Back when I was in second grade, kids had the option of bringing their own lunches or paying for school lunch. It wasn’t an on-again off-again selection either. If a kid started the year as a sack lunch kid then that’s the way it stayed for the rest of the year. There was no switching it up halfway through the year or getting school lunch one day a week and sack lunches the rest of the days.
Some years, I brought my own lunch from home. My mom would prepare a sack lunch using a brown paper bag each morning and she would write my name on the sack in big black letters with a giant magic marker. I’d take my lunch to school and when lunch time rolled around, I’d take my brown paper bag with my name written across the top and I’d sit with all the rest of the kids at our own little table, the one designated for the sack lunch kids.
On years where I got lunch from school, the routine was the same each day. Stand in line for about 5 minutes and pick up a tray at the front of the line. Slide the tray along as the lunch ladies placed some kind of meat, usually chicken fried steak or Salisbury steak, a potato, a vegetable, and a roll onto my tray. At the end, we were each allowed to take one carton of milk. That was it. Then we would walk to our various tables in the lunch room and then talk about stupid things like backwards Tuesday.
No matter what kind of lunch we had at school, we all had one very simple thing in common. We didn’t get to buy any extra snacks.
There were no Ding Dongs at the school. There were no Moon Pies at the school. We couldn’t walk up to a snack stand and choose a fizzie Soda to drink that day. We got what we brought from home or what we could get from the lunch line and that’s all there was to it.
I wish that’s the way it was today. Why isn’t it like that today?
Addie gets to choose what she wants for lunch. She gets a menu from her school of what will be served each day and she decides if she wants a sack lunch or school lunch. That’s okay with me. What I’m not okay with is the giant snack stand that she has at school.
And maybe I’m even okay with the snack stand too; it’s the extension of credit to first and second graders that has me furious. I guess it isn’t technically credit that is being extended. Parents pay a lump sum of money to the school for school lunch and it is put on the child’s account. The school then lets the child, as in small kids who don’t really understand the value of money, choose how to spend that lump sum. If the kid wants to spend $25 in one day? Sure why not? $100? You betcha. When the money runs out the charges don’t stop. Nope, the school then technically does extend credit to the child because the snacks are just charged to the child’s account and the parents pay for it later.
Why are little kids getting the option to purchase snacks and sugary drinks with their school lunch accounts? Why not require students to bring cash from home? That way the school could at least reasonably infer that the parents are okay with the purchases.
We’ve had this problem with Addie for two years now. Last week the kid bought a Moon Pie on her school lunch account five times. A year ago she bought a sugary soda each day during lunch and charged it to her account. What that means for Addie is that whatever lunch she brought or bought at school was thrown away because she spent her entire lunch period drinking a sugary soda or eating a Moon Pie type of desert. And a Moon Pie? Who eats those anyway?
Does this happen everywhere? If not, am I the only one who is mad about it and wonders what the local school boards were thinking when they made such an option to children an option?
More on Babble Dad: