I listen to the radio while I work. I need some kind of “noise” in the background or I just can’t get anything done. Most of the time, I couldn’t even recount to you what was discussed on the programs I frequent.
The subject of school lunches came up. The discussion focused on how healthy/unhealthy various lunch options were, but it got me thinking of my own history with School Lunch.
I know I purchased lunch in lower elementary school (when we lived in Virginia), but I don’t remember much about what was served except that I’d always get chocolate milk and one time the lunch lady said she’d tell my mother that all I did at lunch was drink chocolate milk rather than eat my food so I ate everything in sight that day and then threw up on the playground at recess. That night, my mother told me that I could eat (or not eat) whatever I wanted at lunch.
Also, my favorite school lunch was this thing called “Breakfast for Lunch” where we’d have waffles and bacon at midday. That was ruined, however, in third grade when a classmate tragically lost her battle to cancer and the rumor-mill circulated the idea that waffles at lunch was the cause of her death. Kids are crazy.
Later on, around fifth grade, I started bringing lunches from home.
In sixth grade, we had a problem at my school where someone would steal all the treats out of everyone’s lunch (this was easily done as we kept our belongings in unlocked lockers in the hallway). At lunch, people would glumly eat their sandwiches and talk about the pudding or cookies that had been stolen from them that day. People always assumed I had the best stuff because all that was left when we got to the cafeteria was fruit, yogurt, and a sandwich on whole wheat bread. I went with it rather than admit that there had never been sweets in my lunchbox.
I bought my lunch daily (it was only $1.25 – something that sticks with me to this day… inexplicably). Lunch consisted of a main course and option of two sides. My favorite side was canned pears. I still love canned pears. While the school lunch was relatively healthy, the other half of the cafeteria sold ice cream treats (drumsticks, ice cream sandwiches, pudding pops, etc) for 25 cents. You bet I ate my fill of chocolate eclairs in those two years.
I never brought my lunch in high school. We had many lunch options in my high school (including various fast food chains, which was probably not so great for us, health wise). I got the same thing every day. I’d go to the deli side of the hot food line and get a turkey sandwich on a kaiser roll with Swiss cheese and mustard. Large Cherry Coke. The only variations were on Friday when I’d let myself have one of the super-delicious, likely-full-of-lard chocolate chip cookies or during Lent when the Cherry Coke was swapped with water and a sense of moral superiority.
Overall, I suppose there always were unhealthy options readily available. In elementary school, my parents -understandably – had more control and stocked our home with healthy snacks. In high school, though, I could have gotten pizza and fries every day. There were vending machines selling chips, soda, and candy.
While it can be argued whose job it is to teach self-control and healthy eating habits, it’s hard to think that these easily-available unhealthy options are completely blameless.
What were your young lunches like? Did you have vending machines in your schools? Were the lunch options provided by the school healthy?
Fun Future-Helena-Foreshadowing Moment Tangentially Related to Lunch: I used to forget to bring money for lunch and would have to beg, borrow, or steal to get fed. OK, I didn’t really steal much. Anyway, my father gave me a $20 bill to put in an envelope and keep in my locker for days when I’d forgotten cash. An emergency kitty, if you will.
Well, my high school was kinda fancy and we had a Credit Union in (one of the) cafeterias. I took my $20 and opened an account. That’s right, I’ve always been into financial responsibility. From mid-high school to mid-college when I finally got around to closing the account, that $20 had grown by about a dollar. Well done, young me.