Dad blogger chronicles son’s school lunch — every day!

The food editor for The Associated Press, J.M. Hirsch, is documenting what he sends his second-grade son for lunch every day in a blog. The blog is called “Lunch Box Blues: 180 days. 180 meals. Making it out … well fed.”

Hirsch describes himself as a dorky dad trying to feed his son a great dinner and pack him a lunch he’ll eat and one that Hirsch can feel good about. (That’s the goal – something they’ll eat that is actually good for them.) He has also has written a cookbook called “High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking.”

Hirsch has some stringent guidelines for what he is willing to send his son.

From “Lunch Box Blues”:

“Because I refuse to send my son to school with a Lunchable. Or an Uncrustable. Or even a day-after-day-after-day homemade PB&J. Because I want my son’s lunch to be fun and nutritious, and I don’t think one must be sacrificed for the other. Because I don’t believe in “kid food” vs. “adult food,” just real food. And because I believe kids can enjoy and crave it.

Not that it’s easy. Or that my son is an eating angel. At the moment, nothing green goes past his lips. And red — especially tomatoes — is pretty suspect, too. Salad? I. Don’t. Think. So.

But I do my best. And most of the time we’re both pretty satisfied. Some days more than others.

This blog is a simple record of my son’s lunches. The good, bad and really ugly. Maybe it will inspire other parents. Probably it will inspire a bit of eye rolling.”

I really appreciate that Hirsch is thinking as hard as I am about what he is sending his child to eat. I am currently not achieving the variety that he is, but I think by reading his blog, I can get ideas. (He has photos of each day’s offering.)

His blog from Sept. 13 is particularly funny to me because he is complaining about having to pack two lunches one day. I pack three lunches, three days a week and two lunches, twice a week. That’s a grand total of 13 lunches a week.

I also like his entry on choosing just the right lunchbox. I didn’t have time to do as much investigating as he did, but I wish I had. Every morning I am muttering under my breath about the food not fitting in the lunch boxes.

I thought you guys would appreciate his thoughtful approach to feeding his son and might get some inspiration from it! I know I did!

How is your lunch packing going so far? Are they still taking or buying? (Walsh has convinced me that he should be allowed to buy once a month for brunch day. Rose agreed! They like the French toast sticks and tater tots that are supposed to be hash browns.) What do they like to find the most in their lunchboxes? What nutritious items have you been able to sneak into them?


36 comments Add your comment

Me

September 15th, 2011
1:17 pm

Do parents actually buy lunchboxes and prepare lunches for their kids each day?
I honestly don’t think we have ever considered not paying for school lunches.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

September 15th, 2011
1:21 pm

Walsh was getting two lunches a day — about $4 a day last year. I can provide a heck of a lot of food and higher quality than what he was getting for $4 a day. He was buying two because it wasn’t filling him up because low quality and because they are not serving the fruits and veggies on the tray – the fruits and veggies are in another place in the cafeteria so they have a choice – so he was paying $2 for a questionable hot dog and then paying $2 for another hot dog. Our neighbor who is a lawyer questions whether the cafeteria set up actually meets the fed. standards for the school lunches with the fruits and veggies in a different place.

Ok, I understand...

September 15th, 2011
1:28 pm

…how lunch boxes work, but thermos’s, no – how does it know to keep hot things hot, and then, the next day, cold things cold????

Me

September 15th, 2011
1:30 pm

I wasn’t questioning the nutrition and obvious cost savings — and certainly more power to those of you who do this — it’s just something we’ve never done. And, I concur, it doesn’t sound like that cafeteria provided the appropriate options! Our son’s high school has, basically, an actual “food court” similar to what you would see in a mall. That’s not to say he always makes the better of available choices but at least it’s there for him. And, honestly, that food probably is as good or better than what I could come up with at 5:00 AM! :)

fred

September 15th, 2011
1:30 pm

we pack lunches every day but 1. we include sandwich, bottle water, some kind of vegetable and 2 girl scout cookies. the sandwich type and type of vegetable vary every day depending on what we have at home. it is not difficult to do and after seeing what is served as a lunch in schools and what kids eat at schools I can not imagine any other kind of lunch for my girls. I would not eat what they serve at school so why would I expect my child to. If you have never eaten your childs’ school lunch you should try it. it is a real eye opener.

Becky

September 15th, 2011
1:32 pm

The girl doesn’t like school lunches, so shes the only one that I have to worry about (most days)..She usually takes a salami sandwhich, a few chips, pickles, something sweet and a drink..

She also loves what she calls Toyko soup..It’s basically just a broth of
beef and chicken bouillon (sp) cubes with mushrooms slivers and green onions..She’s not a picky eater, so pretty much whatever I send, she’ll eat..One day last week, she took baked pork chops and soup..

I don’t have a problem with sneaking veggies in, she LOVES broccoli, carrots and most anything that she can dip in ranch dressing..

jarvis

September 15th, 2011
1:33 pm

J.M. Hirsch packs his own lunch because he still harbors terrible memories of him being beaten and having his lunch money stolen as a child.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

September 15th, 2011
1:35 pm

jarvis — that’s terrible …

I like his photos — he’s being much more creative than we are. We’re like fred and becky – give them the basics and get them to school on time!! I wish I could more hot stuff and leftovers.

Lori

September 15th, 2011
1:37 pm

I wish my son would eat veggies, but he just won’t, so it really wouldn’t matter if I packed them or not. He’d just not eat and go hungry!! Luckily, he does like apples and grapes, so at least I can get some fruit in him from time to time. We don’t have the option of packing lunch at his private school, however. They have a pretty neat lunch room setup with different stations: hot meal, sandwich line, grill items, and the dessert/fruit bar. Each station serves a balanced meal, and when the child has finished, they can go back and get more items, such as the fruit as an extra dessert. They only offer cakes and other sweets on Fridays, so they aren’t getting junk everyday. He loves his school lunches because he has choices. If he doesn’t like the hot meal that day, he always has the option of a turkey sandwich. Makes it easy on me because I know he isn’t going to go hungry, which is a big deal because my son is an extremely picky eater and is very, very skinny.

motherjanegoose

September 15th, 2011
1:38 pm

@ Becky, sorry I was not festive this morning before 6:00 a.m. here in Montana. I did not recognize your number and was a bit panicked when my cell phone rang. I still love ya! I can see you NEXT Th.

I rarely packed my kid’s lunches. They usually ate the school lunch. I have seen LOTS of different school lunches and the choices my kids had looked like caviar ( which it was not) compared to what I have witnessed at some schools. No more lunch packing for me…kids are both in college. Have a great day all!

jarvis

September 15th, 2011
1:39 pm

Here’s a recipe from J.M. Hirsch from ealier this week on how to make a “Tangy Fruit Salad”.

http://www.hanfordsentinel.com/article_e90b2b08-de35-11e0-82a0-001cc4c002e0.html

To balance out Mr. Hirsch’s vegatarian crap, here’s a recipe for Spanish Pork Burgers (Shaggy, I’m sure venison would work well too):
http://www.delish.com/recipefinder/spanish-pork-burgers-ew-recipe

jarvis

September 15th, 2011
1:42 pm

TWG, I would not mean to offend you. I’m sorry :-)

Can;t I have a little leeway though. He’s a male vegatarian food writer. I can poke a little fun, can’t I?He called himself “dorky”.

Becky

September 15th, 2011
1:47 pm

@Me..That’s me..I actually bought the “brown” bags for the kids to take lunch in..Then when they take their lunch, I decorate the bag..I usually write songs lyrics or a quote and then draw funny pictures on it..In 2 years, they have never taken a plain brown bag..

I enjoy packing them lunches and all of us are involved in decorating them..They also have a lunch bag and a thermos..I just don’t (I guess) put as much effort into the lunches that I pack as Dad blogger does..

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

September 15th, 2011
1:52 pm

Love that Becky — Walsh left his lunchbox at school I think — I hope!! so his lunch was sent this morning in a Target bag (he eats that much!) that I wrote his name on with Sharpie! I am classy!

Lady Strange

September 15th, 2011
2:35 pm

My son’s not in school yet so I don’t have to tackle this. I can get my son to eat some fruits and veggies but not a huge variety, but I keep trying! He loves peas, lima beans, black beans, carrots and corn though and apples and bananas. When he was a baby he’d eat anything, now he’s so picky. I try to balance some of the junk he likes (like chicken nuggets and mac n’ cheese) with the fruits and veggies. I’ll keep working on expanding his palate though.

Becky

September 15th, 2011
2:46 pm

@Theresa..The girl loves to eat and her bag is usually filled right to the top..She’s really good about taking care of her lunch bag (it’s insulated) and her water bottle and thermos..Especially the thermos..I about fell out when I was pricing them..Holy cow..So, I told them they had to take real good care of them..

