Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fury, Frustration, Failure and School Lunches

While it may not have been the most horrifying thing for a parent to experience, yesterday’s family food drama was this food mommy’s worst nightmare.

I get a note from my child’s school that her meal account balance is negative, and I wonder “what the heck? I just put $50 in about a month ago.” The good thing about the new internet-based system is that I can check what my child has been purchasing. The bad thing is that I discovered where all the money went: cookies and extra entrées. I was livid. I had really been perplexed as to why the healthier choices I had been giving my child, along with regular doses of exercise, had not produced any results. Guess I can’t blame Nana on this one.

The fury came first, and it was directed at the school: Why didn’t the cashier think it was inappropriate for an 8-year-old little girl to be buying so much food. I know they want to sell the cookies, but extra pieces of pizza, corn dogs, and hamburgers? (I know, you may be wondering, “what happened to taking lunch to school every day?” I’ll get to that later.) I can’t believe they even offer that. I don’t remember being able to buy extras when I was in school, even in high school. We were given a dollar every day, and what they provided for that dollar was all we got. I never thought that there was not enough food.

So, now I have a problem with the meal account system. Our society as a whole definitely has a problem with self-control – with food and spending – and this system obviously doesn’t do us a bit of good to control either. Fortunately, I was able to have a conversation with the cafeteria manager and they put a note in the system that my daughter is not allowed to purchase anything other than the $2 meal. However, they won’t be getting more money from me for a long time.

Next came the frustration: Why can’t I make my child understand how much food is necessary to sustain us, and that too much food is a bad thing? We have this conversation over and over, and I hate that I have to talk about food and health so much to my child. I just want her to make good choices so she does not have to worry about her health her entire life. It is not fun! I regularly allow my kids treats, but under the assumption that they are making good choices most of the time. This has obviously not been the case.

Finally comes the feeling of failure: I have failed my child because I let a busy life get in the way of better habits. For the first couple months of school, I was making her lunch every day (except one – check out “The Great Chocolate Milk Compromise”). Then she was accepted into the school choir which meant getting to school earlier a couple days of the week. So one day, became two, and then three. And finally she was lucky to get one lunch from home a week. I didn’t feel bad at the time because they changed the menu, and it looked pretty decent. I just had no idea that they let the kids buy as much as they want. I also stopped asking her what she was eating at school, and just assumed everything was peachy. I had a few hours of self-loathing, but finally came to realization that we just need to start anew.

Miss E now has no choice but to take her lunch to school every day. She also has to do extra chores to work off all the extra money spent on her school food extras, and no spending any nights away from home for a while. I might also be doing some hardcore research on the number of calories a young person should be getting, and show her what that looks like in terms of volume. The sheriff just got a little bit meaner.


  1. I can't help but be relieved. As frustrating as it is, it seems food fight is redefined with this generation.Have a teen that doesn't get the concept just because you CAN eat 3 heaping plates at the buffet doesn't mean you SHOULD.He's taken to cooking meals - which I encouraged as a means of life skills - but as a means to eat during cooking rather than a meal. Then he thinks he's fat and wants self deprivation.

    Then there's the speed of eating - would make a starving animal envious. :-( Have threatened to serve meals 1/2 cup at a time to force slowing down...but getting through without nagging is tough.

  2. Great post--I ask my girls every day when I pick them up from school what they ate for lunch that day. It allows me to keep tabs on whether or not they are making good food choice decisions.

    It sounds to me like you are doing a great job. I think that the way you handled the situation will not only reinforce good eating decisions but also teach Miss E that each choice/decision that she makes has consequences for which she must be accountable. Perhaps that is even a more important lesson in the "big picture" than what she ate for lunch any given day.

    Thanks for sharing--I enjoyed the post.
    "Feed Yard Foodie"


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