Guest blogger: Cost calculation of home lunches

Mrs. B from Indiana: I was reading your blog this morning, catching up from this past week, and it occurred to me that I had not done any recent calculations on the cost of meals in my home.  Figuring out the general cost of a meal is one way that I can keep track of our expenditures and make sure meals come within a certain price point.  I decided to focus on my daughter’s school lunches as I had been feeling inspired by your blog lately to stay firm against lunchables, excessive school lunches and certain other junky add-ins that are slipped into many kids sack lunches.  Here are some notes to accompany these meal plans:

1.  We are in the process of switching over to foods that are HFCS-free.  We’ve done a good job so far eliminating HFCS from our diets, but it’s not 100% gone.  I’m not sure that it ever will be.  It’s a lot of compromise — especially with items like cold breakfast cereal.  We are also switching our most consumed foods over to organic whenever possible.  This is mostly milk, yogurt, most produce, and some meats.  Organic eating is much easier in the spring & summer during the seasons of abundance.

2.  My husband and I generally allow our daughter (she just turned 6 and is in kindergarten) to eat school lunch one time per week and we pick this out together.  The school does something fun about once a month.  These are often part of the once-a-week school lunches.  These cost $2.35 each.  Her sack lunches are cheaper, often by quite a bit.

3.  We keep additional emergency money in her account at school so that if mom spaces and forgets to pack a drink, she can buy milk.  She does not like flavored milk.  We also keep the extra money in case something happens that prevents us from packing lunch for the next day — like illness.

4.  There are splurgy items in the packed lunches.  Not cookies or candy, but turkey bologna is in there and so are drink pouches (100% fruit juice, but still… they are not watered down).  Once in a blue moon we will even put fruit chew snacks in her sack lunch.  We try to alternate the foods; no sense in having a peanut butter sandwich 4 days a week!  I have NEVER packed any type of candy, soda, cakes, or cookies in her school lunch.  I have only packed Pringles 2 times; they were sent to her in a care package from grandma.  It’s not that we don’t ever have these things; we just limit their intake.

5.  My daughter is healthy.  She just had her check up and her doctor was pleased.  She grew in inches this past year, but did not gain any weight (actually lost a smidge).  She plays sports during the fall, winter and spring seasons; summer is reserved for traveling and family time and lots of time at the park near-by.  She loves fruits & veggies.  We went through the normal phase of parenting where she refused to try certain foods.  We stuck to our guns and here we are now — an adventurous eater who will actually give new foods an honest try.

So, here are 5 sample lunches.  Lunches 1-3 are more the standard.  Luches 4-5 happen if dinner was a smashing success.  We have a thermos we use for these.  I over-estimated the prices rather than under-estimated.  We always send water, too.

#1
2 slices WW bread (no HFCS) – 25 cents
3 T peanut butter (have not switched to organic yet) – 30 cents
1 low fat string cheese – 50 cents
100% juice drink pouch – 36 cents
8 grape tomatoes – 40 cents
Total cost: $1.81
 
#2
12 crackers (I get a type with no HFCS, but made with lots of whole grains) – 50 cents
2 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese – 50 cents
Homemade drink box with ½ water and ½ fruit juice – 20 cents
Banana or apple, her choice – 25 cents
6-8 baby cut carrots (organic) – 25 cents
1 T homemade ranch dip (made with low- or non-fat sour cream) – 5 cents
Total cost: $1.25

 

#3
2 slices WW bread (no HFCS) – 25 cents
1 slice turkey bologna – 10 cents
1 slice sharp cheddar cheese (sandwich size) – 30 cents
½ cup vanilla yogurt (organic) – 50 cents
¼ cup frozen blackberries (they are thawed by lunchtime) – 32 cents
Tomato juice (about 6 oz in a reusable drink box) – 20 cents
Cucumber slices – 25 cents
Total cost: $1.92

#4 

1 generous cup of leftover homemade potato soup (potatoes, a bit of onion & garlic, homemade or organic chicken broth, half-n-half cream or milk with sour cream, small amount of both shredded cheddar cheese and turkey bacon) – 75 cents
Homemade drink box with ½ water and ½ fruit juice – 20 cents
1 banana – 25 cents
8 grape tomatoes – 40 cents
Total cost: $1.60
 #5
1 cup of spaghetti and sauce (noodles are whole wheat blend; sauce is homemade) – 50 cents
Homemade drink box with ½ water and ½ fruit juice – 25 cents
½ cup blueberry yogurt (organic) – 50 cents
6-8 baby cut carrots (organic) – 25 cents
1 T homemade ranch dip (made with low- or non-fat sour cream) – 5 cents
Total cost: $1.55

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45 Responses to Guest blogger: Cost calculation of home lunches

  1. theemptykitchen May 19, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

    i did a similar breakdown on my blog after i wrote the lunchables post. it's really eye opening when you see the cost of school lunches in the numbers! thanks for taking the time to do a really thorough cost breakdown.

    also, arnold's lite bread (actually, i think most of the arnold's line) has no hfcs. it's really tasty bread, too and not ridiculously expensive.

  2. Skittl1321 May 19, 2010 at 12:49 pm #

    Those lunches look fantastic! You should be commended.

    I was rarely allowed to buy lunch when I was in school- my Mom packed it from Kindergarten through 12th grade. I didn't get quite the variety or healthfulness, though they were definetly healthier (and IMO yummier) than the school lunches. I usually had a juice box but often brought milk from home as it was a crap shoot when the school would have the covetted blue cartons of milk- blue meant skim milk! Usually it was 2% white or chocolate, that might have been skim, but I don't like chocolate milk (still).

    I hope this post inspires other parents- the cost of packing lunch is very low, though still MUCH higher than what a student on reduced lunch would pay.

  3. Anonymous May 19, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

    My daughter will be starting kindergarten this fall. Her school has an option of "catered lunch". However, I will be packing lunches most days. I was glad to see some things that I had not thought of to include! ALSO – where do I get a reusable juice box? Making my own would be much cheaper than buying them!
    I would love to have more ideas for healthy lunches for young kids. Variety is key & I will run out of ideas! Please feel free to email them to me: brandisfreecycle@yahoo.com
    Please put something like "lunch ideas" in the topic so I don't just delete it as junk! THANKS!

  4. Tricia Geisenburg May 19, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

    As a student who received free lunches from the school, at a school where something like 40% of the student body received free or reduced lunch, I would like to say that the cost of packing a lunch was considered quite high in my home and community. All of those meals are just under two dollars a day, which seems quite pricey to me. I think packing a lunch is a great alternative, but it's incredibly hard to do in a low-income family.

  5. Anonymous May 19, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    Do we really need a guest blogger every day? I appreciate diversity, but this is just getting ridiculous.

  6. kcmom2four May 19, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    I love the lunch ideas…sometimes I feel like I send the same things everyday for my kids(not that they complain) and I always love new, simple ideas that they'll eat. I too have a question for you…what do you use to send drinks in. I have tried a variety of things and have had lots of problems with leaky containers.

  7. Megan May 19, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

    I pack my lunch most days for work and save tons of money compared to my co-workers who go out or eat in my company's cafeteria, which runs around $4-$7 for a meal. I usually bring a sweet potato, Stonyfield farms yogurt, some sort of salty snack (chips or peanuts), whole fruit or carrot sticks, and if it's a night when I won't be eating until late I'll add a granola bar. I'd estimate that this probably costs around $3, with the yogurt being the most expensive item.

    I used to bring sandwiches and have lost a few pounds since I started bringing sweet potatoes instead. I try to eat the food throughout the day instead of all at once. I do eat out probably about once a week, if I'm too busy in the morning to pack (although it only takes about 3 mins) or we're celebrating someone's birthday or I didn't have time to go to the grocery store.

    It's really mind-boggling comparing this to what my some of my colleagues are eating — they are spending probably $60-$100 more than me every month and complain that they struggle making ends meet. They are all worried about their weight, yet they're consuming salads with lots of cheeses, meats and fattening dressings with HFCS, fried foods, red meat and vegetables that are overcooked or prepared in unhealthy ways. This isn't to say that my diet or spending habits are perfect, but I see the workday lunch, much like school lunch, as an area where a little planning can save money and be healthier.

