Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lunch for School

School Boy goes to Kindergarten from 8:20 to 2:20 - so of course, he has snack and "lunch" at school. Lunch is a tricky issue!!! And no - his drinks don't fit in the lunch box - they go into his backpack separately.
My grandparent's were farmers and Nana always called the noon-time meal dinner. Dinner was the big meal of the day. Supper was something lighter in the evening - maybe soup, crackers, etc. Somehow along the way I developed a way of thinking that if we sat down and ate a meal at noontime, it was dinner, if we grabbed food on the run or ate at school - it was lunch. This language works fine for me around here because everyone calls the noontime meal dinner - if they are from here. Tourists call the 6 pm meal dinner. This of course, really mixes up my husband if he answers the phone and takes a reservation for the restaurant!
Since my husband is from Europe - he is used to having his big meal at noon. And since the restaurant is usually very busy in the evening it makes sense for all of us to sit down together as a family and have our dinner together - at 11:30. Besides the fact that I really don't like to eat something heavy in the evening. Usually SB and I will have a light supper at 4 or 4:30 before things get busy and then I put in extra baked potatoes for us and we will eat those as bedtime snacks with some vegetables. We really don't eat much junk food/snacks/sweets.
So you see, School Boy is used to a big meal at noon. Seeing that this whole school thing is new to him, I really wanted to start him off for the school year with his familiar foods.
We almost always have soup - so thermos for broth and a separate container for his fritatins (ok, my spelling is probably way off on this one, but they are crepes that you cut very thinly to put in your broth - a favorite Austrian soup!). When we make crepes we will make enough for a few days. They have to be added to the broth right before you eat them or else they get soggy. Sometimes I send noodle soup. But - always he gets soup. OK - got that. With soup bowl and spoon.
2 pieces of toast with cream cheese. He likes to eat 1 piece at snack time and the other with his dinner. He likes pumpernickel or rye bread if I can get it - if not then whole wheat. He often likes cream cheese toast for "dessert" at home. Check.
Grilled chicken. Fire up the grill first thing in the morning and get the chicken breast grilled. He eats 1/2 a grilled chicken breast. I cut it up for him. Check.
Carrot sticks and apple chunks sprinkled with a bit of cinnamon sugar. Check.
2 cups of juice in a spill proof/leak proof sippy cup. Check. Most of the kids bring juice boxes, but that isn't the kind of juice we buy and besides - the portion is TINY.
Basically that is it. I mix things up a bit for him and include different things like grapes, bread sticks, goldfish crackers, sliced ham, roast chicken, hard boiled eggs, dill pickles... The small disposable condiment containers from the restaurant make GREAT mini containers for small portions. Absolutely NO NUTS are allowed at school so skip any idea of peanut butter!
We just bought ANOTHER thermos because SB doesn't understand why I am not sending him to school with mashed potatoes and cooked vegetables. Or spaghetti. Or hot buttered bread. Hummm.
Now - there is just no way that he has time to eat all this in the very short time period allotted to eat! We are used to sitting down and eating - but apparently they think the kids can eat super fast at school because they don't get much time. He always manages to eats his soup, toast and apples. Part of that is probably eaten at snack time. The rest he might have time to nibble at, brings it all home and is absolutely starving when he gets off the bus. He sits right down, opens up his lunch box and eats everything in there!
So here I am all proud of myself, handling this lunch thing just fine. Following the schools instructions - they sent home a notice... NO nuts, no junk food, no chips, no chocolate bars, no soda, only good healthy food. That really isn't a problem for us!
After 1 week the school sends home the school lunch menu for the year. The menu stays exactly the same for the entire year - week 1 and week 2. I pretty much ignore it (other than being amazed at the prices) because it doesn't really include food that he is accustomed to eating... and at $4.35 - $5.25 per meal, plus 75 cents if he wants dessert... I am not too interested. You can buy things individually too - $2.10 for the soup of the day, $1.25 for water, $1.50 for juice, $1.40 for apple slices, 90 cents for pudding, $1 for cheese stick, 65 cents for a roll, $1.60 for popcorn, yogurt tube $1 ... the list goes on and on. But really, just as an example - who is going to pay $5.25 for spaghetti & meatballs, chocolate banana mud slide, white milk. Add a roll for 65 cents, the soup for $2.10 and $1.40 for apple slices. Add an extra drink for the day... That means that the lunch I send him with would cost about $10s at school - for kindergarten and there still aren't any vegetables on the plate. Yikes! And I don't even know what quality meat they serve (I am REALLY careful about our meats), etc.
This weekend while we are having our driving around time, School Boy proceeds to tell me that EVERYONE in his class brings money every day for a cookie. Huh? I thought they weren't allowed sweets. So, I take out that school menu list again and look - sure enough... you can buy a cookie for 50 cents or banana bread for $1.15 (keeping in mind that I can buy an entire loaf of banana bread at the farmer's market for $2.50 and it lasts us all week!). I sent him with the 50 cents yesterday and told him he can buy a cookie 1-2 times a week if he really likes it. I don't want him feeling left out if all the other kids are getting the cookie. But really, 50 cents??? In the meantime - you will find me in the kitchen today - baking banana bread!
What do you all think? I've just never done this before, but I had no idea that school lunches were so expensive!??


The Calico Cat said...

