Thank you to everyone who congratulated me on the book! After I pushed “publish” yesterday, I sat here staring at my computer…lost in thought. Then today an article on CNN.com (with a really cute quiz) went up and wheeeeee. It’s official: I have lost the ability to concentrate.
I picked my son up from daycare and while driving home, he said, “I want moogis!(music)” So I turned on the radio. It was U2, my favorite band – I love Bono. Cue a smallish teary episode. I’m a such a sap!
Exposure like that brings wonderful things, but also some criticism. If you stop to read some of the comments on that CNN article (all 1,000 of them), so many people support reform. But some people don’t believe that schools should be paying for school lunches at all and that people should start packing lunches for their own kids.
In the past, I’ve blogged about how my own dad felt similarly. Today I got the following email from a reader:
I understand that the public schools are providing low nutrition food to the school children. But hasn’t it crossed your mind that the parents of these children can pack lunches for their children? If parents collectively make their kids pack their lunches, then the school cafeteria will not have any “customers.” Stop complaining, just do!
[…]Americans think they are entitled to good nutritious food in the free public school they send their kids to. “I am a tax paying citizen, my kids deserved nutritious food!” If you expect other people to teach (babysit actually, in certain parts of the nation) and feed your child, what else is your role as a parent?? You are only a landlord.
When someone suggests parents “just pack,” they assume there is healthy food in the house, the parents have some idea about nutrition, and they have the time. In our country, 43.6 million Americans live in poverty. How many of them are children? By chance, have you ever read the statistics on alcoholism? Not pretty. Some 14 million Americans are addicted to alcohol or abuse alcohol. One in seven Americans is on foodstamps. How many of them are parents just trying to get by?
I think about the financial struggles of the parents of my students. Moms and dads working night jobs, factory jobs, two jobs… Packing lunch? They’re trying to find time and money to grab dinner and breakfast.
I pack for my son at daycare and you know what? It’s a commitment. I have to wake up early to assemble his lunch and sometimes even cook before work (fun!). This morning my son woke up when I did, which meant I didn’t have that chunk of alone time to work quietly in the kitchen. So it was a big challenge to get both his breakfast and his lunch together, even with my husband’s support. Mornings are nuts around here.
The School Nutrition Association was interviewed for the CNN article and I wasn’t surprised by their comments. Yep, I’m pretty sure they hate me. But you know what? We actually share the same goals: kids eating well at school! We know that packed lunches often are nowhere near as healthy was what they could get in school. And frankly, the school needs the money from the lunch program.
I got a lot of touching comments over the past twenty-four hours. Oh great, I’m getting verklempt again… But this one stands out in light of the “just pack” email:
As a child, I ate free or reduced price lunch meals throughout K-12. In college I had enough left over money from financial aid and loans to support a very bare-bones diet typical of many college students. Now, finally in the real world, I discover that I have no idea how to shop for real groceries or how to cook a healthy meal. One recipe called for lentils, and I had to Google what they were. I didn’t realize til I was 23 that I hadn’t been eating real food my entire life. I hope changes to school lunch menus can address this kind of problem. Us poor kids really aren’t getting real food any other way.
Thank you. Thank you so much. It’s the kids like you who inspired me in the first place.
(Tomorrow I’ll have the regular “lunch wrap-up” with the pics of my packed lunches and my son’s — Have I said it before? I’m really liking eating my own lunches!)