School Lunches Are Gross But I Make My Kids Eat Them Anyway

School lunchUgh. School lunches. The drumbeat to make them healthier for our kids is growing increasingly louder. For example, Sarah Wu is a Chicago public school teacher who wrote a blog under the pseudonym Ms. Q. and recorded all the repulsive cafeteria meals she consumed, alongside her students, for a year. She's just written a book about it called Fed Up With Lunch.

And while I completely support the effort (who among us will stand up and fight for less healthy food for our kids?), what I feel when I read stories about horrifying processed chicken nuggets and nutritionally void tater tots our kids are served each day is, yes, disgust, but less righteous indignation than guilt.


Lots and lots of guilt: Because my kids eat school lunches every single day. And truth be told, I kind of don't even want to know what's on those styrofoam plates.

In my leafy Brooklyn neighborhood, where writers and artists have displaced generations of cops and firemen, most mothers send their kids to school with hand-packed lunches consisting of last night's shrimp risotto and sauteed Swiss chard, even as their kids beg to eat school lunch on pizza day.

Meanwhile, my kids (who go to school in a more economically challenged neighborhood) are scarfing down rubbery hot dogs in soggy buns (or whatever the latex-gloved ladies are serving up that day) and leaving the overcooked mixed vegetables (the beans indiscernible from the carrots) untouched on their plates.

I do it because it's convenient. I do it because it's free. (Yes, if your kids attend a school with a low average family income, there is such thing as a free lunch; it just might be all but inedible.) I do it because I don't know how to make shrimp risotto or to saute Swiss chard and there are only so many days a kid wants to eat a peanut butter sandwich.

I also do it partly because I want my kids to be one of the crowd: At their extremely diverse elementary school, the kids are united in their disdain of the rubbery hot dogs they consume together; I'm guessing it's the Swiss chard kids who feel left out.

But mostly, I do it because I'm lazy. Hand my kid a free lunch, and I'll take a pass on loading up his lunch box. It's one less thing on my to-do list. Even if it does mean my kids are eating mystery meats at midday. (Or worse, passing them up and going hungry.)

Does that make me a rotten mother? Do you let your kids eat school lunches? And if so, do you do it guiltily or with pride?


Image via Ben+Sam/Flickr

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