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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.”

Seeing Shades of Green
Feb 23rd, 2010 by Chris

Gaia shineI’ve got a confession to make.  I’m not the Greenest person in the world.  Wait!  Before you strap me to the back of a wild orca, or string me up a Redwood tree, hear me out—please.  I’m not that bad.  I haven’t cashed any kickbacks from ExxonMobil or Dow.  I recycle, I carpool, and I (usually) walk my boys to and from school each day.  I live in Eugene, Oregon for goodness’ sake, a haven for organic, natural fiber, tree-hugging types.  You can get publicly flogged for tossing compostable foods into a trash can here.  So what’s my environmental atrocity?  I’m a stay-at-home-dad who needs to prepare two reasonably healthy lunches every weekday morning before 8 a.m., and I’m not a morning person.

Still doesn’t sound so deplorable?  Well, it started years ago while I was working evening shifts at a local newspaper.  I simply wasn’t getting enough sleep, and it slowly became harder and harder to perform my morning chores as a walking, slit-eyed zombie.  My wife would wake the boys and set them up with a cereal/oatmeal/bagel-type breakfast before placing a cup of strong, black coffee on my night-table, shoving me (hard) and slingshot-ing herself off to work.  I would often stay in bed until the last possible second when I would force myself upright, slurp down one, then two cups of java and frantically prepare my sons for school.  In this weakest of possible conditions, I abandoned good sense and succumbed—to individually packaged, grab-and-go food items.  Yes, I really should have known better, but (please forgive me) my boys just gobbled those fruit cups, yogurt tubes and energy bars right up.  The worst part?  I don’t work the night-job anymore, yet I still (occasionally) ignore my want-to-be-Green conscience and opt for convenience.  This is an inexcusable exercise in poor judgment, but there are no two ways about it—“it’s not that easy being Green.”

In 2008, U.S. residents, businesses and institutions produced 250 million tons of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), commonly referred to as “trash.”  This amounts to about 4.5 pounds of waste per person per day.  We recycled and composted 83 million of the 250 million tons.  The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that residential waste (you and me) accounted for 55-65% of the total MSW generation.  Containers and packaging made up nearly 31% of the 250 million tons.  Only two manmade structures on Earth are large enough to be seen from outer space: the Great Wall of China and the Fresh Kills landfill.

So, should I hang my head and skulk around with a Scarlet Letter sewn to my guilty conscience?  Yes, in all honesty I probably should, but we at Lunchsense like to view the Green Movement as just that—a movement; a progression from a toxic, yellowish-neon shade to the deepest emerald hue.  Clearly, you can’t plot me on this Green graph next to Ed Begley Jr., but by recognizing and addressing my own waste problem, I am heading his way.  Rather than dodging the Green Police and fretting over whether I’m “Green” or not, I’m simply accepting the continuum and trying to become Green-er.  Now (thanks to Nancy), I utilize reusable containers much more frequently, and I also buy bulk when I can.  There are a number of tasty items available in this under-appreciated section of the supermarket.  And remember–you can buy as much or as little as you need.  Ask yourself how you can limit the amount of waste you produce each day and share your own confessions/suggestions with us.  By increasing our awareness and making the most of our Lunchsense, we can all grow Greener each day.

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