Your Child’s Lunch Makes Me Feel Inferior

by Sally on August 28, 2014

Bri Lunch Collage

Ever been gripped with insecurity after seeing photos of stunning packed lunches on Pinterest or Facebook?

I have.

I mean, c’mon. Look at these lunches. They are things of beauty!

They were all packed by my friend and fellow blogger Bri from Red, Round, or Green. She often posts photos on Facebook of the lunches she assembles for her kids. My first thought when seeing her photos is usually, I wish Bri packed MY lunch.

No doubt your social media feeds are filled right now with lunchbox photos. Lunchbox recipes. Lunchbox game plans. And you may hear a quiet (or loud) voice telling you that your value as a mother is in direct correlation with how beautiful or well-balanced your child’s lunchbox is–or even worse, that you may as well hang it up because your child eats the school lunch.

This is a plea: Shush those voices.

I’m not going to rail against moms who cut sandwiches into shapes. I’m not going to rant about how we existed just fine on Hostess snack cakes and bologna so why do our kids need organic sorghum and beet greens? I’ve read those posts, and while they’re good for a guilty-pleasure chuckle, they’re not really fair. Who am I to disparage anyone who spends time packing a gorgeous and nutritious lunch?

These parents aren’t creating amazing lunchboxes to make you feel bad about yourself. They enjoy it. Their kids enjoy it. And they have some awfully good ideas–like frozen raspberries, never thought of that! (By the way, Bri also swears that her lunches only look pretty because of the Lunchbots containers she uses, but I think she’s selling herself short.)

When you see these photos and ideas, take them for what they are: ideas. Maybe some of them are realistic for you, maybe they’re not. Maybe they’re things your kids would like, maybe they’re not. Maybe there are foods your children (like mine) will happily eat at home but won’t authorize for their lunchboxes. That’s okay too.

So go ahead. Pack a sandwich and an apple. Or a thermos of leftover spaghetti. Or a themed “Frozen” bento with a rendering of Elsa made entirely out of hard-boiled eggs and chives. Or put money in your kid’s account for a month of school lunches. Whatever works for you and your child. Because wanting a nutritious lunch for your kids is a good thing, but agonizing over some notion of lunchbox perfection is not.

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Change Camp Food!

You may be in back-to-school mode, but if you were unhappy with the snacks or meals your child received at summer camp this year, now is the time to speak up. Why now? Because camps are sending out end-of-summer evaluations and surveys–and there’s plenty of time to look at parent feedback and make improvements for next summer.

This summer, I posted a sample email you could cut, paste, customize, and send to camp directors about junk food snacks (access it here). Turns out, Melanie of Cultivate Wellness found my post while searching for a way to express her displeasure about the food her daughter was getting at camp. She used it as a template to send a letter to the camp director. When she told me, I asked if I could post it here as another great resource for you:

Dear [Camp Director],

My daughter  is really enjoying her fifth year at [name of camp]. The smiles and stories she has every day when she comes home are priceless! Thank you for making it such a success!!!

She has filled me in on the food items provided at the overnight as well as the picnic lunch from last week. From what I understand it was Doritos with cheese and meat and “camp cones” (marshmallows, ice cream cones and chocolate) for the lunch, and when I picked her up from the overnight for a sporting event, she was eating Pop-Tarts, Froot Loops and chocolate chip pancakes. With the childhood diabetes and obesity rates rising higher and higher, I am wondering if you would be willing to consider some different items in the future. In fact, on the welcome flyer sent home with my daughter, one of your areas of focus is Healthy Living: Improving the nation’s health and well-being.

I am not opposed to treats, in fact, we incorporate treats into our lives at home in moderation. However, the overwhelming amount of sugar and trans-fats and processed food provided at the camp meals is concerning to me (and probably many other parents as well).

Bananas, air popped pop­corn and clemen­tines are per­fect exam­ples of inex­pen­sive foods that would help sat­isfy kids’ hunger, fuel them for camp, and ben­e­fit their bod­ies. For breakfast, might I suggest limiting it to just one of the sugary items and supplementing with scrambled eggs to provide some healthy protein. For the cookout, even grass fed local hot dogs with whole wheat buns, or even the Walking Tacos made with plain tortilla chips would be a better choice.

Perhaps I’m the only mom to have spo­ken up, but I am quite sure that with the health crisis our country is experiencing (where this generation of children is the first in centuries to be expected not to live longer than their parents did) that there are many other parents who are equally as con­cerned about junk food in their kids’ diets–and would be happy to know that the [name of camp] is help­ing by pro­vid­ing healthy snacks. And even if the parents aren’t clued in to the dangers of eating excessive amounts of sugar, trans fats and processed foods, I think you could do a real service in helping kids and families learn about healthy eating.

I know that the you care about our kids and want the best for them. Return­ing campers might miss all the processed food at first, but I think they would for­get about them quickly and grow to love and appre­ci­ate the healthy offer­ings just as much. My daughter mentioned that she was trying to figure out what was the healthier option at breakfast — the Froot Loops or the Frosted Flakes. It would be great for kids to go to camp knowing they don’t even have to think about that kind of thing.

Please consider this in the long run. I would be happy to work with you on choosing items that work for your budget and storage needs. Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I really do appreciate all your hard work.

Sin­cerely,

Melanie

Though she hasn’t heard back from the camp yet, Melanie sent a similar one to another camp director and got this response.

Hello Melanie,

I’m glad to hear you daughter enjoyed camp! We like to see campers having fun and learning new things.

I appreciate your feedback on snacks. It’s something we’ve long struggled with because of our budget constraints and sheer volume of campers we host. We’re currently working towards offering more healthy options in upcoming camps. Thanks again for your feedback!

Bottom line: Camp food doesn’t have to be all junk. Camp directors need to hear from parents. Parents CAN make a difference.

For more about camp food, read Camp Snacks: The Sequel and Changing Camp Snacks For The Better.

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