What I wish I'd known about the school lunch menu before school started

What I wish I'd known about the school lunch menu before school started
image from Chicago Tribune

I worked hard to get my tween's first few days of junior high off to a great start. I was Ms. Back to School, covering everything from decorating lockers to walking her schedule to make sure she knew where she was going. I tried to cover all the bases, including having weeks worth of lunch supplies stocked and ready to go for an easily packed nutritious lunch. I also loaded a fair amount of money on to her school lunch account via website.

After the first day, she asked if she could buy lunch the next day. I said sure. Then she wanted to buy again. We agreed that she could purchase lunch twice a week and pack the other three days.

Little did I know that the kid would manage to spend nearly $12 in those first two days of buying lunch.

Izze at $1.50 each? Sure!izze_sparkling_juice

Pop Tart? Why not? My mom never, ever buys those.

Cookie? Yes, please!

Chips? Sounds good!

And apparently she had no idea how much any of this cost. Or she thought some items were included in the standard lunch, which she also purchased.

I never completely understood those moms who were crusading against unhealthy food in the school cafeteria.  I apologize, ladies. You were absolutely right, and I wish you had had taken up the issue in our school district. I'm real close to putting on a sandwich board (pun intended) and launching a one-woman protest.

What in the world does a pop tart do for a kid's brain? Nothing.

So why sell them? I have no idea.

If I had it to do over again, I would have done some things differently regarding the school lunch menu.

  • I would have spent some time with my tween figuring out how the school cafeteria works, what is on the school lunch menu and the multiple options, as well as how much items cost. I had no idea how radically different the junior high cafeteria is from that of her elementary school in the same district. We were both woefully unprepared.
  • I would have reviewed possible options with my tween and told her what was absolutely not allowed.
  • I would not have loaded so much money on to her account (silly me, thinking I'd found a way to cross something off my to do list for a few months. The money I put on there would have barely lasted the kid 2 weeks at that pace.)
  • I would have checked her online account after the first lunch she purchased, and not the second. But really, I'm just relieved that I checked at all. I shudder to think if I had let it go a few more weeks.

My tween will be packing her lunch for the foreseeable future, which means both healthy food and a chance at paying the mortgage. Seriously, kid, it's either college or Pop Tarts and no, I absolutely do not know which you'd rather have that this moment.

I hope that parents can learn from my failings and move school lunch up a bit higher than I did on the list of back to school topics to cover.

You can read what I actually did do for Back to School, including safety tips, advice from teachers, and healthy after school snacks, here.

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Filed under: Food & Nutrition

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