My daughter goes to a wonderful school. The school district itself is considered the best in San Diego. The neighborhood is equally impressive. An average home costs a million dollars. It’s the land of Range Rovers and Volvo SUVs. You would expect school lunches to be good, or at least, adequate. But that’s only wishful thinking.
Last month we had the Parent-Student Lunch. We, the parents, could bring any kind of food to our kids. I asked my little girl what she wanted. She insisted on the cafeteria food. She always goes to school with a packed lunch. Buying lunch at school was a big deal. I agreed, especially hearing of all the changes in the last few years. Healthier lunches, more variety, no more soda options.
I can’t believe what I found. Kids had three options: bean burrito, cheese pizza, or hot dog. There was a salad bar section with mostly green tomatoes and strawberries drenched in a sugar syrup. For a drink, she could choose milk, chocolate milk, water, or juice. There was a high-tech hand scanner. No cash or tickets necessary. Kids put their palms on the scanner machine, and they are given their lunch, later to be paid by their parents.
Dear reader, please know that I’m not some weird food freak. Ok, maybe just a little. I will, however, indulge in a hot dog every so often. I occasionally eat Oreo cookies, Doritos, even pork rinds. It’s sometimes food, though. You should only eat those foods every so often. Not every day.
Problems with school lunches
Even before I tasted it, I knew it was disgusting. The lettuce was old, turning brown. The bean burrito… let’s just say that the inside looked like something that comes out of you not goes into you. The tomatoes had no flavor. I didn’t even get the strawberries. The best thing on my plate was the pre-packaged chocolate milk. Scratch all nutritional value. But it looks pretty, doesn’t it?
Can someone please explain to me how this is acceptable? I would rather pay for a decent meal than for the technology to implement the palm-paying machine. So bureaucratic, no? Who cares what you eat as long as you pay.
How can we feed this to our kids and have them think that this is a treat? Food is one of the few pleasures in life that we can truly enjoy and get instant gratification. Food is expensive. You can taste and smell spices and seasonings that, although foreign, can introduce you to a world different than your own. The best part is that you don’t need a plane ticket. Food brings people together. Fights end at the dinner table.
Have we gotten so removed from eating real food that we don’t remember what it’s like to eat it? In a land where a Burger King meal is less expensive than a 6-ounce piece of raw chicken breast, have our taste buds warped? In our ever evolving world, I will admit that it is likely. Are we, as parents, that ignorant to what our children are eating? Or do we simply not care?
I will blame my upbringing for my reaction. I was privileged to authentic, all home-cooked, never frozen, never thawed out food. Nothing came out of a jar or a can. And then there’s my grandfather. He was a farmer. I still remember vividly the look on his face as he picked his apples. How can we disrespect our farmers by mistreating their labor of love?
Children are innocent, good, delightful, and lovable. We should treat them as such. Feeding them crap on a plate teaches them that that is what they deserve. And frankly, over my dead body!