My Teeth, My Kids and Their Lunch Money


Carolyn Aspenson 

I think I need to get false teeth. I didn’t need them last night but I’ve grinded my teeth so much today all I’ve got left are nubs. If I keep going like this, I’ll never be able to chew again.  

My beautiful 9 year old daughter came home from school today with a note from the cafeteria. She is negative on her lunch money. I express my shock and amazement because on April 22nd we wrote a check for both of our daughters to have enough lunch money until the end of the year (a check to the tune of $65!).  In three weeks my kid is negative. Thinking that the people who handle the lunch money accounting are obviously idiots, I call the school ready to defend my put-upon child, seeking retribution for the angst and trepidation she experienced today when she had no money for lunch and had to borrow it from a teacher. Needless to say, I was fuming! (additionally, grinding my teeth…hence, the nubs.)  

Much to my surprise, I found out a dirty little secret of my beautiful daughter (and my other equally beautiful 11 year old daughter as a matter of fact). Apparently the school allows children; we’re talking kindergarten through 5th grade here, to buy SNACKS with their lunch card! They can buy the actual lunch and snacks such as ice cream, chips, etc. OR they can buy just the lunch or JUST THE SNACKS! Do you see where I’m going here? So my 9 year old, the one with the sweet-addiction, the one who’d rather eat a bowl of chocolate than anything even remotely good for her, opts to buy both the snacks and the lunch. Daily. To the tune of almost $4 per day! FOR THE WHOLE SCHOOL YEAR! Does she eat the lunch itself? Nope. But she buys it because, well, that’s what she is supposed to do. Does she eat the snacks and ice cream? Well OF COURSE! Mostly because we’ve been advised by our doctor to limit her sugar and she knows she can get away with it at school. She’s probably playing the “eat all of it I can now because I won’t get much at home” game and that’s why she’s ordering 5 and more ice creams a DAY!  I’m confident that she is also the ice cream supplier for those friends who’s parents aren’t quite as stupid as her own. As I’m sure you can tell I was not even the least bit pleased with my daughters. The cafeteria person explained to me that they had each spent over $300 this school year on extra meals and that’s why they are constantly negative.  I think it was at about this point I noticed my overbite wasn’t as big as minutes before.  

Okay, this is partly my fault. I realize that. Each time my girls have told me they’re negative and need money, I stare in confusion, like a dog that just walked into a room. My head tilts in wonder and amazement and though I’ve never been able to figure out how they could be negative so quickly, I’ve also never sat down and looked at the check book to see the actual dates of the payments. This time, however, I knew something was off.  My husband had told me while on vacation he’d given them this $65 check to get them through the end of the year. That stuck in my brain.  The little light went on over my head (passing cars on the street actually saw it and I think I may have caused an accident or two).  I made the call, fully prepared to wreak havoc throughout the entire school staff. It was me the havoc was wreaked upon.  

You know what really gets me about this? Not that my kids did this because frankly, if I coulda, I woulda. Yes, they probably figured it was wrong but they also probably figured it was okay because we kept signin’ the checks. What gets me is that this elementary school thinks children between the ages of 5 and 11 are capable of making a nutritional decision about what type of food is best for them at lunchtime AND that they allow these young children to spend money like it’s ‘credit’. They can purchase whatever they want and simply ask mommy and daddy for more money when they hit their limit. I’m truly appalled.  

I asked for and received a list of the charges for the year for each of my children. It’s basic information listing “traditional lunch”, “express lunch”, “snack”. My kids had more snacks than any other listing. Why would this be allowed at an elementary school? As a child I did not have a choice of my lunch. It was either packed at home or the school provided a tray with the same food on it for each child.  Why is it any different today? 

To make a long story short, apparently I can ‘block’ what my kids get for snacks. Of course I did this, but I wanted to know why I should have to. I thought it would be more appropriate to APPROVE the ability to purchase snacks, but um, no.  It doesn’t work that way. I’m thinking the school makes some sort of commission or kickback on the sale of the ice cream and other snacks. Therefore, why should they tell us parents we’re spending ridiculous amounts of cash on crap that holds no nutritional value?  I can feel my teeth getting smaller and now my jaw is starting to hurt!  

My beef on this whole school issue continues…not only am I spending money on something I wouldn’t normally give my children on a daily basis; not only am I not being informed of it or being asked to approve it but the school and it’s staff are holding no accountability for providing a positive learning environment for my child. Kids addicted to sugar, eating junk for lunch does not make a quiet, well organized classroom. I’ve been told by teachers that my daughter talks too much during class and sometimes has trouble focusing. HELLO! Give her a slab of sugar and what the heck do you expect? I’d be climbing the walls and then passed out at my desk in no time. And it’s not just my kid. Think of a classroom full of twenty-five 9 year olds who’ve just had a sugar fest and NO recess afterward. Does that sound like a place you’d want to be? No wonder GA is short on teachers. (Grind. Grind. Grind.) 

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it the responsibility of our educators to provide a positive learning environment that reinforces socially acceptable values? Isn’t our school system designed for the school itself to be accountable for our children while in their hands? I’m not looking for a babysitter here but I honestly feel that if my children are required to have an education that MY tax dollars pay for, there should certainly be some accountability on their part for my children when they’ve got them. My kids aren’t old enough to make a lot of decisions and if I’m not there to do it, I should be able to trust those who are. Apparently that doesn’t include nutritional education. Now I know why so many children are obese. They may have wonderful parents that limit their sugar and high fat foods, parents that make every effort possible to teach their children good eating habits, parents that want the best for their kids, but unfortunately our schools are working against us. Then they have the nerve to send us reports about behavior and physical issues. Now why would my daughter want to run ½ mile in gym class 1 hour after eating lunch? Her sugar high has crashed and she’s ready to sleep. I wouldn’t want to run either.  (Apply more grinding sounds here.) 

Yes, I am writing a letter to the principal. And yes, I am writing a letter to the superintendent. I will also write a letter to our local paper notifying all parents in my school system that this is a standard procedure, because apparently we weren’t informed. Will it make any difference? Probably not. But it will teach my children a good, valuable lesson on doing what’s right and best. Something which their school obviously hasn’t.  

Now I must finish my ranting because I’m craving a chocolate bar. Thankfully you can gum chocolate bars!  

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