Learning to love school lunch

School lunch
Boy, am I learning about the power of choice when it comes to food.
To catch up to my life with The Pickiest Eater in the World (my son), check out my post from Aug. 2.

The saga continues as we work to get this kid to find a vegetable that doesn’t bring him to his knees and more than bananas in the fruit department. It’s a work in progress, to say the least.

Since school has started, I pack his lunch. Every day. And, every day, I pack the same thing: peanut butter sandwiches, baked crackers, banana and a cookie. I don’t stray from the routine, although I can switch out the PB for a ham and provolone cheese sandwich. At times, I will try to be sneaky and add a fruit cup or applesauce. But, when I clean out his lunch box on those nights, my “Gotcha!” attempts quickly die when I find the unopened containers in the pack.

I simply sigh and continue my quest to combat the picky eater’s palate.

But then something happened during the first week of school. As he reviewed the contents of his “take-home” folder, my son played a “Gotcha!” on me.

He handed me the orange-colored paper and explained that it was the hot lunch menu. We haven’t even looked at these things in years as my daughter eats school lunch every day and the other kid could care less when pizza day was coming up.

But something had piqued his interest: the ability to choose what went on your plate.

“You see, we have to choose three components,” he explained to me, in his most matter-of-fact voice. “A main dish, a side and a snack.”
His blue eyes nearly bore into my very soul and I nearly fainted at his next words.

“I’m going to check out this menu and see if there are some things that I’d like to try,” he told me.

As nonchalantly as I could, I spluttered, “That sounds nice.” (In all honesty, I wanted to buy him a pony or something. This was a big deal!)

I’ve talked to quite a few other moms who have kids with different concerns, whether it’s night terrors, food issues, sound aversion and more, and it seems that the issue of control is often a common characteristic. My kid is wired to follow the rules and he’ll avoid disappointing people at all costs, but he just can’t go along with our pleas (and threats and tears and commands) to try new foods.

And, then there he was, declaring that he’d decided it was time to give it a go.

Control. Choice. Cool with me.

I will admit that the first attempt at school lunch dining did not go as well as I had hoped it would. But knowing that he’d be able to make different food choices on a different day with a different menu still appeals to my boy.

And boy, that is extremely appealing to this concerned mom.

(Note: The power to choose is just as important for those NPEs (non-picky eaters!) out there, too! You should be able to decide if you buy your pre-made hamburgers at the meat counter or purchase beef from a farmer or if you pick up vegetables at a farmers’ market or invest in Community-Supported Agriculture. To help offer your support of such choice, check out

Written by Heather Lilienthal
Heather is an Ag Commodities Writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau.