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School Lunch is Too "Healthy"

My kids eat school lunch. It’s affordable and convenient for my family. I’ve never had a problem with it, other than lamenting that they don’t actually make any food in lunch rooms anymore.

I used to love school lunch. You could smell the homemade rolls baking all day. What a treat. Now our school only thaws, assembles, and heats components of lunches. I’m confused as to why my favorite old-fashioned delicious school lunch of mashed potatoes, gravy, and a slice of turkey is less healthy than an Uncrustable served with carrot sticks that get thrown a way, but I’m not a registered dietician. And I’m a little partial to sodium and fat.

There are lots of initiatives these days to make school lunch healthier. My kids’ grade school has even won an award for it. That’s great, except my kids are coming home hungry every day. Has school lunch gotten too healthy?

My kids are many things–and not all of them flattering. But I can tell you objectively that they are not picky about food or overweight. They are active and healthy. They eat all of their school lunch and they think it is mostly tasty. But the lunches aren’t filling them up. It’s normal for kids to be hungry for an after-school snack, but since school started a few weeks ago my kids have been coming home starving after a day at school. Maybe because the portions are so small and the fat has been cut so much? My daughter plans to start taking a sack lunch in order to feel full. A home lunch that fills her up consists of a sandwich, yogurt, string cheese, and a juice box. That’s pretty typical, right? She has an aerobics class during the day that takes some energy, but it’s not like she’s carbo-loading in order to stay full.

I think it’s weird.

For a couple of years when the health initiatives were big–and they should be, it’s a good idea–they used to make us come up with a health goal at parent teacher conferences. I hate these goals anyway because they are sometimes fake and a pain to keep track of, but I understand why they do them. So in addition to math facts and handwriting and reading and staying on task goals, we had to add in “Ride my bike for 30 minutes” or “Run on the treadmill daily.”

Like I said, my kids are active and healthy. I understand the idea of these goals because obesity is a big problem, but I’m a lot more nervous about my pre-teen daughter becoming too focused on her weight. She runs and plays and does cartwheels and climbs trees. I kind of hated monitoring her treadmill use every day. I may have blown that one off a little.

Teachers have enough to worry about without having to also track my family’s weight. I’d much rather have my kids’ teachers focus on teaching my kids math. Let me deal with their weight and body image. Because I can do that. And I can’t do math. (Even though I’m not supposed to say that.)

However, I’m sure there are a lot of parents who appreciate the help of these health initiatives. I’m glad they are there to serve people who need and want them.

I know a lot of people who send homemade lunches with their kids in order to be more healthy. I’ll be sending them with lunches to fill my kids up more. People are different. We have different needs. That’s the trick of designing school policy, isn’t it? I’m telling you this in case you ever find yourself on the voting end of some of these health initiatives. If you could, if it is at all within the realm of your influence, could we PLEASE bring back those chocolate peanut butter brownies I used to eat in 5th grade? Because, seriously, those were amazing.

More of my writing at Kid Scoop

Read more from me on my blog, Every Day I Write the Book.

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