School Lunches

My 5th grade daughter Amanda takes her lunch to school some days and on other days she visits the school cafeteria. I can control what she takes in her lunch bag if she brings from home; however, even if I control what goes in the lunch, I can’t control what she actually eats. For example, we could agree on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread, some grapes and carrot sticks. But on such a day if I ask her, she will generally admit that she ate “all of the sandwich, some of the grapes, and one carrot.”

Buying lunch is even worse. This year she entered Intermediate school, giving her more choices, and with that more freedom and responsibility about making those choices. There is an a la cart system, but they receive a significant savings if they buy a balanced lunch, meaning a protein, a grain, and two fruits or vegetables. This is great in theory. In actuality, it doesn’t work. It creates a lot of waste, because she refuses to eat the vegetables, but she puts them on her tray to get the meal price and then throws them away.

My daughter’s eating habits are probably similar to that of most ten-year-old kids. She loves sugar and will buy a cookie or chocolate cake if it’s offered to her. She will eat fresh fruit, and doesn’t mind eating vegetables — at home that is. I know that both Amanda and her five-year-old brother Kyle are more likely to eat raw vegetables than cooked ones, so if I’m chopping veggies, I make sure that I put some on their plates. If I’m cooking fresh vegetables, I steam them, retaining both vitamins and flavor. Though she doesn’t jump for joy when I serve her carrots and broccoli, she does eat a few bites of each.

At school she won’t even touch the vegetables. “They’re gross,” she explains. The vegetables are canned (meaning mushy), and probably under-seasoned as well. I wouldn’t want to eat them either.

Food, Inc.. is currently lobbying for healthier food options in schools. Find out more about their film and the Child Nutrition Act on their site.

Food, Inc. director @RobertKenner is hosting a Twitterview on Friday 6/19 at 10am PST. Use the hashtag #foodinc and send any questions you might have his way.

Check out the site and then follow #foodinc tomorrow to find out more about how you can get involved and why you should.

How are your child’s school lunches?

Written by Jennifer — 5 Minutes for Mom contributor, 5 Minutes for Books managing editor, and Snapshot blogger


  1. says

    As a teacher who had eaten a few school lunches, I have to agree that the school vegetables are gross! And I actually like vegetables. And the system is so stupid – having to pay a la carte if they don’t get the whole tray lunch when you know it’s going to go in the garbage. It’s the same way here in Texas. It’s not encouraging the kids to eat healthier, which was probably the goal. We do have a system where we (parents) can limit how many snack items they buy on their account, which works well unless they pay cash.

  2. says

    Our school lunches don’t seem to be too bad. The best thing they do is offer salads. I think a lot of kids will eat a salad when they won’t eat veggies.

    I agree though. My kids will eat veggies at home but not school. It is a bad system for upper grades though. The a la carte menu is not healthy at all and often much more expensive.

  3. says

    Our school lunches are pretty yucky. I have my 16 yr old daughter pack each day. I got her a laptop lunchbox ( and I love it. It gives me very distinct portion control, no plastic and paper bags to toss each day and I have total control of what she eats. :-) It works for us!

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