DO, or Don’t Loose Your Lunch?

Image I am familiar with this author, along with Silverstein, Katz, Prelutsky, and a few other favorite poets. When fourth graders prepare for “Poem Day,” they draw largely on these. At first this poem by Ken Nesbitt is cute, even almost funny. Then it is not. Could it be a comment on poor parenting maybe? Could it be I’ve slipped into thinking like a grown-up Darling and not a Peter Pan in my childish Pan-demic state. The voice of the child in the poem sounds young. Too young to be making her own lunch. Should I call DFS? Definitely more a comment on failed family roles, and the poor American diet, than anything EDUCATION. Of course I never much made home lunches for my kids to take to school. I only made sandwiches in the summer. Too lazy. My poor kids. Chalk it up to a school lunch convenience mentality. We didn’t’ start eating healthier…sort of… until the last couple of years. Even so, healthier eating has mostly measured up in feet. I don’t mean “So, so suck your toe…” I mean foot-longs. These days, it frequently looks and tastes Subway in picking up take-out on the way home from work or swim team practice.   Doubt that the veggies from Subway are organic, pesticide free. And the chicken? I don’t want to ask. Maybe it’s Tyson “flop-a- lot” chickens, or those drowned ones you see on Youtube that resemble something of chicken Auschwitz victims. All the same, it’s Inhumane.

As for kids, and the question of home lunch and school lunch… When will someone please pull their beaks out (of their themed lunch pail) and offer a healthy alternative to the alternative? Sorry, not using my manners today “All About Manners Girl.” Forgive me.

Our school lunch monitor is not present, so I’m risking it here. Here it is: In wiping down and folding up long tables, how about considering that America needs to take a stand for a healthy eating revolution in the traditional school lunch offering.

America needs lunch reconstruction. For the sake of the children. I believe this has started in small ways in some places. Like France with small organic, local farms, and school green houses and community gardens. While the French are becoming less fried, and budding in green, the U.S. is posing. First ladies are renaming Cookie Monster and hoola hooping on the White House lawn. I guess it’s something hipster. It’s just not enough to attempt a top down model. Suspenders and axes or no suspenders and axes. The U.S. School lunch needs reform on all levels of this thing. We need initiative locally in school board action items. We need action here in our home towns where it counts most to us. Requires bravery in a Brave town.

Don’t get me started here! D.C. Is a long way from rural Utah. And while I am as geographically challenged as the next guy, I know enough to see that change is needed in my school. Now. Not in ten years, or even when someone gets around to it. Now.

More RIGOR and vigor (not vinegar…..but yes, maybe vinegar) are needed in what students are being served up.  Not just academically!  Digestively as well! Best practices in offering healthier, more nutritious food is needed, along with more aerobic exercise to counter childhood obesity and related disease processes. Education in health and stress relief; the reinstallation of RECESS, please! More role models in parents and teachers and well, everyone.

This reminds me of Hungry For Change internet videos. These have become more popular, especially in middle to upper socio-economic tiers. Don’t think the poor see much of this. They are too busy trying to survive, and keep a job. They are tearing up more in being down, waiting in line at the mobile food bank, wishing on the man in the moon on Main Street, and lugging lots of free cheese home. Then the Herdmans are making excusing for not doing their homework. Glad for free and reduced lunches just the same. Poverty hurts.

BUT, change is not easy.  I have watched lunch ladies attempt serving raw fruit and vegetables, not so successfully. Kids are not used to eating this way, I think. Many throw away the best stuff.  Maybe the broccoli, carrots, and celery sticks would go over better if they were swimming in ranch dressing. Re-market. “Through the lips and over the tongue, Look out stomach here it comes.” My Italian son used to brag about how our high school went through twenty gallons of Ranch Dressing a week. Wow! And I just thought this useless trivia. All that Ranch dressing? That’s concerning. But I might not think it so bad if I knew my children and all of the children ate their raw vegetables.

This not the reality at my elementary school, where fresh is tossed to the trash, and sauces are rationed. Here Veggie Tales live and die under martial law. But even if we were free to move and talk and splurge in dipping sauce, the salty, fatty dressing defeats the purpose of what we are attempting in healthier. Quite the food fight.

Maybe my public school district should contract with someone from the outside to help to feed our kids better. You know those people who come into failed schools and intervene in fixing. Just an idea.  I happen to know an organic chef at a local ski resort hospital in Park City, Utah, who has done healthy consults with public and private schools. I quite love his line of foods. I say pay him to redesign a model that will work. Probably can’t afford him, but maybe there is a grant somewhere that someone can apply for. One likely sponsored by MCDONALDS!!! Ahhhh! Maybe that Grant someone is me. I am hungry for change and I like to write stories. I say think outside the (lunch) box. Maybe someone could twitch their nose and make magic happen.

