by Renée Canada
I remember the days of high school lunches consisting purely of those Friendly Sundae Cups. As an high honor roll student all through sophomore year, I would just flash my proudly earned “golden” card, which was basically a free pass to goodies at the school store and treats at lunch, and voila, I would have a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Sundae in hand. I felt like I was doing something illicit that I would later regret. Have you seen how many calories are in that small little cup? I had: 430, with 25g of fat, 29g of sugars. I knew I was more than tripling my caloric intake from my normal daily lunches of bologna and cheese sandwich, with carrots or grapes if I was lucky.
I remember gazing longingly at my friends’ lunches in middle school. Tresa’s mother always tucked little notes into her lunches which always included cookies or some such goodies, in addition to her peanut butter and jelly sandwich, on white bread, cut up in different shapes. My best friend Jenn, who always had ham and cheese sandwiches with mustard on white bread, usually had chips and/or a cookie as well. She never finished her entire meal.
So I with the measly baloney and cheese with mayo sandwiches on wheat bread always sniffed around like a vulture when I was done with my meals, waiting for everyone at the table to proclaim they were done. An apple would be abandoned. I’d eat it. Half a bag of chips would lay on the table ignored. I’d eat that too. And if someone had peanut butter and fluff, the biggest taboo in sandwiches, you can bet I’d figure out some way to trade up for that–usually with someone else’s leftovers.
Today, I can no longer stomach half the food I so hungrily scavenged from my lunch pals. I prefer my oatmeal with almond milk, apples, raisins and walnuts. My wheat bread with organic turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mustard for lunch. Hey, I even drink water 24/7, and I actually love it. I hardly ever drink soda, and I look for juice that actually has, you know, juice as its main ingredient. If we had a Whole Foods in town, I’d be pouring way too much money each week buying my groceries there. When I see food or beverages with high fructose corn syrup in it, I cast it off as if it had the devil’s handprint on it.
So reading today’s story about a Tucson elementary school’s decision to put all processed foods on their “no list” made me want to give someone a high-five, especially in the face of this nation’s obesity epidemic. With lunch meat and flavored yogurt on the school’s no-food list, one wonders what children can consume. Teachers trade quesadillas made with white flour tortillas with whole wheat wraps topped with peanut butter and honey, which to be honest, sounds like an appetizing alternative. School Director and Founder Nancy Aiken may have a point, according to the article: “If all U.S. families allowed her school’s food rules…child obesity would be a rare problem.”
The only thing that makes is sad is thinking about birthdays at Children’s Success Academy: there will be no birthday cupcakes or cake for these kids. There is value in moderation or creativity with alternative ingredients. One can hardly put a candle on fruit or nuts, which is the school director’s suggested birthday “dessert.” Perhaps I should email the recipe to lip-smacking gluten-free chocolate cupcakes with no sugar or high-fructose corn syrup to Aiken. I think her students would thank me.