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Adding Lunch to the Lesson Plan
Apr 13th, 2012 by Chris

classroom cafeteria 2

Darn near every moment is a “teaching moment” for me and my kids.  In fact, my boys will tell you that I’m pretty much teaching them something all day long, except they call it “yelling.”  Seriously though, the first time Junior says, “#$@!” and everyone giggles and looks at Dad, we all realize that behavioral modeling is a huge factor in shaping our children’s lives.  My sons watch me, and they listen closer when I’m not even talking to them.  The see how I work, how I play, how I dress, how I interact with my friends and my wife, how I maintain our household, what my priorities are, and yes—even how I eat.

In a recently published interview on Nourish, Cook for America co-founder, Kate Adamick, suggests we view school cafeteria staff as Lunch Teachers, reminding everyone that “what students are fed at school teaches them how to think about food, what to think of as food, and how to behave while consuming it—all lessons that they will carry with them for the remainder of their lives.”

While not exactly a revelation, Adamick’s statement is still, for many, a necessary prompt.  Each meal is an opportunity to show our children how to live.  Proper nutrition is a fundamental skill that is essential for enduring health and well-being.  The kitchen and the school-cafeteria are classrooms where kids learn (or don’t learn) how to select, prepare and eat the right kinds of food.  And yet, as Adamick notes, “frequently, school administrators appear to have forgotten that students don’t stop learning just because it’s lunchtime.”

While a good school-lunch program is imperative and can make a difference for many poorly nourished kids, I believe that I’m in the best position to teach my children the importance of proper eating.  Parents are overwhelmed much of the time and can make a habit of depending on schools to cover the gaps and keep their kids well-directed.  For the most part, given their limited resources, public educators do a wonderful job, but considering the litany of concerns regarding most school-lunch programs (in the U.S.) this is one subject where Father/Mother probably knows best.

Eating, cooking and even shopping together provides wonderful opportunities for shoulder-to-shoulder activities that can positively shape a child’s development.  Health, creativity, earth-consciousness and self-assuredness are just a few of the traits that can be nurtured by sharing good eats.

Preparing home-packed lunches for my boys ensures that they’ll be taking a piece of me along with them to school.  It enables me to influence them at a critical (under-supervised) point in their day without even being there.  It’s this type of unobtrusive, indirect instruction (modeling really) that makes the biggest impact on my kids, and there’s no “yelling.”

If you’re looking to home-school the “lunch” portion of your kids’ curriculum, Lunchsense provides the perfect platform—pack a lesson plan in every box:

  • Easy to use, encourages kid involvement, interactive learning.
  • Portion-sized food containers simplify balanced nutrition.
  • Clever design supports bento-style, eye-catching creativity.
  • Waste-reducing, reusable; promotes sustainability.
Revisting Our R's
Apr 28th, 2011 by Chris
Photo uploaded to stock.xchng by hortongrou.

Photo uploaded to stock.xchng by hortongrou.

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle/ Reduce, Reuse, Recycle/Reduce, Reuse, Recycle/because three/is a magic number.”

Jack Johnson’s “Schoolhouse Rock” mash-up underlines an important point about the New Age “R’s”—there are three!  While tremendous strides are being made in the areas of recycling AND reusing, not enough people are making a concentrated effort to reduce the amount of waste they create.

According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, the recovery rate for solid municipal waste (SMW = trash) through recycling (and composting) was up to 32% in 2005, a significant increase over the less than 10% recycled in 1980.  However, the creation of SMW has risen 60% since 1980.

The EPA estimates that each American still makes about 4.5 pounds of waste each day (most in the world), and that’s just not getting the job done.  No matter how much we recycle (or reuse), if we don’t reduce the amount of trash we’re producing, we’re going to rubbish our green Earth.

It’s true that we live in an age of increased environmental awareness, and more and more people are “going Green,” but these changes continue to occur primarily within our “comfort zone.”  It’s easier than ever before to recycle, and buzz-words like “vintage,” “antique” and “eBay” have given rise to an entire thrifting culture, but it takes a real effort and some humility to learn to make do with less.

Consider these facts:

  • Every year Americans use about one billion shopping bags, creating 300,000 tons of landfill waste (Clean Air Council).
  • In 2008, paper and cardboard accounted for 31% of municipal waste; plastics were 12% (EPA).
  • Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day an extra million tons of waste is generated each week (California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, 2009).
  • Somewhere between 827,000 and 1.3 million PET water bottles were produced in the U.S. in 2006, requiring the energy equivalent of 50 million barrels of oil; and nearly 77% of them ended up in landfills (U.S. Accountability Office).
  • 30,900 tons of food scraps were discarded in 2008, or 18.6% of all materials going to landfills or incinerators (EPA).

In spite of our idiosyncrasies, we generally move in large groups over the smoothest path, and collectively share the suffering or the success of the passage.  I’m one to think that conditioning plays a larger role than nature in determining how we act, and we’re not born with some fundamental need to wreak havoc on Earth’s ecosystems.  On the contrary, our “survival instinct” should preclude irreparably trashing the only planet known to be capable of sustaining human life.  It’s obsolete consumerism that has conditioned us into irresponsible behavior patterns.  We continue to celebrate excess in the United States like it was 1955, and we still aspire to have more.

It has been standard corporate policy in our country to sell more stuff, therefore making more stuff and consequently convincing us to buy even more stuff.  We simply need to change our thinking.  We have to shift from “wanting more” to “needing less.”  We must favor products and industries designed to reduce waste.  And, we should demand responsibility from the companies we support.

