Kid friendly but nutritious? (photo credit: Jeff Sandquist)
School has started again. Now every parent is asking, "What will my kids eat for school lunch?"
Option 1: buy school lunch. In real dollars, NYC subsidized school lunches are fifty cents cheaper than they were two (or three) decades ago when I went to school. At $1.50, school lunch is less expensive than brown bagging it. Yet the quality is such that my kids refuse to eat school lunch. I don't blame them.
The Brooklyn Food Coalition is working to improve the quality of school lunches. They are, along with other groups, petitioning the House of Representatives to pass HR 5504 Improve Nutrition for America's Children Act. They are also advocating that funds directed toward this program don't subtract resources from other programs supporting nutrition for our children. If you would like to get involved, the Brooklyn Food Coalition will have its next meeting on September 16th.
Option 2: pack a cold lunch. Packing school lunch is like catering a wedding. You are commissioned by a finicky consumer concerned about the social implications of the meal to prepare an attractive, appetizing, healthy meal that will be out at room temperature for at least 4 hour without the ability to reheat. The difference is you get thanked and paid to cater a wedding. Whereas you front the cash for the 181 lunches each you'll make for an unappreciative client.
I begin the school year ambitiously thinking I'll send in creative lunches, yet my sons--who now pack their own lunch--eat the same thing every day: turkey or PB&J sandwich; yogurt stick or apple sauce; chips; apple, orange or carrot sticks; a cookie; milk or Capri Sun. They will occasionally pack a thermos of soup or left over pasta. Is the monotony acceptable?
Perhaps school lunch isn't the place to try new foods. I ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich and an apple every single day in 4th grade. If a predictable school lunch ensures Junior will eat and therefore functions through the day, perhaps that is satisfactory. Perhaps dinner is the time to introduce risotto and school lunch is the time to stick with Doritos.
That said, I'd still like to expand my kids' thinking from beyond "gold fish or crackers?" to ... what? What lunch do your kids bring to school?
More ideas for school lunches: