The lunch rush

It’s in the last few days of school before a break that inspiration (and will) on the school lunch front really and truly eludes me. I’m like a person new to running races: I come out strong and fade as I approach the finish line. You’d think that after 8 years of school lunch-making, I’d have developed some stamina.

The truth is, I really don’t like this chore—whether it’s at the beginning or end of the, uh, race. I like to cook, I love to eat, but making food for children that must fit in small containers and be consumed in five minutes or less while squeezed in a stinky gym (child #2) or eaten walking to the convenience store (child #1), is not something I relish.

I realize there are those bento moms who love making cute lunches for their admiring children (who no doubt happily gobble them up), but for most of the rest of us scrambling to make the meal from something the kiddos will actually eat,  making school lunch is unrewarding, tedious drudgery. We are the multitudes haunted by uneaten sandwiches and browned apples, by the gut-turning early morning aroma of tomato sauce on leftover pasta.

In fact, my loathing of this task was one of the reasons I pitched the idea for the book, What’s for Lunch? in the first place. I was in the shower (where all good ideas flow) and began to wonder what other parents around the world—most of whom live lives far more complicated and difficult than mine— do to feed their children at school.

The answer wasn’t straightforward—there are as many different approaches as there are countries—but it was nonetheless astonishing to me. There are far too many places in the world where kids don’t get enough to eat at school or elsewhere, or what they eat isn’t healthy, but in a surprising number of nations, citizens and governments have prioritized feeding kids a school meal. Places like Japan and France, Finland, Italy, Russia and India have taken on this responsibility because they believe that school meals will help kids grow and learn and become good citizens.

Next spring, my book, What’s for Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World will be published by Red Deer Press here in Canada (it will come out later in 2012 in the U.S) and the answer will be available—in a beautifully designed and illustrated format—to other parents. I’ll be offering some sneak peeks in the new year as we get closer to publication.

In the meantime, I’ll be taking a holiday break from blogging…and making lunches. Happy holidays everyone!

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