Packing a Lunch Presents a Challenge
By Era Sundar
The Austin school district serves nearly 54,000 school lunches daily. Still, many students choose to bring their own lunches. And after more than a month of school, some families are already fighting off the lunchroom blues.
Third graders Zoe Rabinowitz and Ben Farrugia are pretty clear about what they like and don’t like.
“We used to do cold grill cheese sandwiches. It tastes good when it’s hot, but then cold, soggy things are not that good,” Zoe said.
“I like to eat crackery stuff like goldfish and not as much fruit and stuff like that,” Ben said.
As you can see, packing lunch presents challenges. There’s balancing what tastes good, with what’s healthy and travels well. For some it may seem like a losing battle. Lilly Holland, 9, says the food she takes to school doesn’t always get eaten.
“Sometimes I throw it out,” Lilly said. So how does she feel when she gets back home and has to empty her lunch box and her lunch is still in there? “Disgusted and hungry.”
Katie Workman is the author of The Mom 100 Cookbook. In the book she offers tips for challenges such as sending lunches to school that don’t get thrown away or brought back uneaten. She says spicing up lunchbox fare is a joint effort.
“There’s nothing more effective, I’ve found, than getting your kids involved,” Workman said. “They’re going to be much more likely to try new things, much more likely to taste something that they’ve not had before.”
Workman offers what she calls fork-in-the-road options. You make one meal up to a point, and then customize it for individual tastes. Stacy Farrugia does this often with her two school-age children.
“I pack the same meal for both of them so I don’t have to do double work,” Farrugia said. “There might little changes. I’ll add avocado to Ben’s turkey sandwich and cheese to Debbie’s.”
Sometimes bringing lunch to school involves more than simple food preferences. Zoe Rabinowitz has a malabsorption disorder, her body’s not able to process certain foods, so bringing her own lunch is a must. But that doesn’t mean she likes everything that goes into her lunchbox.
Her parents say they’re concerned when Zoe doesn’t like her food. They don’t want her involved in what her dad calls the school-lunch black market.
“Sometimes I food swap with some foods, but I don’t really food swap for things I can’t have, even though I really want to swap for a mint Oreo or something like that,” Zoe said.
Zoe’s mother says it’s important for parents whose children have food restrictions to develop a dialogue with other parents to come up with interesting and varied lunch options.