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

back to school, elementary school, food, kid health, kids nutrition, school lunch


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corri... corrinacs

You gotta do what you gotta do.  At least they are getting fed.  Coming from a family where I was given "free lunch" for the same reasons, I was happy that I at least ate.  I hope that its feasible for our schools to bring in better foods for our children, because those that get the most benefit would be the children WHO NEED IT!

Perhaps luckily (or unluckily) my son will never know what a school lunch tastes like.  He's got so many food allergies that I have to make his food daily.  It was a way to force our family to eat better.  I am just greatful that I've worked my way up so that we aren't in a position where this is too difficult on us.

Melis... Melissa042807

There is nothing wrong with using the free lunch program. It helps a lot of families. What's wrong is that those kids are stuck eating nutritionally void garbage. 

Tracey Plummer

I made my daughter's lunches all last year (kinder), and at the beginning of this year I gave her a choice. Mommy can make your lunch or you can eat at school. Six weeks in and so far she hasn't taken her lunch to school one time. While I wouldn't want to eat that junk every day, I feel like it's just one little place where she can have some control, so I'm letting her make the decision. Works for us.

nonmember avatar me

I let my daughter eat the preschool meals because I was a single mom and wouldn't have been able to afford lunches. But I'm in a better place now, so she gets packed lunches. she won't even eat the school lunches, they are disgusting.

nonmember avatar Shelly

You kind of sound like an idiot. So your lazy. Using a system you don't need to. (I'm assuming you CAN afford to pack a lunch.)Hate the food,, who cares? Mom of the year!

missn... missnickia

Do what ever you want for your babies. Who gives a flying rats ass what others have to say. If I want to send my kid to school with pringles

missn... missnickia

Pringles and soda pop with a garbage bag full of candy I can. Why its my flipping kid?

bookw... bookworm326

You have 2 kids? And you can't manage in your busy freelance schedule to make a couple lunches after dinner. I work more than 40 hours a week. Everyday I make a healthy lunch for my husband, my children and myself. It isn't difficult. Some cut up veggies and fruit, some cut up grilled chicken and cheese and a cookie and juice box. I do all the prep over the weekend. My kids NEVER go hungry because food is inedible. Plus you using that system takes away the money for families who really can't feed their kids lunch which means kids get worse foods because the school can't afford anything else. Get of your lazy and self-righteous rear end and make your kids a decent lunch. 


I'm may be one of the few- but I loved out school lunches- as a student and a teacher!

missn... missnickia

Hey bookworm do you know that you have to qualify for free or reduced lunch! From reading what you wrote apparently you don't. Just because you think someone is self righteous and lazy does not mean they are. So how about this STOP BEING A JUDGMENTAL WITCH AND GET OFF YOUR HIGH HORSE YOU DON'T KNOW SQUAT ABOUT THE OP. UNTIL YOU WALK A MILE IN HER SHOES SHUT THE FRUCK UP.

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