Wow, this is all mind boggling to me...

sossy said...

My son just started kindegarten also and I found the one time I observed at school that lunch seemed so hectic for him. My husband and I both work from home so we all sat down for lunch together also and my son was very upset the first few weeks at school saying that he just wanted a "big person" to sit with him. We pack his lunch every day also because he is allergic to dairy and nuts. I do overpack also because we are used to a bigger lunch and I want him to have choices. Some days he eats it all and others he is starving when he gets home. I don't really care much for what is on the school menu so it isn't worth it to pick the few things he can have. We will pack everyday for this year!

I do wish they had more time to eat and relax at lunch, but I suppose the more time they had, the more time some would goof off. I don't know. I think I am having a harder time adjusting than my son and find that I really miss him when we sit down to lunch at home. Thank goodness for quilting to help me take my mind off of everything.
I did feel really good on the one day I went to school to observe. I packed my lunch and ate with my son also and a little girl that always sits at his table said, "He always has a good lunch." Poor thing hers was all prepackaged, sugar-filled things that I wouldn't qualify as a lunch!

This is my only child, so was very hard for me to take this new stage of life, but I am trying to enjoy it as much as possible. Still wish I could eat lunch with him every day though!

Sweet P said...

I can't imagine paying that much for a school lunch. That's incredible!

I have heard of having the largest meal at noon. I know I feel better when I eat a large meal at noon and a smaller one at night.

Kathie said...

My youngest is in high school and I still pack her lunch everyday.
My children have always eaten home cooked food and HATE eating the food at the cafeteria.
They had to learn this for themselves though and it did not take long
I would let them have a 1.00 a week for food at school when they were younger. It is the social thing and to be like all the other kids.
Mostly they bought ice cream in the spring when it was hot for 65 cents one day a week...
once they ate the cookie a few times they realized they liked my cookies better. BUT they made the choice. It will be a good lesson for them to learn in mho and now it is important for him to feel as if he is like the other kids in mho

Rose said...

Congratulations on being a truly wonderful mom - it comes across loud and clear in your blog. I know what you are going through with the school lunches. Being from Austria, I like to eat a big LEISURELY midday meal; and even my American husband got used to it and takes a full "dinner" to the office daily.

Apparently, it is the same everywhere: in school there is not enough time to eat lunch, and buying the food in school is not only outrageously expensive but also cuts into the already scarce eating time. In my experience, teachers are also not overly interested in helping the smaller kids; the uneaten content of my son's thermos was often spilled all over his box due to him not screwing it on tight enough. Starting with middle school, he only wanted a sack lunch with disposable containers as he did not have enough time to return to his locker prior to the first period after lunch. You have done such a marvelous job in getting your (handsome!) son used to eating a healthy diet that includes lots of vegetables and fruit, please keep his healthy lunches going, even if it is an extra burden on you. Do not let him succumb to the mostly junk food the other parents send, except maybe Asian parents whose children always seemed to habe a very nice lunch in their Bento boxes.

It is very wise of you to allow him the purchase of a cookie in school, however, I bet he will prefer the taste of your own homemade cookies, banana bread, carrot bread etc., just as long as he knows that he is like every other child in class and could buy a cookie if he wanted to. Baked goods can be a perfectly acceptable and actually fairly healthy addition to anybody's lunch, provided you use quality ingredients and cut down slightly on the amount of sugar. Again, congrats on being such a wonderful mom, and I hope that your precious son will have time enough to fill his stomach in order to get him through the rest of his schoolday. Right now it is probably really hard on him, but over time he will adjust to this new unaccustomed speed. Thanks for your great blog!

Cape Codder in Montana said...

Wow, sister, you are doing a commendable job making sure SB gets his nutrition. I agree, it is a shame that there is not enough time at school allotted for lunch. And, food is getting so expensive that I cringe to think of the kids that are not eating.

Last year in the Flathead Valley of Montana, which is where I live, the Flathead Valley Food Pantry gave away tons and tons of food. On a field trip, a third grader asked how many elephants that would be. SEVENTEEN elephants, if each one weighed ten thousand pounds, was the director's answer. These are working families with two or three jobs, and an average of four kids, and they can't afford groceries. . . this in the most fertile farming valley of Montana.

And so, SB is lucky indeed that he has the nutrition to feed his brain, and the mother to care so much that nutritious (read expensive) groceries come before manicures, hair dressers and other extras. Good job!

Shasta said...

The eating fast thing was a problem for me too as a child. Our school lunches are probably subsidized, because they are inexpensive - $2-$3 a day. Then there is another program where you can get free or reduced lunch depending on your income.

My daughter got lunch at 11:30, so she was starving when she came home. One of my daughter's high schools was fairly new and didn't have a lunch program, so they brought in their lunches, and it cost $5-6. The other high school included lunch as part of their tuition. It was a big shock to me to go to her college cafeteria and get charged $7 for a meal!

Sue R said...

It's been a long time since I had a youngster in the lower grades, but my son graduated high school about a year ago, and lunches weren't so expensive. They also weren't especially healthy, but Chris hated to take lunch from home. Chris was always starved when he got home from school, I think they all must be. I've lived in Europe several times in my life, and I'd forgotten their main meal is around noon. I am not a morning person, and there's no way I'd be able to get up and cook chicken first thing in the morning!