I had lunch the other day with my second grader. I watched as tiny Kindergartners (I swear they look smaller every year) hung on to precariously balanced trays with pineapple juice slopping everywhere as they happily served themselves carrots and celery from the veggie bar.
This is not a lengthy erudite discussion about school lunches, weight worries etc., but just my challenge to the assertion that kids* can’t or won’t eat “grown up foods” or anything other than fries and pizza. They can and do.
I surveyed the 5 children with whom I could converse amidst the low roar of a room full of grade schoolers. “What are your three favorite lunches at school?”
There were pizzas and burgers, and Italian dunkers in the list, but the only one all 5 kids listed was chicken suqaar, a traditional Somali dish.
I feel lucky that our school district has some pretty great, tasty, and balanced meals, even if overall we agreed that the sweet potato fries could use a little salt… But I digress.
Here are a few reasons why I think these kids were enthusiastic about a “challenging” food:
- There are no adults coercing, encouraging, or shaming them into choosing one food over another. It was their idea.
- It is served with a familiar food: rice.
- It tastes good.
- The school menu has had high expectations for kids since their first day of Kindergarten with a varied menu.
- The foods like Chicken Sugaar show up fairly regularly (about twice a month), with an alternate wrap sandwich if they aren’t ready to try something new yet. (I watched this work when M saw a new menu item and she decided to check it out the first time by watching others eat it with her home-packed lunch that day, but tried it the second time around.)
- The cafeteria has lovely posters with bright colored foods with descriptions like “crunchy” and “sweet”. There are no posters (this time) or obvious messaging about what they have to or should eat.
For another district doing amazing things for the kids, check out ITS Meals at Provo. I get hungry looking at their posts and want to know how to get such a talented food artist at every school!