Is Your Child Eating Their School Lunch?
It can be difficult to know whether or not your child is getting what they need at school lunch, when they're on their own and responsible for themselves. How do you know they aren't tossing half of it into the garbage, trading half for a lollipop or just not eating at all?
The first week of school was pretty easy. Lunch boxes came home empty. Children smiled. The second week of school was a bit different, children expressing their opinions when I stuffed yet another hard-boiled egg into the bento box or complaining about the dried fruit of the moment, which happened to be mangoes.
Still, I pressed on. Finally, in the third week, the telltale kindergarten meltdown started. My third child, dressed in skirts, with her blonde hair pulled back into a slightly curled ponytail, returned home with her lunch uneaten, stuffed back into the box and undisturbed.
My heart sank knowing she had been hungry at school, and I was a bit irritated knowing that her lunch contained many items she ate regularly and happily and even some she had specifically requested.
At our school we are lucky enough to have a team of teachers and parents who assist in the lunch room, making sure that uneaten foods are placed back in the lunch box as proof of what your child did or did not eat. I find this to be invaluable when figuring out what my children prefer to have packed for school.
I'm sure if I didn't have this luxury, I could continue asking the questions I ask anyway of the children, what they enjoy eating for snack, what they might enjoy if there were nor restrictions, what they eat first and whether or not they're satisfactorily full after lunch and ready to head back to class.
The real test, however, is to visit school during lunchtime, which is encouraged and allowed at my children's elementary school, and to observe the lunchtime ritual myself, watching to see whether my daughter trades her macaroni and cheese for a cheese sandwich or whether my 7-year-old tries to find someone whose mom is nicer than me and packs the juice-filled fruit snacks he so desperately wants.
If you are worried about your child's lunchtime rituals and whether they're eating enough, eating too much or giving it all away, I'd suggest visiting their school during lunch, if possible. It's amazing what you'll find out when you do (perhaps they're too busy with their nose stuffed in a book to be bothered by something as trivial as lunch, or maybe they're feeling bullied at the table but it's gone unnoticed).
If you are unable to visit the lunchroom, take a proactive approach. Allow your child to have some control over what goes in their lunch box, either by picking from a group of items that you have set aside and packaged for lunches or by prepping them themselves if they are old enough. Note what comes home when they are packing their own lunch. Perhaps they are just running out of time to eat and need options that they can consume faster, like nutrient-packed smoothies instead of crunchy salads.
Do you know what your child eats for school lunch? How do you make sure they're getting what they need when you're not around to check up on them?