  8. Melissa May 19, 2010 at 2:03 pm #

    @Anonymous: You can find Rubbermaid Litterless Juice Boxes at Amazon.com. Check your local big box store for reuseable drink containers, too. My son had a great Spiderman drink container with that gel in the sides–freeze the cup overnight and the drink stays cold until lunch. Reuseablebags.com is another good source for lunch boxes, cups and containers.

  9. Anonymous May 19, 2010 at 2:07 pm #

    My daughter is 11 and my son is 6 – we always make lunches together every night. They tell me when they get home what they liked and what did not taste so good (or soggy) hours later when they finally get to eat it. my daughter had a field trip so her lunch consisted of Hot dog bun (whole grain) with mustard, shredded spinach and deli turkey, Fresh Apple,rasins and a mix of 6 grape tomatoes – snow peas – a couple slices of red bell pepper (plus water.)

    My Son did not have a field trip and he is not allergic to milk so his differs from time to time. He had turkey roll ups (low fat sting cheese cut into peices wraped in turkey held with tooth pick,) veggie mix (grape tomatoes, snow peas, red bell pepper.) rasins, bananna and water.

    I find it easier and cheaper (plus my kids learn how to eat healthy, learn to make good food.) I think we are what we eat – we hardly ever get sick. neither child ever misses one day of school (even my 11 year old who is in the 4th grade.) I never posted before i just thought I could bring more ideas to the table.

  10. heather May 19, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

    Just an option on the cereal thing: we use a brand sometimes called "Mom's Best Naturals". They sell it at both Walmart and Kroger in the Atlanta area. It's around $2/box and has no HFCS, artificial colors/flavors, or trans fats.

    The company is run on wind power, and they have some fun stuff. The four varieties we have here are frosted mini-wheats, honey nut Os, honey bunches of oats, and mallow-oats (lucky charms). They're add quite tasty, and such a great value!

  11. Suzette May 19, 2010 at 3:26 pm #

    No offense but I think that you are setting your child up for being obsessed with sweets and other snack foods later in life. By not letting your child ever have those items she will surely eat as much as she can later in life when you are not there to dictate what she eats.

    I would love to see what would happen if you allowed her to pack her own lunch (when she obviously gets old enough if she is too young). You should give that a try and see if she sticks to your ridiculous regimen of counted out vegetables.

  12. Shannon May 19, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    I've made ours for the last several years as well. Neither of my kids are picky in the least, but they won't eat the typical school lunches posted. They prefer real food, fresh fruits & veggies, and easily identifiable items. We lucked out that their schools only provided a special day lunch (like pizza) and required daily packed lunches. Next year, they will have an option to buy daily, but it simply won't happen. It's cheaper, easier and healthier for me to send it from home.

    Anonymous@8:14am, feel free to check out my blog http://bentolunch.blogspot.com It's 3 years and counting of what my kids take for lunch & snacks at school.

  13. Shannon May 19, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    Oh, and for HFCS-free bread, we purchase Nature's Own, mostly whole wheat or honey wheat, and my kids now really like the sandwich rounds in lieu of buns when we cook hamburgers at home.

  14. Anonymous May 19, 2010 at 3:59 pm #

    It's good to see healthy sides packed in your child's lunches. IMO, a cookie/dessert can *really* make a kid's day (when they're not consumed regularly)… I like to pack one on test days, or if my son is having a rough morning. They don't have to be junk either. There are lots of healthy cookie recipes out there…

    Two healthy and less expensive alternatives are making bread at home, and growing your own fruits and veggies… I make two loaves of bread every two weeks (mainly for two children's lunches. Mom and Dad don't really eat it), so it's not a very time consuming task since our family is small. I'm fortunate enough to live in an area I can garden year round, so there are almost always foods from the garden in my boy's lunches.

  15. MJS May 19, 2010 at 4:31 pm #

    brandisfreecycle, you can buy reusable drink boxes in the kitchen section of any large discount store (Walmart, Target, Kmart, etc). They will be with either the drink bottles or the reusable food storage containers. If they come w/a detachable straw and you see straw replacements in stock, I would recommend you buy several packs. The boxes last forever but the straws not so much and you may not be able to find them when they are lost or wear out.

    Keep in mind that in most districts one reason school lunch costs more is that full pay students help subsidize free/reduced students. That is one reason why they worry about cutting out kid faves like hot dogs & pizza – if full payees drop out because they don't like the more healthy meals, it costs the school more to provide meals for free/reduced kids. I sometimes feel guilty for sending my kids' lunches because I know it makes it harder for my district to budget for the healthier foods since we have a majority of free/reduced kids enrolled.

  16. MJS May 19, 2010 at 4:56 pm #

    @Suzette, pretty sure the veggies were counted for the benefit of readers here as part of the cost calculation. Although my son insists he is not physically capable of eating more than 3 baby carrots in one sitting so who knows! ;-P

    I have 2 kids who enjoy eating the occasional junky food but both display maturity and self-control when presented with options because we've taught them about nutrition and how their food choices can affect their health. I have one who for the most part could care less about eating "junk food" (dark chocolate is her downfall) and another who really enjoys it but interestingly, IMO, effectively self-limits how much is eaten.

    Personally, I think moderation is a healthy approach but I also feel it's important and appropriate for parents to establish limits and expose their children to new experiences (food, media, independence) when they feel their child has reached the appropriate level of maturity to make wise decisions.

  17. COB May 19, 2010 at 5:19 pm #

    I love your blog and your guests. They are all so varied. I am very passionate about food and am trying to get my young family off processed foods while still managing to work full time. I would like to invite you to my own very young blog:
    http://www.thetableofpromise.blogspot.com
    I would love any comments you had!

  18. Kathryn Grace May 19, 2010 at 5:30 pm #

    Those lunches look kid-friendly delicious! Wholesome to boot. Children love good food. We train them to prefer sweets. When I was growing up, we could afford fresh fruits and vegetables only in season. The rest of the year, we had mostly home-canned and preserved on the table. All winter long, I craved things that crunched and spit juice.

    Thankfully, we almost always had carrots, potatoes and cabbage. My sibs and I would hover around Mom like little birds with our mouths open, waiting for a chunk or two, while she chopped and diced.

    I notice some folks commented above on veggies vs sweets. We limited sweets in our house while our children were growing up as well, and always had plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables for them to nibble. Sure, they ran for the cookie jar and the bread drawer at Grandma's ("White bread! Yum!"), and they had plenty of other opportunities to eat sweets at school–birthday parties, treat days, and of course, sugar packed vending machines in high school. But they grew up to be healthy, strong women who know the difference between foods that fuel their bodies while tasting good, and foods that give them headaches and make them feel bloated. Now they're raising their own children to respect their bodies and teaching them to love delicious whole foods that nourish.

    It takes time to plan and prepare lunches the way you do. It takes a heap of time to track the cost of every food item and break it down to cents per lunch item. Thank you for taking that time. Very informative. I hope you can spare an hour today to give yourself a break!

  19. Renee May 19, 2010 at 5:49 pm #

    I pack my daughter's lunches, and they always contain a cookie or treat. In fact, my daughter has been allowed to self-regulate her consumption of sweets to a certain degree, and at 9 is quite aware that she has to balance her sweets with healthy food. She now does this on her own. I agree with Suzette above –you are setting your daughter up for unhealthy eating when she finally gets to control her own food.

    There were some experiments run a while back with kids, where they put kids in a room with lots of fun toys and lots of fun treats. Kids who had strict restrictions on sweets at home spent their time wolfing down as many sweets as they could. Kids who had been allowed to choose to eat sweets at home ate a few sweets and then wandered away to play with the toys. Being too strict with food can seriously backfire on you.

    I'm happy to see my daughter often leave dessert half eaten because she's full and would rather move on to some other activity. She knows sweets are generally available, so she doesn't feel the need to hoard them.

  20. JGold May 19, 2010 at 5:59 pm #

    Kashi has many types of cold cereals, among other tasty products (no I am not a paid representative, just a satisfied customer). None of them have HFCS. I particularly like the "Heart to Heart" variety which is like heart-shaped Cheerio's.

