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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Lunchbox Blues

It's difficult to be in grade school, I really have to agree with my young one on this. I remember the challenges of trying to fit in, do what's right, and at the same time try to be a cool kid. I remember the mean girls, the teacher with the Kleenex up her polyester sleeve who had a tendency to read outloud far too quietly to keep us awake, and the smell of lunch wafting down the hallway, long long before it was time to eat.

We're going through a difficult time in our house. Summer hasn't been long enough, but between our busy schedule and his friend's filled calendars, he's been missing his school friends. I'm trying to balance this topsy turvy time of year the best I can. There's a great deal of joy to be found with recent purchases of new "school" shoes, new pencils, and the obligatory new backpack (this one on wheels!). And we all know, there's nothing like the smell of a new crayon box, even though, I've been informed, that they use markers in fourth grade. Hey, I deserve a new box of crayons every year, don't I?

Anyway, I'm getting off the subject a bit. Along with trying to present school in the best light and balancing the dreaded return with the thought of making it a really great year, we've taken a look at the proposed school lunch menu for September. And I have to say, after a summer of making really healthy choices, it's got me a little down. It's also sparked some interesting conversations around the house about just what would be a healthy hot lunch at school, how some menu choices just fall very short of what they should be, and how what we put in our bodies ultimately fuels our minds. Ok, that's getting a little "let's all join hands and sing" for me, but you understand where I'm going.

For the most part, school lunch fails to meet our parenting ideals of what kids should really have for lunch. It's colorless, salty, and filled with far too many prepackaged foods. So, we've decided in our home to try using school hot lunch less and less and try taking lunch along more and more. I have visions of packing individual containers of fresh sugarsnap peas, yogurt, and lentils, but the reality is, it may take some time for young one to get used to this.

There are expensive options out there for laptop style lunchboxes, but I really don't think it's necessary to spend a fortune on small plastic containers. We'll use what we have here and send them in an insulated bag that he's had for a while. We've got a great Thermos for hot and/or cold stuff. My goal is to use only reusable containers and to concentrate on packing great lunches that will rank high on the lunch trading scale of deliciousness (and Lord help me if he does figure out he can trade for nuggets or fries!).

I'm looking forward to trying this. I understand it will be a bit of an investment in time and I'd gladly welcome any suggested menus. There are some great websites out there outlining kid friendly fare, but I'd like to hear from people who've made it work and what they're serving.


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