We’re a fortnight into the school year and I’m already tired of the pressure to provide a healthy, environmentally conscious, organic, attractive lunch which my kids won’t eat because, well, it sucks.
If you’re a parent of school aged kids or pre-schoolers, you’ll know exactly what nude food is – it’s the difference between life and the scalding judgement of the Lunchbox Police. Gone are the days of wrapping a Sunnycrust white bread Vegemite sandwich in enough cling wrap to, well, keep it fresh until the lunch bell rings, and chucking in an Uncle Toby’s muesli bar, an apple, and a juice popper (or a flask of raspberry cordial as I had in primary school) into a brown paper bag.
These days, your Bento Box must be an Instagram-worthy work of art, containing not a scrap of plastic wrap, or a single store bought treat. Kids are not allowed to throw out any form of rubbish at school (some don’t even have bins for crying out loud!), so the school can virtue signal about how so environmentally conscious they are. Except they’re not.
LISTEN: Andrew Daddo still makes his teen’s lunches. Is it endearing, or a parenting fail? He discusses with Holy Wainwright, on our podcast for imperfect parents. Post continues after audio.
It’s all very well to have no rubbish at school, but unless the little compartments (sized perfectly for like, three almonds) in your kid’s lunchbox are filled with only home grown produce, there is rubbish going somewhere. The bag those three almonds came in? The wrapper from the bag of Shapes you emptied into the container? Unfortunately, the environment doesn’t care whether the rubbish gets chucked out at home or at school; it all ends up in the same place.
Also, can those reusable plastic containers really be considered to be environmentally friendly when most kids lose at least three a week, resulting in you just replacing cling wrap on your shopping list with more containers? For kids, those containers are just as disposable as any ziplock baggie, and while I’m no environmental scientist, I imagine they probably take quite some time to break down.
And while we’re here, we need to talk about the freshness of the food because those containers simply do not keep a sandwich fresh, or held together. Seriously, what kid goes to school with a bloody Dagwood big enough to be squeezed together by one? You could fit four Vegemite sangers on toast-slice bread in one and still have it surrounded by enough air to be stale by recess.
Being conscious of our health and the health of the planet is really important, but it has turned into something of an obsession amongst parents and schools, and obsession is the opposite of healthy. While I’d love for my kids to joyfully sit down to a big plate of steamed veggies, or a school lunchbox of carrot and celery sticks, it just isn’t going to happen.
And I’m not going to make a big deal of it because making a big deal about food can and does lead to disordered eating, not to mention bullying (yes, if you tell your kids that eating certain foods will make them fat, they will say the same thing to other children).
We (including schools) should be more focused on making sure our kids have tummies full enough for learning and playing, and less on how green it feels and how many Insta likes that #nofilter #organic lunch will get.
So, contrary to the current lunchbox trends, I’m going to send them with what I know they’ll eat: a sandwich (on nutritionally devoid white bread, possibly containing tomato sauce as its main ingredient) kept fresh with cling wrap, some packaged, highly processed (but probably won’t kill them) snack that comes in a box of ten, some sort of rubbery dairy-based object, and one of the like, three fruits they actually eat.
Feel free to pin this for later.
LISTEN: The school holidays are officially over and we’re trading in our beach towels for tea towels. If you need a kick up the butt this year, we’re bringing you the ultimate back-to-school bootcamp.
Too much noise and not enough time?