    @ Suzette: I really don't think Mrs. B is doing her child a disservice by not providing cookies with lunch, and I really don't think her child will rebel and go on a cookie binge. She didn't say she never allows treats, just that they're not part of daily lunch. I didn't get the sense that the daughter feels a sense of deprivation. I think if allowed to pack her own lunch, she would likely go for what is normal for her anyway, which would not include junk food. I think she'll be just fine.

  21. Samantha May 19, 2010 at 6:10 pm #

    I like the daily guest blog posts – they are really diverse and I like the different opinions and topics!

    I agree that in many low-income neighborhoods, just under two dollars per day for each child is a lot for families. I grew up in a household where we definitely could not afford that. Free school lunch was the only way my sister and I were able to eat lunch at school. But maybe $1.60-1.80 per cold lunch serves as a good alternative for families that qualify for reduced lunch.

    And I think maybe the guest blogger specified the number of veggies and such in order to make it easier to determine the cost or so that readers would have an idea as to quantity. She also mentioned that her daughter gets treats, such as pringles every now and then. Sounds good to me.

  22. Anonymous May 19, 2010 at 6:26 pm #

    Suzette, I don't think your post is quite accurate. I know that in my own family, I grew up eating lots of fruits and vegetables as side dishes and snacks, with sweets and snack foods as an occasional treat. We were pretty poor when I was a kid, and my mom carefully planned each meal and spent a little extra time in the kitchen. I'm much the same, now, and manage to eat very healthy foods for $20-30 a week.

    My sister, who is much much younger than me, was raised on things like fruit snacks and doritos. My mom stopped cooking, and because my parents made more money later in life, they started filling the cupboards with packaged, pre-made snack foods. My sister is an adult now too, and she lives off of pre-made snack foods, frozen foods, and cookies- though she is perfectly capable of cooking.

    I think that the attitudes we teach children about food will stick with them their entire lives. Perhaps if Mrs. B totally forbid all junk food, her daughter might have issues later in life. But it sounds like she teaches her to eat what is healthy, and to save snacks (like the Pringles) for an occasional treat. I think that perspective will follow her throughout her life.

  23. Anonymous May 19, 2010 at 7:44 pm #

    I'm sorry but your daughter is in kindergarten and she LOST weight? Is this a good thing for a 6 year old girl?

  24. Anonymous May 19, 2010 at 7:59 pm #

    @ MJS

    Students who pay full price are not subsidizing the cost of students who receive free/reduced meals. Schools that meet the requirements to participate in the National School Lunch Program get subsidies from the USDA based on how many meals they serve. The amount of money schools receive is also based on if the meals they served were full priced or free/reduced. So parents who send lunch for their children do not affect the lunches/prices of school lunches. A major factor of this is school funding, and unfortunately, many of the schools that need the funding the most are not getting it.

    Here is a link for more info about the National School Lunch Program:
    http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/lunch/aboutlunch/NSLPFactSheet.pdf

  25. Anonymous May 19, 2010 at 8:15 pm #

    While those are good healthy ideas for school lunches, am I the only one who wouldn't think it optimal for a kindergarten aged child to get taller but lose weight? Unless the child was overweight to begin with, I'd think that adding multiple inches in height would be a healthy time to add a pound or two, not lose.

  26. Philippa May 19, 2010 at 8:24 pm #

    @ Suzette:
    I don't think this is a "ridiculous regimen" at all. It's varied and healthy, and it's not that different from what my children take to school every day. My 9 year old daughter decided about a year ago that she would make all her own lunches, and usually, I am impressed with the choices she makes. There really is no need for candies in school lunches.

  27. Anonymous May 19, 2010 at 8:51 pm #

    I like reading an article from a guest blogger everyday. I enjoy all the different perspectives.

  28. Anonymous May 19, 2010 at 9:41 pm #

    Those meals sound a bit light in the nutrient/calorie area in black & white. Have you calculated their nutrient value compared to the recommended daily amounts? Don't know that would be enough for my kids who are either very skinny or right at the BMI mark for their body.

