On the list of concerns that fray parents’ nerves, food issues have to be at the top.
Can’t get little Ethan to touch the fresh organic kale that you spent a fortune on at Whole Foods? What to do? If only he would try it, he would love it! It’s so good for him! (And yeah, you will totally get bonus points when you tell your mom friends that your kid eats kale!) Maybe your situation is more dire. You may be the parent of a picky eater or worse, a non eater (I’ve been there). These parents spend countless hours tormented that little Olivia cannot possibly thrive by eating only grapes and crackers and two or three bites of dinner.
The baby/toddler years are easy-peasy, however, compared to the school years. First, you must make the most critical decision you have had to make since you decided on that whole circumcision thing: bag lunch from home or school lunch? Many parents assume they are doing the right thing by sending their child off with a bag lunch prepared at home. After all, most of us have not so fond memories of the mystery meats of our long ago cafeteria days. Of course, we know that most schools have made huge strides in improving both the taste and nutrition value of the meals they offer, but nobody can prepare your child’s meal with the same love that you do – right? In the past, the biggest issue facing parents who went the bagged lunch route was the sneaking suspicion that the less popular items in said lunch would likely be thrown away or traded on the playground black market. Now parents have a new fear – the school administrator.
Last month, a North Carolina girl had her packed lunch taken away by a school official who felt that the meal, consisting of a turkey and cheese sandwich, juice, a banana and chips did not meet the required USDA nutritional standards put in place by the Department of Health and Human Services. The school administrator replaced the packed lunch with a cafeteria lunch consisting of….chicken nuggets. (I kid you not). The best part? The school sent the child’s mother a bill for the meal.
Nobody will disagree that children require a healthy and nutritious diet in order to succeed and reach their full potential. The fact is most parents are striving to do their best. Whether due to our rushed lives or a child’s own food predilection, kids aren’t always going to consume the most nutritionally optimal meal, however. There was a time when my nine-year-old would only eat bagels for lunch. So guess what I sent her to school with? I cringe to think about her packed lunch being taken away and replaced with a lunch prepared by the school. Just brand “Bad Mother” on my forehead and get it over with. For what it is worth, my nine-year-old is now a college student. She’s still a picky eater, but seems to have suffered no long lasting negative effects from her diet.
Who decides what a proper diet for a child is? Should this decision fall to the parents or should society, bureaucrats and administrators all weigh in too?