@MJG..Yeah, sorry about that..Was dropping the kids off at school and the boy had been watching a video..When he handed it back to me, I hit the wrong button..Hope that you have a wonderful birthday and am looking forward to next week..

catlady

September 15th, 2011
3:22 pm

I had no hesitation about my kids eating school food. Yes, there was too much fat. Yes, there was too much breading. Yes, there was too much salt. BUT they got the right food 2x a day and all weekend, so it was no biggie for the other 5 meals a day to be less than stellar. You want a picky eater? Make their lunch for them each day, striving hard to please them. Cook special food for them. Allow them to graze constantly. You will get a person who uses food for more than just nutrition.

Tad Jackson

September 15th, 2011
3:35 pm

I look at what the kids at my school bring from home for lunch, nonjudgementally, however. And who do you think wins the battle of what’s in the sack?

Exactly. Power to the kids! It’s not the end of the world.

http://www.adixidiary.com

Becky

September 15th, 2011
3:57 pm

@catlady..Umm, my two aren’t picky eaters..They will try any new food..Last night the girl was eating chicken and dumplings and chicken livers..We ate at Cracker Barrel after church, she ordered the C&D, I ordered the livers..She wanted to try them and loved them..I do fix special foods (sometimes) for my two..They help me plan my dinners, so that they get things they like as well as us..I don’t consider them to be picky eaters..As I have said before, I don’t know that many 9 year olds that will eat osyters, crawfish, liver, or gizzards..My two will eat any of those things..They eat just about any vegatable that I put in front of them..They are allowed to eat after dinner if they are still hungry..I was raised the same way and I don’t use food for anything other than nutrition..

Ajaylove

September 15th, 2011
4:29 pm

@Becky, your children sound like my 8 y/o. I think they would be great friends! She will try just about any new food. So far the only things she won’t eat are tuna or chicken salad or other “mixed” salads. I just think that is b/c she likes to be able to identify the components of her meals. As a 3rd grader she fixes her own lunch box every day and has been doing so since about 1st grade. She is a very healthy eater, for example today’s lunch was a ham and cheese sandiwich, “veggie tray” with carrots, celery and ranch dressing, juice, crackers and a tootsie roll for desert.

Lori

September 15th, 2011
4:32 pm

For the brown bag moms….When I was a kid, my mom bought the colored paper bags (especially at holidays). For example, for the week before Easter, my lunch bags were pastel colored and she actually cut the tops down to make the bags shaped like bunny ears!! She did this even when I was in high school. It was dorky, but I loved it, and it showed me she cared, so I really didn’t care that I got laughed at!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

September 15th, 2011
4:43 pm

Lori — that’s sweet — isn’t it funny what sticks with us!! and lets us know they care!

Sylvania

September 15th, 2011
5:54 pm

Kids are picky eaters for one reason and one reason only – they’re allowed to be by their parents.

My mother would make me sit at the supper table until I finished everything on my plate. I remember sitting at the table many times long after supper was finished while the rest of the family watched TV in the living room. (The only TV in the house, BTW). Nothing.green.passing.my.lips? Not in the house where I grew up.

Kids have it very easy these days.

retired teacher

September 15th, 2011
7:50 pm

School lunch is most aways better than what students would bring from home. A lot of “junk”. My children ate what I cooked–there were not special meals. Eat or go hungry. But when children are taught to go to the garden and pick spinach, then come in and help cook it, they tend to eat most anything. We all had severe allergies. School lunch was OK, as they cold get what was needed–just took a letter from the doctor. These days, parents can go on line and see the choices AND the nutritional information. No need to bring a sack of junk from home–at 3-4 times the cost of a school meal. Too many do not know how to eat from a plate using a fork, spoon, and a knife.

catlady

September 15th, 2011
7:54 pm

Becky, honey, I wasn’t talking about ALL kids. I can tell you, however, I have worked with other people’s kids for almost 40 years, 180 days per year (until lately :( ) and I stated a generalization which I have made from observations of over a thousand students. Every kid? No. Many, many kids? Yes.

shoeness

September 15th, 2011
8:33 pm

When the school sends our menus for the week, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the healthy choices. For example, there is a choice of main dish + 2 choices of sides and the sides are veggies and fruit. So, one day this week there were fish sticks or chicken/cheese quesadillas plus a choice of two of these: sweet potato wedges, black-eyed peas, veggie dippers, oranges, or watermelon. That’s much healthier than I remember school lunches being when I was in school.