    School districts are required to meet minimal and maximum levels of nutrients as well as calories. Don't forget that school districts also have to pay the staff and that goes into the cost of the meal as well.

  29. Aimee May 19, 2010 at 9:58 pm #

    I love the guest bloggers – new perspectives on a variety of topics.

    I am a bit shocked by some of you and your attacking of the guest blogger. I think those lunches sound wonderful and very healthy. I don't think that a child needs a treat in their lunch everyday. IMO that gets the child used to eating something sweet everyday at lunch and sets them up to want that sweetness after every meal.
    As for the losing a bit of weight as long as the girl is healthy and in her normal range on the charts (and it sounds like she is) then there is no need for concern.

  30. Maggie May 19, 2010 at 10:30 pm #

    This doesn't respond to the guest post, but I noticed that some comments have been made about meal funding. I so wish I could find a link that clearly explains the process. I don't work directly with this aspect of the program so I hope I have this written clearly. Please contact your own school district if you have questions about funding.

    Basically, funding is provided on a reimbursement basis. The school meal programs don’t get the funds “up front”. That means that the school meal program must fulfill all the obligations and regulations – serving an eligible meal (following all regulations as to planning, serving sizes and foods, correctly following Offer vs serve, if used, and so on) to an eligible student (enrolled in the school, any free/reduced applications properly done and so on), plus other administrative functions (such as record keeping). Monthly, the claim for reimbursement is sent to the state (if the state also contributes some funds) and federal governments. Then, based on the number of meals served, the reimbursement is paid.

    Commodity foods also help support the program.

    Even students who are "paid" are getting some government funding to lower the cost they pay. They are not supporting the reduced/free students. The actual cost of a school meal is probably somewhere around the cost of an adult meal, since there are no government funds paid to school food programs to support adult meals.

    I'm not sure of school funding laws in all states/areas. The school food service budget may be seperate from the general fund, with food service "paying back" the general fund for utilities, custodial services and such.

  31. Anonymous May 19, 2010 at 11:22 pm #

    I packed my own lunches from 3rd grade onward, and had a lot of fun doing it. My friends started to get on board too, and between us, we came up with some pretty creative lunches:

    Once a week, I'd mix up a large can of tuna to make tuna salad, and would store it in the fridge in a tupperware. I'd scoop out a few spoonfuls into a smaller tupperware and bring tuna and crackers for a main dish a few days each week

    Crackers along with slices of cheese and meat was a great alternative to lunchables

    Leftover shredded chicken was piled onto a bun along with some barbecue sauce (there are some amazing recipes out there for homemade barbecue sauce, and it practically cooks itself). Wrap it very tightly in a few layers of foil to keep its shape. (Toasting sandwich bread is another great trick I learned to keep the bread from getting too soggy by lunchtime)

    Dill pickles in ziplock bags were a huge favorite, as were things like dried fruits or nuts, or even a baggie of popcorn if we made some the night before

    For creative desserts, crackers spread with peanut butter and sprinkled with a light shake of cake sprinkles was always a colorful treat from time to time.

    Cucumbers sliced into rounds and topped with a squeeze of lemon juice are one of the most amazing snacks ever

    All of this was usually brought alongside fresh fruit, sliced veggies, etc. I also had a very small sports bottle that I filled with water (I couldn't stand the 1/2 and 1/2 juicy water–it wasn't fooling anyone, in my opinion. I'd rather have all or nothing)

    PARENTS–A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: stop putting whole bananas in your kids' lunches. By lunchtime, they turn a horrific shade of brown, and everything else in the lunch bag miraculously tastes like banana. Slice them in put them in a tupperware if you must.

    Also, I personally like the guest bloggers. I check the blog a couple of times a day, and it gives me something to read while I wait for Mrs Q to post the daily disaster. :p

  32. Anonymous May 20, 2010 at 12:53 am #

    Here is a link to the CDC's weight for age chart for girls. http://www.cdc.gov/growthcharts/data/set3/chart%2004.pdf
    Girls who are in kindergarten should gain some weight as well as height.

