So, you know how some people, when they are nervous, especially about something they can’t affect, take all their anxiety and squish it into something they can affect? That’s me. And the Child starts Kindergarten on Tuesday and I’ve spent the summer obsessing about school lunches.
Hearthwife is much more sane than I am and has merely thought about school lunches (see her post below), but I’m happy to know I’m not the only one obsessing. There’s a XX article on Slate, a food safety article on the NYTimes, and, of course, there are the BentoMoms. BentoMoms are crazy. Not bad-crazy but still way past what I’m willing to do. I mean, I’ll obsess but there will never be radish mice in my daughter’s lunchbox.
Growing up, I’d buy my little red and white carton of tepid milk, but ate the peanut butter on Wonder bread sandwich my mom stuck into a brown paper bag every day. I know there was more in the bag than just the sandwich, but I don’t remember the details, except that she used to buy those Frito Lay Variety Snack Packs. This is weird because I don’t remember ever liking anything in those packs. I do remember a lot of horse trading around the lunch table.
This is, of course, all anathema in modern helicopter parenting. Kids are trained never to share or trade food because of allergies. Parents are exhorted to send in whole grain bread and fruit, not Wonder and Doritos. (Maybe I liked Doritos?) And peanuts are just verboten anywhere there are children, it seems. (My friend T. has words to say about this.)
And, of course, there won’t be disposable brown lunch bags for my little one. I bought (at great expense) a set of stainless steel containers made by the irritatingly named LunchBots company. The containers are actually quite awesome — large ones for sandwiches, divided ones for everything else, and small round ones for GORP and yogurt and hummus and dips. Best of all? Dishwasher safe.
Nor will she be buying milk in those narsty little cardboard-ish cartons that never opened cleanly and always made the milk taste like wax. It’s not an option at her school. So I bought a Klean Kanteen (what is it with these brand names?) and she’s asked for iced raspberry tea.
She could buy lunch. But she can’t buy lunch on Tuesday and bring it on Wednesday. Either she’s always on the lunch program or she always packs. (I pack a snack either way.) To be wholly honest, I don’t have any faith at all in what the school system thinks in healthy, so she’s packing. There’s free breakfast available to all children but, again, I won’t let her eat that when she could have a healthy breakfast at home, around our table, with both parents.
At some point I’ll do a more thoughtful post on the issues around children’s nutrition, income, free lunches/breakfast, and the very serious issues around that. It’s particularly pertinent because of May’s school. I’ll even do a post on the Chocolate Milk Issue. Not today though.
May is a much bigger girl than Cynthia (Hearthwife’s kindergartner) and she will be having a much longer school day. My lunch-to-pack list includes a lot more calories and particularly more protein. What’s more, May’s really distract-able and tends not to eat unless reminded. (If I don’t remind her, she has a low-blood-sugar meltdown.) So I’m probably going to be packing as much oomph, calorically, into each bite I send.
But… I don’t want to get her into the habit of eating high-calorie foods, because she’s lovely and slim now but I’m not, nor is her father. She’s fighting a a genetic battle here and I want to make sure her brain gets wired the right way, not the wrong way. But short lunch times, long school days, and a very tall sturdy girl all combine to create a bad situation.
All of that said, she’s already picked her first-day-of-school menu. A lamb sandwich with goat cheese, arugula, and roasted red peppers; carrots and hummus; a granola bar; yogurt; raspberry iced tea. I’m going to spend the whole damned weekend cooking, it sounds like.