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"He said the food was garbage," my husband told me.
Garbage, I asked? Garbage. Apparently he kept saying it, in front of the cafeteria lady. Over and over again, my husband reported. I asked why he would say something like that, especially to the lady he absolutely adored.
You see, they were trying to feed him Fruit Loops for afternoon snack.
Fruit Loops. To a class full of 4 and 5 year olds in Pre-K. (4 and 5 year olds that haven't been able to play outside for 4 days due to rainy weather and were about to be let loose to their parents in 30 minutes, but that's beside the point.)
Well, shit. He's right. It IS garbage.
You see, in our house, good food is a natural choice for him. My 5 year old loves veggies and fruits. He's not a fan of cupcakes, or cake. I had to bribe him to take bites of his own birthday cake just last weekend. We don't keep boxed food here at home. Meals consist of fresh veggies, meat and occasionally dessert of yogurt, fruit or graham crackers. We're not big on colored, sugar-filled cereals and the like. My son has an abnormal reaction to sugar and goes bananas. Not in a funny way, in a Mommy and Daddy want to go hide in the closet with a bottle of wine and let him swing from the rafters. He can't even have chocolate. That little smidge of caffiene will have him awake for HOURS past his bedtime. So, why would we punish ourselves and those around him by giving him stuff that makes him crazy?
I take full responsibility for him using the word garbage for that kind of food. I say it all the time. No, we don't need that garbage. It's garbage food. Honestly, I don't find it an issue. I want him to understand that not all food is equal. He already leans towards the good stuff, I see no reason to throw him off that track.
We sat down and talked about being respectful. This is already one of his "chores" and we talk about it every morning before school. I helped him understand that he hurt someone's feelings. If he encounters food at school that he doesn't like, or knows isn't good for him, we say "no thank you." We practiced a couple of times, and he seemed to understand what to say. I told him he had to apologize to the school cook the next day.
This is a bandage on the overall issue. Since he's only there for Pre-K, I don't see the point in fighting them on the school lunch and snack policies. Sure, I can make recommendations, but they're state funded. Which roughly translates to, they're required to choose certain foods from certain distributors. I'm sure there's many areas they can improve, but what I've seen so far, is just replacing really bad food with moderately bad food. Sending him with bagged lunches and snacks is not possible without a doctor's note. (Don't even ask. It's ridiculous.Why on earth they'd want to NOT save money on food costs doesn't make sense to me either.)
There's a good chance our new strategy is going to send my kid home starving. He's already on the skinny side. He mentioned the other day something about Dino nuggets. We don't do Dino nuggets here, so I'm sure he had it at school. When I asked he told me they have them for lunch. With Ranch dipping sauce. Let's not even talk what might be hidden in the "Beef-a-Roni" lunch. I'm reasonably sure no veggies were slipped in under the cover of meat, sauce and noodles. One day my husband picked up our son and they were making s'mores for the afternoon snack. I don't know about you, but I'm reasonably sure that's not a filling snack to hold kids over to dinner time. It will however, make them insane for the rest of the afternoon.
I realize they're young and they have lots of energy. But there's no reason NOT to start good food habits start now. With public schools all but eliminating recess, kids now more than ever need to learn that vegetables and fruit are awesome all on their lonesome. More sugar that they can't burn off does no one any favors in the classroom. Veggies don't need cheese sauce. They don't need to be coated in "butter" sauce. Fruit doesn't need to have added sugar and syrups. Meat doesn't need to be processed and coated with breading. My kid started out as a picky eater. Then when he realized that a) I wasn't trying to kill him with dinner and b) he wasn't getting anything else to eat; he started to eat. He's eaten raw fish sushi and loved it. He eats salmon, asks for shrimp and doesn't balk at steak night. And with all those foods... there's fresh or steamed veggies. He always eats those first, and almost always asks for more.
I know my kid might be the exception to the rule. Or he happened to start eating table foods around the same time I decided to get healthy. Either way, I love my kid's food habits. Even though he had to apologize for hurting someone's feelings, I'm damn proud of my kid. He knew what was good for him to eat. That day, despite the words he used, he still made me damn proud.