  33. Debby May 20, 2010 at 1:30 am #

    I don't think a 6 year old losing a little bit of weight is a big deal. I have an almost 4 year old and she's only gained a couple of lbs this year. As kids get older they gain less and less, and some don't gain for a while. She might have gained and then started a sport or something and lost it again. We as internet readers don't know EVERYTHING that has gone on with her daughter's weight. Either way, it's not a big deal. Should she lose ten lbs, that might be a big deal but all in all, kids can eat healthfully and eat enough and not always be gaining weight.

  34. MJS May 20, 2010 at 1:38 am #

    Maggie & Anonymous, I was repeating what we parents were told by our school district's head of finance. He said they get reimbursed a set amount per meal for free & reduced lunch students. According to him, if the cost of the meal increases, the reimbursement per individual meal for FRL students does not increase. We were also told that although we could move to more expensive cuts of meat and locally grown organic produce, the additional cost would be passed on to the students. Some of the changes we looked at increased the cost of the food by about $0.60 per lunch but the cost of full pay lunches by closer to $1 because our high proportion of FRL participants meant full pay students had to pick up more than $0.60 per day in order to offset additional expenses to FRL students. We were told that if there was any drop in participation rates by full pay students, it would be difficult to maintain costs for the remaining students due to lost revenue. It was asserted that higher participation across the district is essential for containing costs. Sadly, given other interactions w/the man in question, it would not surprise me if he mislead us but this was the info he gave in a presentation to concerned parents.

  35. Anonymous May 20, 2010 at 1:40 am #

    I have never heard that it is healthy for a child to lose weight at 6, unless they are grossly overweight. I am not trying to attack but that is concerning.

    @anonymous 1:26 – you said "My sister, who is much much younger than me, was raised on things like fruit snacks and doritos. "

    Your sister was RAISED on things like that, not treated to occasionally. That is the difference. Do I think Doritos should be an every day part of a child's nutritional intake, no! But an occasional 1/2 serving or 1 cookie/scoop of vanilla ice cream a week surely isn't going to cause anyone to grow up eating processed junk food all of their lives.

  36. Scattered Mom May 20, 2010 at 1:46 am #

    I once had a friend whose mom never packed her anything sweet and really limited treats. I didn't know when we were kids, but she told me later that she used to break into the neighbor's house just so she could eat their froot loops. (!!!)

    My son's lunch has always included a home made cookie, brownie, or muffin. We don't really eat dessert and so it was the little bright spot of his day at school, and I know he looked forward to them. When I was older I'd pack a few extra so he could share with a friend.

    I don't think that packing sweets sets kids up to want dessert after every meal. I'm a big believer in moderation-treats weren't off limits in our house, but there was a limit to how much he could have per day, and where it was consumed. Treats in lunch meant none at home, and vice versa.

    Nowadays he's 14, 5'10 and a beanpole..and he eats healthier than any teen I know.

  37. Maggie May 20, 2010 at 11:23 am #

    MJS – Oh, I see what you are saying now. I didn't know the whole story about what you were saying before.

    If the cost of the meals would exceed what the school gets in reibursements, yes, then the money does need to come from somewhere. In the case of your district, it sounds like it would come from raising meal prices.

    Not many districts have the budget these days to take money from other programs to help support the meal programs. It would probably be a hard sell to say "well, we can have larger class sizes, or cut program XYZ if you want to improve the meals". I sure wish too the meals were the important part!

  38. Anonymous May 20, 2010 at 12:51 pm #

    A bit disturbed that you were pleased that your 6 year old daughter did not gain weight!

  39. Anonymous May 20, 2010 at 4:36 pm #

    Thanks for proving a point I've made for years. Even healthy and organic lunches are very inexpensive for parents to provide. There is absolutely no reason, in our welfare- and food stamp-driven country, that our schools should provide free and reduced-price lunches. Any parent can dig up $2 a day to feed their child. They just have to stop wasting money on convenience foods, cable, expensive clothes, cell phones, etc.

