Hot Lunch or Brown Baggin It?

United States
October 6, 2009 4:56pm CST
As parents we are all concerned that our children receive the best nutrition possible. Particularly while in the care of others or at school. Certainly hot lunch programs have come a long way since I was a child. Many parents could not afford hot lunch for their children when I was a kid let alone trust that the Sloppy Joes were actually made of beef. I recall that most of us ate from our groovy metal lunchboxes right at our desks. Later, for safety and teenage image concerns, we turned to the now famous brown bag. The brown bag can hold many surprises. I always knew when my mother was short on sweets as I opened my bag to find marsh mellows! Not so cool at the High School lunch table. All this aside, my youngest of three daughters started kindergarten this year. After some debate, my wife and I decided to start our daughter out with a bag lunch to ensure that she was eating right and eating the things she likes. Among all of the trials and tribulations associated with the early days of school, my wife and I were a bit taken back as we started to notice that our daughter was eating very little of her lunch or not eating her lunch at all. Mind you this is all day kindergarten. As the inquest began, we soon found that our daughter was being rushed at the lunch table. The other children were in such a big hurry to run out for recess that our daughter felt compelled to skimp eat or forgo lunch all together. A call was placed to the teacher and she indicated that there was only so much they could do. The lunch monitors were not in a position to make the children eat. I understand that children are children and can not be forced. But, come on. How about a bit of encouragement? Through the miracle of peer enticement, our daughter soon discovered the novelty of hot lunch. With some coaxing on my daughter's end, my wife and I decided to let her give it a try on a day when the menu seemed to suit her. She could not rave enough about taking hot lunch. Since then, we have allowed her to take hot lunch now and then and have taken the opportunity to attend school lunch with our daughter. My wife and I both came away with the same observations. Most of the children were taking hot lunch out of convenience rather than menu choice. In addition, we were astounded at the amount of hot lunch food waste. Most, as expected, coming from the younger children. Granted the rush factor was a big contributor too. I believe the convenience factor also played a major role. Through all of this I have made drawn some conclusions and offer a few suggestions to anyone out there who may be experiencing school lunch issues. Hot lunch is definitely convenient and with today's programs being very nutritious, a logical way to go. However, parents should consider the menu on a daily basis taking into account a child's likes and dislikes. This may help the child eat more and cut down on the waste. Switching up hot lunch with bag lunch can offer more variety better suited to your child. Make a bag lunch fun. Include surprises, special napkins and even notes of praise or encouragement. Besides, the left overs can always come home. My daughter usually has the left overs as a snack right after school. Check with your school to see how lunch time is monitored. Recess after lunch along with the influence of peers can lead to poor eating. Since talking to our daughter's teacher, we have noticed a better eating pattern. If you can, take advantage of eating with your child at school on occasion. It is quality time spent with your child and you can learn the routine. I welcome hearing your experience, comments and suggestions and don't forget the marsh mellows!
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