It’s not that the lunch ladies don’t try. They have surveyed the kids. They have creatively renamed foods to make them more kid friendly in the pronunciation. They have conducted taste tests. They have changed names and given foods social security numbers. Names that roll off the tongue but don’t stay on the fork. They have flashed and stir fried some gutsy things on the surface. They are faithful and mean well. It’s just the food is, well… not enough of the well kind.

They have even served cooked broccoli. Bluck!  A big looser.  I can’t even look at this without crying and reeling at the smell. Give them credit. They do serve more fresh fruit these days. Orange quarters are great, but how about more variety in this.  I’d like more apple slices, fun kiwi halves to spoon, fresh (not frozen) sweet red strawberries, and Sponge Bob’s freshly cut pineapple once in a while. A touch of dipping caramel for apple toppers maybe instead of cake or cookies.

As for on top, I do love, love, love the dried blueberries on my ranch capped salads (salad being a main staple for me). I’ve been won over by this thing. But I am weird, and probably the only one who eats dried blueberries. Most people mistake these for raisins on my peanut butter celery log and that I’m all washed up in weird thinking. If you play things just right, you can even fool people into thinking you have a rotten or missing tooth. Come out looking like a hill billy. Ha ha. I dont’ care what people think. Ha ha. I think it is nice of the lunch ladies to buy these expensive blueberries just for me. At $10 or $15 a pound at Whole Foods I feel like royalty in this. 🙂 

Still too much canned fruit and applesauce spiked with jello powder. Ew! Peaches and pears are as always cubed and tending toward being bathed in lite syrup. This a certainly a syrup improvement, but it’s like comparing swimming in the reservoir to swimming in a super charged chlorine pool. Not all that great either way. Bodies need fresh, raw organic, pesticide free food and a big drink of pure water. This is revolutionary stuff. Hard to listen to, and harder to swallow or stomach.

Truth is, talk of changing the sacred school lunch cow is revolutionary. Messing with these power dynamics is like playing ball with the Browns. Challenging status quo borders on blasphemy in a place that still bakes homemade rolls, bread, buns, cookies, and cake. The lovely, hardworking hair-netted ladies who we can count on are a lot like the furniture in my dining room. Permanent, fixed, and fairly unmovable at times.

The program they scoop up is also traditionally fixed. But in this modern day of information and technology, school lunch has become outdated, “old school” and not cutting it any more. Imagine Lincoln delivering the Lunchroom Address: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.” I’m not saying anyone is trying to fool us. I’m just saying…who are we fooling in thinking that cheap, comfort food can comfort us anymore? We live in a time when truth IS KNOWN. Problem is it is diluted, disputed and not heard well.

In all truth, pastry treats like donuts a la Cob Web at Halloween, and sprinkled cookies at Christmas are not treats at all for the body. More like poisons. Fact is that school lunch has become a bully, a bruiser to well being with still too much sugar, salt, fat, and carbohydrates. Leaves some bloated and lethargic. It is our responsibility to respond to this with as much concern as the common fist fight among small boys on the playground. With seriousness and intervention.

Increasingly, school lunch has also become a financial looser for school districts already teetering on the edge of the economic cliff. The cafeteria is going over and plummeting disasterously with Tom Dooley in hanging its head “Down in the Valley” to a more certain Candy land free fall. This is not just a holiday phenomena anymore. Candy is most often KING and the snack of choice brought from home on a daily basis. Anymore the “drug problem” is fit to include candy. Redesign is in order. A rewrite of Red Ribbon Week in line.

I am a public school teacher.  I hang my shingle on doing my best.  We all do, but one year, our districts’ best was not cutting it for the academic and global needs of my child. So, (at the risk of judgement and ostracism) my daughter “In the Middle” went to a nearby charter school in Park City, Utah.

This was gutsy. Both in the institution opening, and in us entering the lottery, winning, and showing up each day. It was also the first year of it’s opening and boasted being “green” in building and in lunching. The school boasted an outdoor P.E. program, and a strictly organic lunch. There were side effects like a schizophrenic bus system, a constipated car pick up line, a complaining congested neighborhood, and my husband more often than not, gifting rides to three adolescent girls, only one of which was his daughter, the other two not.

Fortunately for our girl and her AWOL friends, Weilenmann was physically the healthiest school lunch year of her life with organic everything. Of course this cost a little. It was worth it though. We loved this healthy lunch menu and new academic items too. No high fructose corn syrup, pink slime, sugar laced beverages, mega carbs and chicken nuggets every other day. Instead…greens, whole grains, and choice toward healthy. This was truly inspiring to me. As inspiring as my daughter learning Latin and liking school again.

I am convinced America needs to change her thinking about what she eats and feeds her kids. Before you call me names in any language, Pig Latin included…Wait! I know…eating healthy is expensive. I know it’s different. I also know about mistakes and I am a hypocrite at times.  I have been one of the biggest offenders.  But don’t fault me for trying here. I can not sit by and say nothing any more.

I confess. When my step-sons were small and I was newly married, I nearly killed them with hotdogs. This was the first summer of being the young, pretty, enthusiastic step-mother. When we took them to a Salt Lake Bees game, they would not eat the All American Dog. It was ruff. They must have thought me wicked. I had taken the American right out of these children. They did not relish this thing.

