiber wheat with a flick of mayo. There is always a fresh fruit or vegetable. There is always a yogurt. Rarely, I'll make pudding cups for her to take. (Okay, I know there's sugar in there.) I will drop in a small treat like a cookie, a rice krispie treat that I made . . . something like that. The kids were puzzled when she brought salad without white dressing. (She had fat free sun dried tomato vinaigrette.) She's had kids clamor for her fruit. I've sent homemade soup in her hot food thermos. I try. Her lunch isn't perfect, but I'm working on sending her foods that are nutritious and filling. I don't want her to feel left out because she brings a lunch, rather than being able to go through the line with her friends. (Believe me, we've had that talk many times.) The concept of "you get what you pay" for is definitely true when it comes to our district's elementary school lunch offerings.
K-'s school is at a 50% poverty rate. Of 22 children in her class, there are days that it is only her and one other child that bring a lunch in from home. The children get such rotten stomach aches from the chicken nuggets. The macaroni beef is served with anchovy paste mixed in, which makes it far spicier than the children care to eat (that's what Mrs. S- told me), plus it puts another item out there that could cause a potential allergy reaction with some children.
Parents have their children go ahead and get the lunch served probably out of convenience and of monetary help. Still, where it seems to be cheaper in the short run, we have so many children who are obese. K- has a family history of obesity. We try our hardest to keep her reigned in and eating healthy choices. It would make her heart happy if she could see her friends eating things that are healthier for them, too.
I'm happy to report that not all of the schools around here serve inedible crub. My sister's daughters have a wonderful lunch menu full of fresh salads and hot served and scooped up from lunch ladies type of things. She only lives about 25 minutes away.
There's hope. Until then, Jamie? Can you come, please?
Smiles in my day:
- K- was able to return to school today.
- I got a call from my MIL at 4:30 PM that K- seemed to be going down hill again. While she was running a healthy fever when I got home (102.4 F), the wonders of Advil kicked it back down and all is well. She was able to sit and do her homework (lots of it because of the missed day), so her concentration was on that rather than roastificating.
- K- got a wonderful report card today. Sticking with tradition, I got her a report card prize. She loves to work a good puzzle and was delighted that there were "diamonds" involved.
- That we have a village raising K- and it is great how we are all able to pull together, keep each other covered and work together as a team in sickness and in health. Very thankful that K- gets to hang with the in-law's, who spoil her to death, rather than having to go to a day care. What an incredible gift. I was a get-off-the-bus-at-Grandma's kind of kid and I appreciate that K- is (kind of) able to do the same. (No bus in her case, but Grandma drives the 20+ minutes out to get her.)
Have a great day!