  40. pennermag May 20, 2010 at 4:38 pm #

    I have no idea whey so many people think that good parenting leads to bingeing later. . . . My mother severely limited sweets when I was a child (no cereal, candy, soda, etc.), and when I grew up, I did not binge on them or crave them really. To this day, I can not abide sweets (especially as they get sweeter and sweeter). I think when we give our kids all this juice and stuff, it alters their palette. I urge parents to limit sweets/junk. It pays off later. While my friends can't seem to stop eating junk (and we're in our late 30's), I don't have similar problems.

  41. Floorplanner May 20, 2010 at 5:51 pm #

    What pennermag said.

    As a kid I only had sweets as a treat – holidays and birthdays – and while I like them fine now as a middle-aged adult I don't crave them or even keep them in the house. When I was a kid there was always an open container of carrot sticks in the fridge and if I wanted to munch something that's what I went for, that or an apple or grapes.

    Actively teaching a kid that sweets are just treats and *not* part of the day-to-day diet is responsible parenting. I'm very glad my mom didn't provide sugary crap to me on a daily basis; who knows what my health would be like now.

  42. Anonymous May 20, 2010 at 11:33 pm #

    Costco sells organic peanut butter with no HFCS. It's tasty and quite cost efficient too.

  43. Mana May 21, 2010 at 12:57 am #

    I'm usually a lurker, but I felt like adding to this conversation! There have been a lot of interesting comments – and some that I highly agree with. I'm not a mother, myself, but I do remember what I had when I was growing up.

    I was raised on "If you can find it, you can eat it" philosophy. I ate school lunches, I didn't have any nutritional knowledge, and I was a very obese child. However, my mother was not obese, nor was my brother. It was just me that had the issue. I was even given pop once a week as a treat – not a 20oz, but a 2-liter.

    When I was in High School, it was almost worse. There were pop machines everywhere and ala carte, which I ate almost every day. We also didn't have any healthy classes required. When I got into Junior College, that's when I learned about the things that many people are discussing here.

    From the comments I've seen, what I really wish my mom would have done is helped me pack my lunch. The lunches that the blogger provided sound very good! And some of the comments about helping a child prepare their lunches sound like an awesome idea, as well!

    Sadly, it IS the trend lately that parents do not help their children learn about what to eat, what's bad, and, most importantly, *moderation*. I'm helping my little niece learn about that, as my brother did grow up in the same household as me and his views on nutrition are a little bit similar.

    I totally got off on a tangent there in my comment, and it doesn't entirely relate to the post. Ah! Sorry about that!

  44. Stephanie May 21, 2010 at 1:56 am #

    Just had to laugh and put my two cents in- "organic lunches are very inexpensive … Any parent can dig up $2 a day to feed their child. They just have to stop wasting money on convenience foods, cable, expensive clothes, cell phones, etc. " I don't buy convenience foods, cable, cell phone, clothes for myself at all, etc. My son gets free lunches at school, and we do use food stamps. I do not have two dollars a day to feed my child one (IMO gross) school lunch, but it's free so that's what he gets. Organic and the fancy foods are quite pricey- $2 for the whole day is pushing it. My youngest is lactose and soy intolerant. That means almond milk, $3 for a small carton; one package of rice cheese is $3.50. He eats a lot of fruit- try fresh blueberries at 4.4 oz only $3 on sale! Organic strawberries are better, one pound for $4. He would eat the whole package in a day if I would let him. I could easily make a smoothie and push the $2 mark. His favorite meal is sushi; even making it at home still requires nori, rice vinegar, cucumber, meat, sushi rice, etc. I am so thankful when he does eat a complete meal. I'd hate to think how high our grocery bill would be if I did buy all organic, free-range, etc.

    I buy one tv dinner for each boy once a month and ready made sushi once or twice. They have the expensive snack bars (Kashi, et al) and fruit leathers for road trips. Otherwise it is me making everything. Egg rolls, wontons, ravioli, taco seasoning, tamales, chicken broth, fried chicken, birthday cakes, pancake mix.

    On another note, some people just have a sweet tooth. I not overly fond of sweets but my dad and youngest son seem to crave sugar. DS was never given many sweets (his first birthday cake was carrot with applesauce), but he will ask for them and sneak them at every chance. I think it has something to do with their metabolism or his ADHD. Rail thin, they are.

    PS Love reading this blog, guest writers and all!

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