Dear Lunch Police

As I’m scrolling my Facebook news feed the other day a story jumped out at me that I can’t just sit back and ignore. As a parent I’m outraged. As a mother of a semi-picky eater I’m pissed off. As a full time working mom who pays her own damn bills and buys her own damn groceries – I’m fuming.

The article published by the Toronto Star discusses how some children in a GTA school district have been singled out for the items that are in their lunch. Some children were told to chose a different item at snack time (one particular example was to choose grapes instead of banana bread, as the banana bread had chocolate chips in it) or were sent home with a half eaten lunch and a note from the teacher on healthy food choices.

I literally had to pause for a minute or two to simmer down and let my fingers keep up with the words that are spewing out as I write this post. My child isn’t of school age yet and I am completely outraged for every parent that has to pack a lunch for their child. There are so many things wrong with what has happened in this school district.

  1. I feel like this is the most important point that I have to make in regards to this issue. THIS IS MY CHILD. Who are you (teacher, lunch monitor, whoever) to tell me what is best to feed my child? Do you know my child’s preferences? Do you know any allergies that my child might have? Did you carry my child for 9 months, spend the last 1.5 years keeping this tiny human alive? The answer is no. So shut your face and let me pack the lunch that I KNOW they will eat because I’m the parent.
  2. I buy my own food for my household. I make a list every Friday, and every Sunday morning while many people are still in bed, my daughter and I usually do our grocery shopping for the week. We have a list, a budget and try to stick as close to that as possible. If there aren’t any good sales on fruit that week, it’s a banana week. If there aren’t any good sales on meat, we might have pasta 3 days that week. (For all those out there that are concerned, I make a special sauce for Miss Thing that has carrots and broccoli in it so she does eat veggies). When the time comes that you pay for my groceries, you may have some input on what goes into my shopping cart. Until that time, zip it.
  3. Make up your mind. First, kids can’t bring peanut butter (what kid doesn’t LOVE a pb & j sandwich?) for lunch anymore. Homemade snacks are discouraged because there might be a kid with allergies to ANYTHING in the classroom. So what is left? Snacks that are “clearly labelled” nut free. So sure, I might buy a box of those nut free brownies for my kid’s lunch that week. I’m not allowed to bake avacado brownies (that are much healthier and probably cheaper to make) and send those, so what would you like me to do? If you tell me you don’t enjoy a sweet treat after a meal you’re going to need  a bucket as your pants will be on fire.

Listen, to the parents who have picky eaters, I feel you. My husband is picky. My daughter certainly has her favourites and will NOT eat a green vegetable on its own. So what do I do? I cook veggies, puree them and add them to pasta sauce. This kid can DEMOLISH a bowl of pasta and I don’t feel guilty for giving it to her a couple of times a week. When Miss Thing goes to school I’m going to pack her lunches that I know she will eat. My husband and I are the parents of our little girl. We are the ONLY ones who have the right to decide what the child eats.

Perhaps the focus can shift to making sure that all students have enough food in their lunch to sustain them throughout the day. What about those families who shop at the local food bank in order to make sure their kids have a lunch? Would you take away one of the main meals that the child might have that day simply because you disagree with the contents? The number are staggering, the 2015 Hunger Count from the Canadian Food Bank shows that a remarkable 44% of families helped by the Canadian Food Bank in 2015 are families with children – and half of these families are two parent families (read the report here).  There is no way to tell which families use the food bank. Those children do not come to school with a note from Mom saying “oh by the way, ignore what is in Tommy’s lunch today, I had to scrounge at the Food Bank and this was my only option”. Give me a freaking break. My family is in a situation where we do not need to use the services of a food bank, but neither are we spending $200 a week on food from the organics grocery store in town. There was a time when I was able to purchase an Organics box every two weeks (a local delivery service that brought a box of organic, locally grown produce to your door) but found after a couple of months, the prices kept rising and it just wasn’t feasible any longer. Did my kid eat less fruits and veggies? No, they just weren’t organic. Do not get me wrong – I’d LOVE to be able to afford to only have organic anything in my house. The reality is, it is simply not an option. My kid eats fruit, veggies, dairy and protein every day. She also loves Nurtigrain bars, multigrain Goldfish crackers and Teddy Grams.

Teachers, educators and school board personnel. It’s time to focus on a lower teacher to student ratio, time to focus on teaching methods that work, time to focus on making learning fun. Maybe if you had a brownie in your lunch you’d be a little less hangry and find something else to worry about. 

Just saying.

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