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The Lunch Police

Ninety-seven per cent of the time, I pack my son’s lunch for school.
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I try to balance it out; a juice box; a salami or bologna or turkey sandwich on wheat; maybe a cheese stick or pickle. I’ll include carrot sticks, or grapes, or sliced apples or non-sweetened apple sauce, if I’m in a hurry. Usually, I’ll throw in something I know he likes, but maybe isn’t the healthiest part of the meal: chips, a pudding cup, or possibly a brownie. I always thought that making his lunch would be better than hoping he wouldn’t pick pizza every day, if left to his own devices in the lunch room. Now, as if parents didn’t have enough on their proverbial (lunch) plates, we must now defend our choices to the Lunch Police.

Granted, this is not a wide-spread situation. It’s actually just North Carolina, where all pre-Kindergarten programs require lunches to be checked to see if they meet USDA standards for a “healthy lunch.” I guess I should be grateful that Daniel is no longer pre-Kindergarten and that we live in Arizona, where his lunch won’t be uncerimoniously examined–but he may be asked for his citizenship papers…But I digress…

Evidentially, a young girl in North Carolina was told, after inspection, that her lunch was lacking in some nutrtional value and that she would need to eat the lunch provided by the school, instead. Her mother, the obviously irresponsible and inattentive parent she must be, had the audacity to pack her child a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, apple juice and potato chips.  These items clearly constituted a subpar lunch, and the child was instead given…chicken nuggets?  To add insult to injury, the mother received a bill from the school, to pay for the world’s most salutary chicken nuggets.  Were they made out of vegetables?

Now, from my vantage point, there are several things wrong with this whole scenerio.  While I understand the school’s obligation to provide children with healthy foods, I don’t believe it is their place to inspect the foods sent from home and replace them with some sort of substitution.  While this may be the case in North Carolina, I believe this is unquestionably another case of getting the school/government involved in areas where parents need to just raise their kids.  Sure, we’re parents.  We make mistakes.  Maybe we send our kids to school without jackets when it’s cold outside; do I need someone at school, waiting in the wings to throw a wrap on my kid and send me the bill?  If I choose to send my four year old to school with Pixie Stix and Coke for lunch and my child truly has issues with learning, or disrupting the class, or bouncing off the walls, then call me and make me accountable, then and there.  Don’t embarrass the child by replacing the lunch the parent sent and have the four year old question my choices.  Isn’t parenting children difficult enough that we don’t need someone to step in and plant seeds of doubt in our youngsters?  They question us enough in their teen years; I don’t need any assistance from the upstart Lunch Police fanning the flames.

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Also, who are these Lunch Police?  Who pays them to scrutinize the contents of pre-schoolers lunches?  I’ll bet my non-nutritious-banana that these folks are paid by the tax payers–moms and dads, just like us.  I am certain that these funds could be put to better use than to have the gestapo patrolling the lunchrooms of four year olds; how about more finger paint and Play Doh?

Lastly, let’s just slow our roll, folks, as my kids would say.  I, for one, grew up on white bread, pickle and pimento loaf, Hostess Ding Dongs and Mountain Dew.  I don’t think I ever saw a piece of fruit until I was in my teens and when I did, someone had to explain what it was to me.  My childhood consisted of ice cream with Magic Shell and cookies for good measure, macaroni and cheese (baked, which is much more nutritionally sound), and Cup ‘O Noodles.  While I may not be the picture of good health, at 45, I don’t take any medication and have never had any real health problems–knock on the lunch table.  I have grown to love foods that when I was a child, I never would have even looked at, let alone tried.  I know that I feed my kids as best on I can on the budget I have and give them what I know won’t go to waste.  If someone wants to step in and feed them differently, they can be my guest, as long as they are willing to help them with their homework, buy the clothes they wear and quintessencially take over all my parenting duties.  Call me when the decisions are all made, please.

With this all off my chest, I would like to apologize to my mom, for throwing her under the bus for feeding me Ding Dongs and Steak ‘Ems.  Thank God we lived in Virginia, Mom, because North Carolina wouldn’t have known what to do with us…

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