That’s a pretty bold thing to say, right? School lunches were never really on my radar before this summer. They were something I never had to worry about. Big Girl was in private school. A very nice private school without a cafeteria. We were instructed to send in whole, healthy fare — vegetarian if possible. If the kids forgot their snacks or got hungry there was a single snack machine filled with, and I quote:
“…natural granola bars, Lara bars (sweet and chewy with no sweeteners), Trio bars (3 seeds, 3 nuts, 3 fruits), organic whole-grain cereal bars, organic fruit strips, raisins, peanuts, almonds, pretzels, all-natural animal crackers, Smartfood popcorn, pretzels, dried organic apples, V-8 juice, 100% juice [offerings], spring water, organic chocolate milk, natural potato and corn chips.”
But that’s about to change because we’re about to make a huge change. A massive, scary change. My husband, who thinks that social success is just as important as academic success, is pushing for public school. Actually, his exact words were, “do what you want,” but he has made it clear that he thinks Big Girl’s old school, which only has ten kids — she would be number 11 — enrolled in second grade, isn’t the right choice for her. I am on the fence, but really do agree that she should be able to have playdates. And since the kids at the other school all live 20 to 30 minutes away — and the public school superintendent PROMISED us that Big Girl is going to get lots and lots of enrichment — I’m leaning toward giving public school a shot. This means her access to food is going to change, too. It’s going to be a difficult adjustment for her. I’ll explain…
Big Girl has been going to camp at our local elementary school this summer. Every day I packed a lunch. When she got home she often left her favorite organic bars, cookies, and raisins in the box. She ate her sandwich and that was it. Wasn’t she hungry, I asked. No, she told me, she just didn’t feel like eating it at camp. What did the other kids have, I wanted to know. “Well, Mommy, they eat stuff that I don’t really like,” she told me. “They like Fritos and corn chips and packaged foods.” (And I can’t help it. I laughed when she told me “packaged foods.”) And then she told me how nervous she was: “The other kids don’t eat the things that we eat. What if when I go to school in September I am the only one not eating junky foods? I don’t LIKE junky foods!” And then the tears came. Sigh.
I tried telling her that there must be other kids who eat healthier options. I also tried to tell her that no one was going to force her to eat something she didn’t like. There would be no one holding her down in the lunch room shoving Cheez Doodles down her throat. (“Mommy, all the kids eat those puffy cheese things, but I don’t care for them, either!”) But she’s still really, really nervous. And she obviously doesn’t want people seeing her eating what she likes.
And so here I am counting down the days until school starts. Am I making the right decision? Does it make sense to leave a child at a school that supports my ideology and morals — that also happens to be on the same page as I am with food — even if it means she’ll be missing out on playdates? Do I put her into the public school for a month or two to see how it goes? It’s going to be a long 18 days…
This post is how I am participating this week in Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday — an awesome campaign to get people eating real food again.