Food Economics: A 10 Year Old's Guide To The Lunch Table Trade

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When I asked my son how he has been liking his new school, his first comment was “Just keep those mini muffins commin’, OK?”

“I take it you like your lunch period,” I remarked.  He responded in a linty of food economic terms that had me floored. He went on to tell me of the value and worth of specific food items as the lunch table trade was alive and well.

“A half peanut butter sandwich depends on who you are trading with, but tends to have low value…  maybe a bag of chips, but not much.  Nutter butters have a pretty high value to most traders. They tend to be worth a full ice cream token.  Toasted pumpkin seeds, which tend to be addictive to a true fan, are worth two chicken nuggets at the cafeteria.  Mini muffins have some of the highest value on the market, currently trading for a Bosco cheese bread stick.”

He must have noticed the look of shock and awe on my face so he began to assure me that his fruit has the lowest trading value on the market therefore he always eats it, never trading.  I looked at him cross-eyed, skeptical of his remark. “Well, a kid said he would pay me a $1.00 for my multi fruit apple sauce, but that isn’t until next week.”

“Ah.  I see.” I replied.

We moved from a school where lunch exchanging was frowned upon.  My son refers to it as a poor economy for food trading,  “You  had to be secretive about it, using distraction methods on the lunch ladies, so you wouldn’t get in trouble with the principle.  It put a real damper on the trading market… you could get very little going… it was like the great depression.”

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I should have known something was up the day he came home to report how much he loved lightly salted toasted pumpkin seeds.  No one in the house has ever been a fan of the pumpkin seed so I was surprised to hear of his detailed description of a food item we did not have in the pantry.  Upon further investigation, I unearthed that he received a sample from a friend, and he found himself hooked.  He wanted more and begged me to make them.

I jumped at the opportunity he presented to me to give him a “health” food he actually liked.  I found myself shopping around, toasting seeds. salting them to taste and giving him the final product… feeling like I had finally achieved a level of good parenting I had been striving for.

A week of bagging pumpkin seeds and finding evidence that they had all been eaten, I began to reveal in sense of success.  Then on a walk, he confided in me that he had flooded the market at the lunch table.  At one time there was only one student who brought in the seeds, trading them at a premium to other kids, including my son.  Then as I baked, salted and packaged to encourage a “healthy” new lifestyle, I had in fact become part of the hyper deflation of the seeds themselves.

With the prevalence of the seeds at the table, kids became bored with them quickly and their value dropped significantly.

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As I review this food economy and my obvious effect on my child’s success as a tradesman at the table, I realize that diversity is key.  Just like a good retirement fund, the portfolio needs to be diversified to gain traction, keep interest and hold its value.  The same is true for the lunch table trade economy.  If I continue to pack the muffins, as I have been requested to do so, I will flood the market and the exclusivity of the product will be diluted, loosing its value.

What my child has taught me is that a boring lunch hinders his ability to be participating member of the lunch table trade agreements.  He is learning the importance of good economic choices.  Changing things up and making products more desirable due to their lack of availability.   He is gaining knowledge I could never teach him.  He is, in fact, teaching me.

So, with that being said, I may continue to bake more mini muffins, along with a mix of other “healthy-ish” items which may gain his interest and diversify his desires to eat other peoples food.




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