I ventured into the cafeteria with my two 4th grade girls today. I had every intention of walking through the line and buying lunch. Unfortunately, I recently decided to go dairy-free because I’m lactose intolerant and all of the entrees offered – French bread (breakfast for lunch), artisan flatbread sandwich, bean and cheese burrito, and turkey and cheese sandwiches – were off limits for me. The entrée of choice was definitely the breakfast for lunch entrée.
While I had heard complaints from my girls about the lack of time to eat lunch, I was happy to observe that they do indeed get 20 minutes for lunch. They have recess before lunch, which is wonderful, but I can see that herding the kids in from the playground can certainly cause a delay in getting to the cafeteria. The lunch line moved pretty swiftly, giving my one daughter who bought lunch ample time to eat.
There were a few different fruit and vegetable choices on the lunch line. Celery sticks and cherry tomatoes, orange slices, and canned fruit cocktail. I was a bit dismayed to see how popular the canned fruit was. I was even more dismayed to see how many kids exited the line without any of these options on their plates. Was it the choices that were available today? Was it a general distaste for fruits and vegetables?
When I joined my girls and their friends at the lunch table, I asked about their favorite items on the lunch line. Breakfast for lunch, bean burritos, Asian beef with fried rice, and the baked potato bar were the winners. When I asked about the fruit and vegetable options, the cucumbers won the majority of the vote. While the school does offer a variety of fresh fruit options, ensuring the fruit is ripe seems to be the challenge.
I won’t make judgments based on what I saw in the cafeteria this one day. I know I need to go into the cafeteria many more times to really understand what is offered. And I need to continue watching what the kids are choosing and talk to them about what their favorite foods are. The challenge will be understanding how much autonomy our one school cafeteria has about the kinds of fruits and vegetables that are offered. Do we have an opportunity to match the fruit and vegetable options with the desires of the students that can result in more food going into those precious growing bodies?