PJ

September 15th, 2011
9:08 pm

@shoeness – I’m also a fan of school lunches & have been pleasantly surprised by the freshness of the fruits & veggies offered, especially the number of whole fruits offered each week. I am ever grateful that my son likes to eat at school – he gets excited about the different options each day and loves to make the choices by himself.

Leigh

September 15th, 2011
9:15 pm

I get up early and pack two lunches a day (two boys in elem. school). My oldest had PB & J everyday in August. My youngest changed his sandwich every week. One week, it was ham and cheese on wheat. The next week, he wanted a turkey and swiss roll-up.

This month, they both had either ham and cheese or turkey and cheese on wheat. I also included chips, a fresh fruit such as oranges, apples, grapes, etc. and some type of dessert (2 cookies OR yogurt OR mini-hershey bar, etc.) Sometimes, they ask for yogurt. I do not pack a drink. Milk bought at school is only 30 cents, which comes to $3 a week for both kids. That is cheaper than crappy juices from the grocery store.

I don’t mind packing their lunch. Otherwise, lunch would cost me about $5 a day. I think the reason it is so successful in our house is because they choose their meals. If the oldest wants turkey and the youngest wants ham, I buy both meats. They choose their fruit as well. The oldest really likes oranges and the youngest really likes melons and grapes. I am not as flexible on the dessert. I usually buy whatever is on BOGO at Publix.

Oh I forgot! I pack my lunch as well! I teach, so I usually throw in leftovers from dinner and some Chobani yogurt with granola. It’s really not all that difficult if you have a plan!

Sk8ing Momma

September 15th, 2011
10:39 pm

My children (12yo & 9yo) pack their on lunches and have done so for years! :) I just make sure that I have a variety of items on hand from which they can choose. Having a child pack his own lunch has many valuable/practical life lessons: self-sufficiency, meal-planning and making good choices are just a few. If a parent always makes a child’s lunch, when is the child going to know how to make good choices regarding nutrition and portion control? IMO, if one is physically capable of making his own lunch, he should.

Btw, I think this blog is more for the father than for the son. Really…packing a lunch doesn’t require that much thought! It appears that this is simply a passion/interest/hobby for the father.

Sk8ing Momma

September 15th, 2011
10:39 pm

Oops! I meant to say that my children pack their OWN lunches.

EdDawg

September 15th, 2011
10:56 pm

Amen Catlady. Eating school lunches builds character.

Dennis

September 16th, 2011
7:47 am

At Catlady – that’s an interesting take on nutrition and I like the idea of kids eating what’s being served.

But….I can’t agree with the nutrition that our school lunch program in Forsyth County serves up. Breaded mozarella sticks with marinara sauce?
Meat and cheese nachos? (What kind of meat?)
Sides of corn, french fries and tater tots?

Lunch food can be a good use of leftovers.

Lady Strange

September 16th, 2011
8:42 am

@Sylvania – I will never make my children sit at the table until they’ve cleaned their plate. If they’re not hungry anymore then they’re not hungry. Forcing children to eat when they’re not hungry could lead to eating problems later in life.

Of course they can’t come tell me an hour later that they’re hungry and expect to be fed. Not going to happen. Eat what’s for supper or go without, IMO.

Becky

September 16th, 2011
1:00 pm

@Lady Strange..Me either..My two are pretty good eaters,so I don’t have to make them eat..They know that dinner is that, there will be nothing to eat later.. Except maybe a snack..

Kelly Lester (EasyLunchboxes)

September 16th, 2011
2:51 pm

So happy to know about Lunch Box Blues! Great to see a dad doing all this :) Home packed lunches save money and can be a lot more nutritious than typical school lunches. Of course, they’re more likely to get eaten if they’re eye-appealing. With my EasyLunchbox Containers, you can make healthy, homemade “Lunchables”. 2 pieces, 3 food compartments. With kid friendly, easy to open lids. Affordable & green, and currently the #1 best selling lunch box on Amazon.com. FDA approved. No BPA, phthalates, lead, vinyl, or PVC. And visit my yummy lunch gallery for healthy & simple lunch box ideas. – Kelly Lester, mom and CEO, EasyLunchboxes.com

www.LittleVoyages.com

September 19th, 2011
1:35 pm

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