Renee Mihulka – Children's Book Reviews & Writer

Stop the lunch box shaming

lunch-box-200762_1280As soon as the Kindergarten teacher appears at the door, her eyes searching, I know someone’s in for a talking to. I’m relieved when her eyes slide over me, but grimace when they lock on my friend Amy and we both tense as she begins to wend her way towards us.

“Just wanted to make you aware that apricot-slice is a sweet treat better left for after kinda,” she says. She’s smiling and her voice is light, but there is no mistaking how serious she is.

“It’s homemade and it was only a small piece,” Amy’s expression is wooden, her words barely squeezing past her lips.

Awkwardness prickles the air. I look away. Another parent standing nearby, slinks off.

“Yes, well. Policy, you know,” the kinder teacher produces another thin smile and cocooned in her air or righteousness turns and leaves. No doubt off to find her next victim; probably a Mum who gave her kid a Marie biscuit.

“He also had a ham and salad sandwich, fruit and carrot sticks,” Amy whispers, her words tight.

“Forget about it. It’s crazy,” I whisper back.

And it is.

Completely bat-shit crazy that a forty-something mother of three healthy, in no way plump, children gets pulled up by a kinder teacher over some homemade apricot-bloody-slice.

Because is this what we have come to as a society? Fighting the obesity epidemic indiscriminately, one home-made, apricot-slice at a time?  Can you imagine our parents being accosted by a teacher about our jam donuts and plastic-wrapped cheese sandwiches on white, white bread? My Mum would have probably sent me to school the next day with a Nutella roll and a piece of chocolate cake the size of my head, just to make a point.

But what made Amy’s situation even more ironic was that just moments before she was telling me about the lunches kids were coming to school with at her recent bout of teaching rounds, in an outer suburbs school. Where she saw lunch boxes routinely filled with fairy bread, jam sandwiches, cold fish and chips, chocolate biscuits and cakes; and where apparently one kid would even show up with a lunchbox jammed only with five small packets of food – a vending machine of tiny teddies, shapes and LeSnacks.

Don’t get me wrong. The food we feed our kids is important. My husband and I try hard to make sure our kids have a balanced, healthy, lunchbox on most days, but seriously, some days who can be fagged? Some days the kids are lucky to get a chicken leg, some bendy bits of carrot and a museli bar – probably choc-chip. And that’s my point. Often when we make judgements about things like this it’s based on a very small sample size, or is usually an isolated incident.

Because maybe that kid has apricot slice in his lunchbox because he cleaned his room every day that week and his Mum wanted to give him a treat. Maybe the parent’s of the kid with the fish and chips had really late meetings, or someone was sick, or knowing how gross cold fish and chips are, plugged his lunch box with them to teach him a lesson?

explodingcakeIt seems to me that it does more harm than good to continually make judgements and shame people based on these isolated incidents and with incomplete information. Besides, I think the answer here lies more in setting up systems that make it easy for our kids to be well fed at school rather than tackling individuals, because making healthy lunch boxes every bloody day is hard. And boring. And time consuming. And quite frankly, if my kids could get a healthy meal at school, for a reasonable price, without me having to fill out forms every time, I would leap on it.

So how about we try to address the real problem with kids and lunch boxes and only speak to a parent, in private, when there is an actual problem. Because seriously people, we have bigger problems than homemade apricot-slice, don’t you think?

Come on comment, you know you wanna.

Book Reviews and Writer