I face a similar scene every afternoon when we get home from school. The teenager comes in and immediately heads for the pantry where she grabs two packages of ramen and goes into the kitchen to make it.
Me - "Supper will be in an hour."
The Teenager - "I don't care, I'm hungry."
Me - "Didn't you eat lunch?"
The Teenager - "It was disgusting. It was some kind of wrap and it was whole wheat so I picked the meat out and threw the rest away."
Me - [sigh]
The first time this happened, the Teenager wasn't complaining about the food being disgusting but the portions being incredibly tiny. After doing a little research, I found out that the USDA had passed standards for this year for the school lunch program, limiting the amount of calories. For the Teenager, it's 750-850 calories per day. To meet this calorie limit, school cafeterias are having to serve smaller portions and have switched most bread products to whole wheat (which includes tortillas and pizza crusts, I'm told). I'm not a wheat fan myself and I know a lot of teenagers aren't either. You can get decent tasting whole wheat products but they aren't cheap and schools are on a budget so it's not likely to happen. As for the portions, all you're allowed to go back for seconds but only for extra fruits and vegetables.
This is going to force all the students to eat healthy, right? If you said "yes," then you're fooling yourself. I was a schoolgirl once. I'm also a picky eater. One summer my mother put me in KinderCare because she was working and she needed someone to watch me. We went on all sorts of cool field trips. But I hated their food. If I didn't like what was on the plate, I didn't eat. Period. I went home hungry several times during my summer stay. My meal was thrown away. What a waste.
And wasting is exactly what kids are doing. A school in Florida was actually considering putting cameras by the trash cans so they could document what the students were throwing away.
My husband noticed that after school, the local Sonic and Jack in the Box and McDonald's and Taco Bell are packed. Why? Because our starving students are going out to eat after school for something tasty. And they're not picking healthy stuff. NO. They're going for fast food because it tastes good.
You would think that packing your lunch would be a great option. If you don't like what the school is serving, don't eat it. I did that on days I didn't like what the hot lunch was. However, I recently read that a four year old girl was forced to eat the school's lunch instead of the nice lunch that her mom packed her because it "wasn't healthy enough." They sent the uneaten lunch home with a note and a bill for the cost of the school lunch. The mother was outraged. I would have been too. I also read what the mother packed. It sounded nutritious enough to me.
What's the solution? Well, like everything, it has to begin at home. We feed our 2 and 3 year olds fruits and vegetables. I don't feed them a lot of processed food. Most of our food is prepared from scratch. They are a little picky because they're so young but we try to get them to eat a large variety of foods. My 3 year old's teacher says she eats her school lunch well on most days. I notice other mothers are sending their kids to school with happy meals for lunch. I don't do that. Happy meals are an occasional treat. I'm trying to teach them to eat healthier at home. When they go to school they might eat a bit better than the other kids.
So in conclusion, the way to get children to eat healthy is not by force. You have to educate them. It worked for smoking. It can work for food.
Florida and trash cans
4 year old's bag lunch not good enough.