So,  to offset the hotdogs, we grew a garden, and I made them pull weeds. They hated this even more. Dirty, rotten, grubby new mom, just married to their dad dosing them a work ethic. Ha ha. They rerouted to Grandma’s house.  I also made them read out loud to me, “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” What was I thinking? They kind of thanked me later in becoming successful. The oldest one a kind of self-made gourmet chef with a side of Structural Engineer.

Now that we are all more grown up…sort of, and I am at least older in graying hair, I am randomly wiser, and more open to changed thinking. However, I am firm in not buying ice cream, frozen pizzas, chips, cookies, and sodas at the same time in the same shopping trip. No. This is my husband’s job and favorite past time. Instead I hang out in organic green pastures. I visit Sprouts in Peoria, Arizona, and thump watermelons with my revolutionary friend Che’. Occasionally I blush in being “hit on” by produce guys who ride Harleys to Flagstaff. Some days I think I’ve even been “saved” and as a result I am blessed in taking my own healthy green lunch of Whole Food fare to the den of iniquity lounge jk (when I’m not too lazy). As for my girls….They still eat school lunch, and will continue in this. They sleep through the snooze button and don’t eat breakfast by choice. No time for it while sleeping. Instead, they pop up at the last minute and run to the bus with pop tarts. Quite frankly, school lunch is a Savior. It is the only guaranteed meal of the day. Especially since my girls are not willing to get up early to make their own lunches. Making lunches the night before hasn’t proved all that profitable either. This would take away from time on electronic devices. And so, I am predicting that my babies will continue to not so inconspicuously sneak snacks and candy into the shopping cart when I am not looking. They will most certainly continue to devour candy that they smuggle into the movies. Although they are more and more laying off off the theater popcorn these days, thankfully. I can’t promise you much more than “I will try.” I pride myself mostly on not making promises that I can not keep. Let’s just say we still have a lot of work to do. I have made personal progress. The rest of my family….not so much. And I am not only talking about matters of food and healthy eating. Yesm I am talking about putting on incorruptible in better health and casting off corruption in forfeiting erred ways. This function produces a better and wiser output. I’m just put out that I am mostly alone in this goal. They are corrupt in disunity. I wonder what my stay-at-home mother would say to my plight? As a nine year old at Marion Elementary School, I would sit down on a paint chipped bench, unwrap a once smooth, now smashed foiled Velveeta cheese sandwich, carrot sticks (hand peeled), and a Little Debbie Oatmeal cake and partake. Half way through the processed cheese, right when the blessed carton of milk is saving my life, I would choek the sandwich down stutter stepping and then slipping down my throat. At this time, someone most certainly would have a Wonder-ful day old pastry that was worthy of a trade or barter. Wanna trade you Hostess cupcake for my Little Debbie Oatmeal Wheel?” Nope.” See, my point exactly. Not much has changed in forty years. Not in Texas and not in Utah. Exchanging “Tradition” for “Truth” is a tough sell, especially for kids and yes, for grown ups too who should really know better. And like the children of our past selves, we don’t want to be brought down. We still like to lick the glorious cupcake cream center. With our tongue we pick off the sweet, crusted chocolate frosting, all in a curvacious row of cursive Es on top rather than hear about rules of health and what’s “best” for us. No. We don’t want rules or a health code. We want to be free and clear. Done with that! We wait poised and ready to run away. To play, play, play and play some more. In excess. Even if it’s not good for us all caught up in the good feeling. Problem is….this is a game we can’t afford to lose in a day when administrators are xraying and strategizing for even the slightest hint of cavities in children’s mouths. This thing in an attempt to find room for showing progress. This thing in an attempt to prevent dental carries in order to promise better test performance and salvage garbage points in dumping trays. With so much on their trays, teachers are beginning to ask, what is it that we truly need to loose in this munch line? And what are we gaining in all of this? We are chewing on so much here. In deciding what students need to learn and now what they need to eat, what do we keep and what do we get rid of? 🙂 And yes, this is also a test question. You can count on that.


About hrobertson2013

“Each man ( and mermaid) will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land”. Isa 32:2 NIV Warning: The author of this blog is not an ordinary individual. Even Mermaids need a rest from all that's real and grown up. Welcome to the wonder of blog. Come be audience to all that's wet and wild in her stories, poems and thoughts. Instructor by day, super hero by night, and mystical mermaid by summer. Whenever she has the fortune of diving into a pond, reservoir, or mountain waterfall, you'll find her there swimming, and singing songs of life.
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One Response to DO, or Don’t Loose Your Lunch?

  1. I have decided….I am a long distance writer in this commentary. It is a veritable marathon. bah!! Still needing Yoda and the “force” to learn more discipline toward a 300 word dash. Must parctice succinct sprinting. Who will hold the starting blocks? I am exhausted in this. Going back to bed.

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