Any change in our national psychology has to start with the adults, but must really take hold with our kids.  Education is always money in the bank, so we should rightfully start with the 3 R’s and reiterate the order of preference—“Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!”

Most kids already have the hang of the recycling bit, and my own boys frequently trade toys with neighbors and even recently conducted a used toy sale (which netted an amazing $125).  They also make good use of second-hand clothes.  BUT, they still want the latest and greatest (evil commercials) a lot of the time, and as loving parents we frequently try to give it to them, caving in to “everyone else has one” pleas.

It’s important to remember “Reduce” comes first for a reason.  Admittedly, it takes a decided change in attitude to shrink our super-sized appetites, and it’s not easy to get by with less, but it is possible.

Lunchsense is committed to reducing food and packaging waste by providing an Earth-friendly, reusable lunch kit that puts the “R’s” in their proper place.  Recycling can’t do the job alone.  Reduce and reuse first, “because three is a magic number.”

Lunches My Kids Will Actually Eat
Oct 13th, 2010 by Chris

tuna-pitaEvery once in a while, we here at Lunchsense like to do, yeah, you guessed it—lunch.  Many adults hurry through, or dismiss it altogether; but, for our children, this noontime meal remains a treasured respite from the rigors of reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.

Most will tell you they really look forward to it.  Visit your school’s cafeteria sometime—you’ll likely be greeted by a swirling jangle of sliding, metal chair-legs, eager, chirping voices and a heart-quickening buzz of unleashed energy.  You’ll also find a ton of wasted food.  This is often the result of over-packing, but it’s just as frequently caused by fickle tastes or “bor-ing” options.

Many kids love lunch-time, but the food—not so much.  “Come on, Dad—ham and cheese again?”

In an effort to make sure my kids are properly refueled for their afternoon lessons, I try to mix-up the menu a little bit, and I enlist their help in deciding what’s sure to get eaten.  Here are a few of their (somewhat) surprising favorites:

  • Hummus, cheddar and fresh spinach wrap.  I didn’t discover hummus until I was in my early 30’s, and now it’s one of my favorite snacks.  My kids love it in wraps and with tortilla chips.  It’s a solid source of dietary fiber, folate and some essential minerals.  It’s also very low in cholesterol.  The nutritional value will increase significantly if you find a good recipe and make your own rather than purchasing the pre-made kind.  Be sure to read the label if you opt for store-bought.  I use whole-grain wraps, of course; and ever since I showed my sons some old Popeye cartoons, they’ve found spinach (fresh, not canned) more appealing.
  • I call it a “Yunch.”  It’s simply a cup of low-fat yogurt, granola and some mixed berries.  What’s not to like?  Works great for quick breakfasts too.  Protein, vitamin B-12 and riboflavin are among the vital nutrients found in yogurt.  Try to use “plain” and be careful of sugar content when selecting a brand-name.  The berries (one of the world’s healthiest foods) and maybe a smidge of honey should make it plenty sweet.
  • Tuna salad pita pocket.  This traditional standard gets the job done.  Some kids have an aversion to it (probably the smell of a freshly opened can), but my boys really enjoy my own special recipe.  I go light on the celery and add a couple of tablespoons of sweet pickle relish.  I use fresh chopped greens and a whole-grain pita when assembling.  There are healthier choices, but white albacore tuna is another great source of protein that is low in saturated fat.  It also packs a nice B-6/B-12 punch with a decent niacin kicker.  You should use your mayonnaise cautiously to limit the damage, and don’t add any salt.
  • Tofu pâté.  If you haven’t tried it, your kids probably haven’t either, and you’re all missing out.  Tofu, while nutritious, gets a bad rap from the meat-eaters of the world; and truthfully, it is a poor facsimile of meat (Tofurkey?!?), but the pâté tastes really good.  I buy the packaged, “Toby’s Mild Jalapeno” variety because they introduced me to the stuff.  It’s like a combination dip/spread that can be scooped up with tortilla chips, or spooned into pitas and wraps.  It also works great with a bagel, instead of cream cheese.  My sons gobble it up however it’s served.  The tofu itself is mostly flavorless, adhering to the spices used in preparation.  I’d recommend sampling some different combinations.  It may not taste anything like meat, but if used properly, tofu can offer an excellent, alternative protein.
  • “Ants on a log” and an apple.  I’m talking about celery sticks smeared with peanut butter and dotted with raisins (or craisins), of course.  It’s healthy, simple and fun—what could be better?  Unassuming celery does its nutritional job with plenty of dietary fiber, vitamins A, C, K, folate, potassium and some manganese for good measure.  The apple and raisins provide another vitamin boost and additional carbohydrates.  The peanut butter is the protein, but check the sugar and sodium contents; and utilize portion control to limit the unavoidable intake of fat.  Note also that if your kiddos take peanut butter in their lunches, they should steer towards the “peanut” tables in the cafeteria, and wash their hands thoroughly afterwards.

It’s easy to take a less involved approach to your kids’ lunches.  The creative energy isn’t always there, and neither is the time.  But, letting younglings fend entirely for themselves in the lunch-room can be nutritionally dangerous, and it misses a great opportunity to model healthier living.  They really need the midday nourishment, so put your heads together—find out what they like, teach them what’s good for them, and make sure their lunches are about more than just socializing.  The quicker you can get your kids eating right, the sooner they’ll start developing healthy habits that will last their whole (long) lives.  And, that’s just using your Lunchsense.

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