August 2010 Edition - Radish Magazine

August 2010 Edition - Radish Magazine

eating well

Schooled lunches

Healthy brown-bag options need not be complicated

By Rachel Morey Flynn

winced a bit when my seven year old came home from the first day of first grade

I and reported to me that she told her teacher that she brings her lunch from

home every day because her mother loves her, wants her to be healthy, and will not

let her “eat the crap they serve at school.”

I ate with my daughter a few times the previous year. Lunch was her favorite

part of the day in kindergarten. To me it looked like about half of the children

were consuming a steady diet of white flour, ketchup and red dye No. 40. There

was a sizeable pile of shredded iceberg lettuce in the trash can. I presume it was

presented to fulfill the vegetable requirement. I asked around, and the kids confirmed

my observations. “We love pizza! We get to eat it every day!”

I joked with the teacher about how funny kindergarteners are and told her

the kids tried to convince me that they eat pizza every day. She solemnly nodded.

“They do. Some kids choose pizza every day.” If they want it, those kindergarteners

could have strawberry or chocolate flavored milk every day, too. You know, the

really good stuff with dye and high fructose corn syrup.

I realize that the food served to our children in school is a tender subject right

now. Change comes slowly where government is concerned, and while I maintain

faith that change is coming for children in the Midwest, I currently insist that my

own kids bring their lunches from home every day.

Starting out, I was obsessed with sending my children to school armed with

a rainbow of vegetables, two servings of whole grains and plenty of protein. My

coffee went cold while I cut tiny circles from a red pepper for the center of the

black-olive eyes to go on the brown rice shaped like a caterpillar. The creative

attempts at entertaining with food came back untouched. The kids came home

hungry. After 10 mornings, and countless “bento box” Google searches, I was feeling

like my creativity had fully run its course. I turned the empty lunch box over

to my daughter and asked, “What do you want for lunch, Ms. Picky?”

“Can I have a banana?” she asked. “Peanut butter and jelly, without the crust,

and brown milk?” That was the first day the lunchbox come home empty. I had to

humbly admit that she didn’t want variety. We used the sandwich, fruit, and milk

formula for the rest of the year. Could it be that young kids don’t expect their food

to be entertaining? Maybe that better explains the pizza and pink-milk phenomenon

I witnessed.

Homemade Peanut Butter

1 cup shelled roasted peanuts (look

for organic peanuts in the bulk

foods section of the grocery)


2 tablespoons safflower oil or another

light salad oil

1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)


I grudgingly shifted my focus from fashioning tiny bears out of various vegetables

to collecting ingredients for the world’s best PB&J. A peanut butter and

jelly sandwich made at home can still rise far above pizza out of a square box in

the same way any other food can. It’s all about the ingredients. Our take on PB&J

comes from the same train of thought: gluten-free bread, organic peanut butter,

organic jelly. I’m willing to bet the kid who eats my PB&J feels better at 2:30 in

the afternoon than the kid that had the white bread Wonder-ful version.

If you make a week’s worth of sandwiches on Sunday night, the kids can

pack their own lunch in the morning and you can finish your cup of coffee.

While that is a noble goal in itself, a greater good is being served. Teaching little

children how to be kind to their bodies with the food they eat is an important,

and it isn’t being done in school. If they are learning to eat well now, it’s likely

they’ll continue to do so throughout their lives. The thought makes their mother

very happy.

Put the nuts, oil, and salt (if using) into a blender or small food processor.

Puree until chunky or creamy (your choice). Transfer to a jar, seal and refrigerate

until ready to use. Makes about 1 cup. Source: Fresh Choices

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