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The Skinny on Why Our Kids Are Fat

I have always packed school lunches. I am not the best cook, so lunches are where my culinary excellence shows – dinosaur cut sandwiches, rosette strawberries, little melon balls.  I’m the Wolfgang Puck of the lunchbox set.

In September, we sent Eilis to public school for the first time.  In January, we sent Granuaile.  The schools have real cafeterias, not Burger King one day and Papa John’s the next – this is real, government regulated food.  So it’s better for them, right?  Michelle Obama wouldn’t let the school serve unhealthy lunches, would she?

Oh – and did I tell you this part?  Because my husband is disabled, we qualify for reduced price lunches.  The cost to feed my children lunch each day?  80 cents.  For both.

But wait, there’s more!

Granuaile’s school began a breakfast program!  This is a busy mom’s dream, right?  The kids can sleep in an extra 15 minutes, and I don’t have to scramble to get breakfast ready.  Bonus – Reduced price for breakfast?  40 cents.

I browse the menu each week when it comes out, and it looks like there are all sorts of healthy options.  There are salads, fruits, vegetables.  But the reality is that I’m not there when my kids go through the lunch line.  I hear the salads smell funky, or the vegetables taste bad.  And breakfast, where there are no options, feature things I’d never feed my kids.  Granuaile on Monday had PopTarts.  How is that healthy?  I’ll tell you the school answer – it’s a whole grain PopTart, and it has a serving of fruit inside.  Let’s just disregard the fact that the fruit is steeped in sugar and the whole grain is frosted.

And gym class – remember that?  I do, because as a fat kid, I hated it.  And one reason I hated it so much is that it was an every day thing.  EVERY DAY!!  Granuaile has PE once a week, and they don’t even ask them to dress in PE clothes – they just take them outside to play.  Eilis has it once a week, and the class time is so brief, I’m not even sure why they bother to make them change.

I’ve ranted on kids meals before.  Why, when you go to McDonald’s, is there no kids sized salad?  Because kids don’t want them, McDonald’s won’t sell them, and parents (especially in cash strapped times) are going to opt for the $1 double cheeseburger over the $4 healthy option.

We put televisions and computers in our kids’ rooms, expecting them to use them for homework or occasional entertainment, but when was the last time you saw a game on your street of kick ball or street hockey?  I don’t mean something organized by the school – I mean just random kids playing a game outside.  It doesn’t happen in my neighborhood.  We bought out kids a basketball net, and it was stolen out of our driveway.  I went through the neighborhood to see if I could find it, then convinced myself that it was a conspiracy of neighborhood families to steal it because my kids were outside, laughing, playing and having fun.  I’m pretty sure that’s not legal anymore.  It was a message to get my kids back where they belong – in front of an XBox game or on Club Penguin!

Commercials aimed at children don’t pitch fresh fruit and vegetables.  They pitch the things kids love and moms love to hate.  But I buy them.  You buy them.  How can you look at those tiny, pleading faces and walk past the ice cream aisle or the cookie display?  And places like Costco and Sam’s Club allow us to buy three boxes of cookies at one time – cheaper!

Did you know that less than 10% of parents seek treatment for their child’s obesity?  Why is that?  Do we not want to acknowledge our kids are fat?  Do we not want the doctor to point fingers at us?  Do we think it’s going to go away?

Time to step up, Moms and Dads.  If it’s too late to help ourselves, we have to do something to help our kids.

I think I’m going to go pack a school lunch.


As The Stomach Turns…

You may remembering me mentioning my first strike towards being nominated mother of the year came early in this school year, when on the second day of school, Granuaile told her first grade teacher that I didn’t feed her anything, and the teacher took pity on her and allowed the child to enjoy taco day with the rest of the lunch buyers at school.

After lengthy conversations, we agreed to allow Granuaile to buy the school lunch, which she found much more preferable over the Mommy Packed Lunch.  I reminded her to make healthy choices, always choose a fruit for her tray, and indulge no more than once each week in chocolate milk.

We sent in our first payment of $60, which, based on a five day per week school week and lunch at $2.75 per day, should have lasted us into October.

Imagine our surprise when just about two weeks later, we got a bill saying we owed money to the cafeteria service.  What?  If the child has burned through a month’s worth of lunch money in two weeks, shouldn’t we be rolling her through the front door?  Would the kid not be ripping the seat out of her gym shorts?

We figured we miscalculated, but we called the cafeteria service.  No answer.  So another check for $60 was written.  Now we’re good at least until the first of November.  Or so we thought.

Yesterday, we got a bill saying we were more than $10 in a hole with the cafeteria service.  $10?  So, not only has the child eaten her way through the $120 we’ve sent in less than a month, but she’s eaten $10 over it?  Is there a surf and turf option for lunch we’re not aware of?  Do they serve peanut butter and caviar sandwiches?  How do we get the same ban on foie gras here that they have in California, because they must be serving it during Granuaile’s lunch period!

Finally, Jim got a lunch lady on the phone today.  Granuaile, it seems, has loads of money in her LUNCH account, but she is woefully under funded in her SNACK account.  Apparently, the school separates the funds, and you as the parent have to authorize money for snacks.  Which we didn’t.  Because I send a snack in with her every day.

Either we will be bankrupt by the end of the first semester, or our child will weigh 600 pounds.  Whichever comes first, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

Yeah, That’s the Ticket – the Lunch Ticket

A long time ago, in a land far, far away, a kindergarten teacher told me that it makes no sense to have children younger than about third grade buy their lunches at school.  Lunch time is but a fleeting moment, a mere glimmer in the middle of the school day.  Because younger children tend to eat more slowly, by the time they get in line, purchase a lunch, and find their tables, they barely have a moment to eat before the period is over.

It was with that somewhat cautionary tale in my mind that I made the decision to pack lunches for my kids.  All of them.  Even Brighid, through high school, preferred taking a packed lunch than buying lunch at school.

So yesterday, I was a bit surprised to hear that Granuaile had tacos for lunch.  Tacos?  I distinctly remember the child requesting peanut butter and jelly, and I vaguely recall myself honoring that request by making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I also packed fruit, cold water, some panda cookies, and a bag of Sun Chips.  But no, I definitely don’t remember packing tacos.

So how did the child get tacos for lunch?

Why, because the teacher gave her a ticket.  A ticket?  Yes.  It’s a ticket.  The teacher gives it to you for free, and then you take it to the cafeteria, and the lunch lady gives you tacos.  For free.

Do I need to be more diligent in reading the information the school sent home regarding the lunch program?  Free, you say?  I’m certain I read “$2.75 a day”.  What is this “free” ticket the child obtained?

The young one continues.

“Yeah, so, I ate tacos.”

And I say to the small scam artist, “And what is the stain on your shirt?”

“Oh, that’s chocolate milk.”

“But I didn’t pack you chocolate milk.”

“No, but when I got my tacos, they had them in the line, so I took one.  Oh, and they had French toast sticks, so I took one of them, too.”

Hmmm.  And what about the full lunch box?

“Oh, when I went up to get my free lunch ticket, the teacher asked me what was in my lunch box.  I told her you don’t pack me any lunch.  So she gave me a free ticket.  And I had tacos.  And chocolate milk.  And French toast sticks.  One.”

So, yeah, I do look like the crappy mom who on the second day of first grade opts to starve her child to within inches of death?  Or do I send a note into the teacher to ask her to be more diligent in checking Granuaile’s lunch box so that I look like the mother of a budding con artist?

Oh the choices we must make…