Edgy Mama: Packing school lunches for picky eaters

Neither of my kids has ever eaten a school cafeteria meal — never, ever. We’ve packed a lunch for our girl every school day since she started daycare 11 years ago, and the same for our boy for about 8 years. Mostly because they’re both persnickety eaters, for which I’m sure I’m partially to blame (I also blame genetics, as I was the same as a kid).

At least over the past couple of years they’ve learned to pack their own lunches, thank the goddesses. Though they occasionally do need a sleepy morning parent reminder.

However, I’m the primary grocery shopper, and I’m irritated with the meager number of options they’re open to putting onto their sensitive tongues. And by the fact that I have to hit at least two different grocery stores to stock up.

For years, the boy ate only a peanut butter sandwich and a banana for his school meal. These days he’s anti-peanut butter and prefers a plain bagel and an apple. Both kids like squeeze yogurt (they’d prefer the kind with the cartoon characters, but I insist on the organic version whose box has a real kid on it). As for the girl, she’s been a cheese-stick-aholic since she left the breast. About ninety percent of that child’s rather scrawny body was formed by cheese. Forget the urban chicken movement, I need urban goats and sheep if I’m ever going to be self-sustaining.

Anyway, I’d like to introduce some variety into the lunch situation, both because of health reasons and because shopping every few days for the four preferred food options is a pain in the heiney. But I’m not sure if this is a battle I’m prepared to wage.

I’m already trying to fight “the short order dinner cook skirmish,” while balancing that with the “you’ll give your kids eating disorders if you punish or reward with food campaign.” So, I guess my question to you is, is the lunch box war worth my time or energy?

I do prefer to provide my kids with lunch from home rather than let them try the cafeteria food (even if they would). Though the latter has come a long way from the days of mystery meat and Jell-O squares on iceberg lettuce, I still have a somewhat proprietary interest in what goes in my kids’ mouths. And, at least for a bit longer, I have control over most of what and when they eat (though I know that this too is fleeting).

I recognize as well that we’re lucky to have the resources to pack our kids’ lunch every day, when more than 30 percent of kids in the Asheville City Schools have to eat what’s provided in the cafeterias because they’re on the free or reduced rate plans. I also thank the goddesses that the schools are striving to give the kids who need it a balanced, healthy meal (or meals—breakfast is available as well at most public schools in the area).

Other parents have told me that picky eaters often remain so until they are college-aged or older, so I’m guessing that pushing for lunchbox variety may be a tortoise race, not a rabbit one.

But I do wish I could mix it up a bit by pushing healthier choices that cost less and are more likely to be in the fridge on Monday morning when I’ve forgotten to do the Sunday shop.


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One thought on “Edgy Mama: Packing school lunches for picky eaters

  1. Douglas

    Our kids are some of the ones who buy school lunch at a reduced rate. Glad you feel lucky not to be us. Thanks for making us all feel like dirt, PrivilEDGY Momma.

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