The Futility of School Lunch Prep


Lunch: 2 pepperoni. One bite of sandwich. Half cup, juice, and 2 bites of apple.

Lunch: 2 pepperoni. One bite of sandwich. Half cup of juice, And 2 bites of apple.

I make my pre-kindergartener a beautiful, well-balanced lunch to go in his robot lunchbox. Every day. Seriously. This morning, the yumminess included a deli sandwich with German bologna, American cheese, and pepperoni, all on fresh panne bread. Plus, dried apricots, Trader Joe’s Cheesy Poofs, Blueberries, and fruit juice in his matching robot bottle.

Every day, I wonder why I bother.

My son is picky. And he’s probably so busy talking the ears off the kids around him, opining endlessly about super heroes, that there just isn’t time to eat lunch. He might eat the cheesy poofs. And drink the fruit juice. He might even pick the pepperoni out of his deli sandwich to snack on. But if I’m really honest with myself? I’m really not expecting that he will eat most of the food I provide him.

I used to do the same thing for the girls, when they brought lunches to school. Before I gave in to the much simpler choice of paying the school to provide nutritionally inferior school lunches. I would buy/prepare wholesome foods for my kids. Pack it lovingly into lunch boxes, sometimes with a note, because I suffer from that horrible sickness where I have to tell my kids EVEN IN THEIR LUNCH BOXES that I love them. And most of the food would return home, mushed up in the lunchboxes, uneaten. For two years, the middle child even renounced sandwiches altogether. I got creative. I made deli roll-ups. Pasta with chicken. I cooked hot dogs, and cut them up, mixing them with macaroni. I filled thermoses with hot foods every morning.

My efforts, for the most part, went sorely unappreciated. Over the years, I’ve thrown out so many room-temp yogurt containers, half-eaten applesauce cups, quality-made deli sandwiches, and one-bite apples that the starving children in China from my parents’ threats in the 1970s are still sending me hate mail back through time.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I am one of the following. Or quite possibly all of the following:

  1. An eternal optimist. Someday, he will hunger and discover that I make tasty lunches! And he will eat ALL of his lunch! And glory in the energy and power of his well-fed body! He will defy gravity with his bounds on the playground!
  2. A hypocrite. Maybe I’m just making these lunches as proof to the teachers that I really am a good mother. I might not brush his hair for a week or clean the dirt out of his too-long fingernails on a monthly basis, but I care about his nutrition!
  3. A bit of a masochist.

I’m already looking forward to next year, to Kindergarten! When I can begin sending my son to elementary school with lunch money so he can get the damn school lunch.

About Terry L. Holt

Writer. Mother. Goddess. President of the Save the Dandelions Club. Climber of trees.
This entry was posted in Best Of, Food, RANTS/TIRADES!. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Futility of School Lunch Prep

  1. Tom says:

    “…sometimes with a note, because I suffer from that horrible sickness where I have to tell my kids EVEN IN THEIR LUNCH BOXES that I love them.”

    Truly, you are History’s Second Greatest Monster.

    The Greatest Monster, of course, is my mom. When I was in college, I would come home for winter break. A few days before I left home to go back to college, my mom would write a long, loving letter and then post it so that when I arrived back on campus and went to check my mailbox, there would already be a letter from home in it.

  2. All three, definitely. Also, the safety of the leftovers should be fine – you don’t need to throw much of it out. Get the kids to engage with the leftovers as a learning opportunity. At least, that’s what we did.

  3. Rachel K-G says:

    Maybe pack him a healthy and delicious mini-lunch?

    When my kid was in elementary school, it was medically important that what I sent in her lunch match fairly closely what she actually ate. So she got pestered and reminded at school a bunch, but also there were a lot of half-sandwiches and quarter-apples and suchlike. She packs her own lunch now, at 13 years old, and a typical lunch would be half a peanut-butter sandwich, an apple, and a cup of milk.

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