Pack Your Own Lunch
Now that school’s back in session, I’m back to packing lunches. I need to pack something that will keep until noon, still look and taste great, and have the nutrition a student needs to be on top of his or her studies…plus be eaten. Since I have one kid who is a college graduate, one a college junior, one a third grader, and all strong and healthy, I’m comfortable saying I have experience. Believe it or not I look to the school lunch menu for inspiration. What ever they are doing, I don’t do that. I love my daughter’s school to bits and the lunch staff are the sweetest ladies on the planet. They are dedicated to service but are limited by a budget which is where it gets tricky.
Our government is broke and yet more people are getting by on food stamps, falling victim to eating the cheaper government subsidized food products. Here’s how crazy the cycle has become (and it began during the industrial revolution with farm factories). The government, in charge of the department of education, and the school lunch program, subsidizes farm factories to mass produce food (meat in particular) in the cruelest ways. These foods are then genetically modified or pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, or bathed in pesticides and herbicides for larger more productive livestock and crops. These foods end up in schools particularly, and also in establishments that sell food in mass quantities like grocery stores and fast food chains. It is convenient and cheap to buy. Because it is cheap and easy and sold in mass quantities it raises more revenue for the big “G” which somehow manages to fall into more debt by the second. It’s one hand washing the other…but not really coming clean. Someone in this cycle is making a heck of a lot of money. And who ever that is, besides not caring for animals, they don’t care that girls are starting their periods before the age of ten. They also don’t care that type two diabetes in children, allergies to peanuts, dairy and gluten, autism, ADHD, child obesity and child cancer are getting as common as a cold. Could it be that our methods of producing food are having an effect?
Why didn’t these things seem so prevalent when I was growing up? Our little McDonald’s had a sign below the arches that counted the thousands served. By the time I was in highschool the sign changed to millions. Now, it has to be in the trillions if they still post that sign and I don’t think they do. Probably because they don’t want to flaunt all that money. Everyone would want a piece of the (processed, then microwaved, and who thought to call that rectangular once deep-fried thing apple or cherry) pie. Our government certainly is willing to take a slice. To keep that money machine well oiled, they subsidize farmers to mass produce this cheap convenient food, no matter what goes in it and how it is handled. Yes, I think greed might have something to do with these problems.
What that greed does besides line politician’s and Monsanto official’s pockets, is turn our food into “Franken-food” as I’ve heard it described by a nutritionist. In an order of chicken nuggets and ‘tater tots which is common school lunch fare, how many different chemicals added to promote freshness, prevent caking, improve texture, enhance flavor, and color (I mean how many shades of brown does food need to be?) might there be in one of these lunches? How much nutrition is sacrificed in the process? How cheap is it to buy? It’s not worth it to me no matter how cheap. It takes me about ten minutes in the morning and thoughtful shopping to pack a nourishing lunch and why not? Cheap food is not that cheap when you pay for it with your very health.
The lunches pictured are different. I’d say the one on the left is brown, including the milk. But the lunch on the right is colorful and features five real vegetables (the spinach salad has mushrooms and celery), whole wheat bread and real cheese. Cold water keeps it fresh in an insulated lunch bag. The best part is that the one on the left is $2.10 and the one on the right, about$1.50. So nutrition can even be affordable. I figure this because sixteen dollars worth of groceries will make about twelve lunches like this…so that really comes to $1.30. Hm.
It’s very hard to avoid processed food. I’m not an organic freak or anything. That stuff’s expensive! I’ll buy the regular produce and meat even though… But I read every label and try very hard to cut down on unnecessary additives and thoroughly wash the fruit and vegetables.
I like meat, but I don’t make it the biggest part of our diet because I tend to dwell on how the animal was treated. I’m ashamed to say that currently there is a can or two of beef ravioli in the pantry. My kids LOVE the stuff. So about once a month I will allow that to be eaten. It makes me cringe. I can’t get convenient food out of my life completely but it is my goal. I love to shop at the farmers market on the weekends. Free range chickens are a dollar more but worth it. Shopping there also helps to support the local economy. I imagine often that the lawns on the side and back of the house are completely filled with growing vegetables of our own with a little fence around them and little white chickens running about. It’s just a little dream I have but I’ve already got most of the back yard planted with something other than grass and the food we get from it is free… or nearly so. When the cat dies, I will have my chickens! Our city ordinance allows four hens to be kept on a residential premises. The homestead lifestyle appeals to me more every day. In this way, living organically really can be less expensive.
My older kids will be on their own soon and already appreciate healthy eating and lifestyles. The youngest who is eight is already well versed in how gardens grow and what plants are what. I just hope she grows up and learns how to make her own ravioli from scratch.