What Will School Food Teach My Child?

3.10.10: Leo's 21st Month


A mom on our local parents listserv asked me for my thoughts about the school Leo is now attending, and this was my reply:

We only just started sending Leo, who turns 2 in May, but I figured I'd share my initial thoughts: So far, so good. The 2 yr old room is the only one without windows, which really makes me sad, and it's a loud, hectic classroom that is also a thoroughfare for people going to the office. That and the fact that the school has mandatory school food--no outside food allowed--are the downsides we have known about and accepted going in.

The food thing almost lost me. The kids get breakfast, lunch and snack that are State Dept. of Nutrition "balanced meals". Cereal and lowfat milk, juice, fruit, frozen vegs and things like meatballs, chicken parm, pizza. Think what you will, but this stuff is absolutely nothing I would ever buy for us at home. I'm a food professional and this is really hard for me. Leo of course eats it all up happily, and still eats our whole grains, fresh veggies and non-sweet foods at home too, so I'm just, well, working on accepting the good with the bad.

The upsides that made this school worth trying, and so far are really giving me a great feeling about our choice, are that the director is very lovely and easy to communicate with and the teachers in the 2s room are truly wonderful, and really teachers, not just babysitter types. I think the quality of the care Leo is getting is on par with fancier places that hit you over the head with their educational philosophy. If they start taking the kids outside now that it's warmer, I'll probably remain satisfied with this school.

Most importantly, though he hadn't been taking great naps on his first week and was very sleepy in the evenings, Leo really likes the place, and the people, and has had no hesitations about going to school in the morning, even though he expects that we say bye bye when he gets there.

I am sure this place wouldn't appeal to everyone, or be easy for every kid to adapt to (and even though Leo's adapting well, I am a wreck about it!). I don't know how this second week will leave me feeling, but so far, we're positive.

Zoe (mom to Leo and veteran of several local childcare options including informal family daycare, nanny share and now preschool!)

Like I say above, week two, as I start full-time work again, may go very differently from week one. All I can do is remain open to the possibility that it could go well—an activity that is so much more challenging than it should be.

As you can also probably tell from the above, the food thing remains a sticking point. There is a donut day on Leo’s March menu, a cheeseburger day, and the bread they serve is Wonderbread. This is NOT how we eat and if you’ve been reading this blog, you may have noticed that the food I have been making for Leo, and before solids, the breastmilk I provided, have been one of my biggest focuses as a parent.

To let this all go, completely and suddenly, feels like taking the word Mom off my office door and resigning. How can I do that? I’m in denial about it, really. I just plan to give Leo so much healthy, high quality food at home that I can somehow remain in denial. This week, I’m taking on Wonderbread. Let’s go, you big fluffy white doughboy, you wanna piece of me?

Recipe: Homemade Whole Wheat Buns

Zoe Singer is a freelance food writer and cookbook editor and co-author of The Flexitarian Table. Food Editor and blogger for The Faster Times, she tries not to eat for two now that her son is a toddler.