Our Kids Are Eating What?

School Lunch

My sister and I had the opportunity to attend an end-of-year carnival at my cousins’ school last week.  My aunt was helping out and invited us to come out and see everyone.  Ava had a blast with all of the kids and going down the inflatable slide with her aunt, Susie (or Suuusss-seee as Ava says it).  She thoroughly enjoyed a snow cone (without the syrup), but wasn’t a fan of the fireman trying to spray her with the fire hose.

Baby on Slide

While at the school, my sister and I were offered a school lunch.  We graciously accepted, but our expectations were not high.  I was even more appalled when I opened the bag.  As Susie and I surveyed the bag, we determined that half of it was completely inedible.  We unwrapped the “ham” sandwich and this is what we found.

School Lunch Sandwich

Although it is on what appears to be a whole wheat bun (whether it’s actually whole wheat, we may never know), the mystery meat “ham” made me want to vomit.  Top that with two slices of processed cheese product and you have one completely unappetizing sandwich.  Where are the veggies?  Don’t the kids deserve some lettuce and tomato on their sandwich?  Our bag also included one mayo and mustard packet, neither of which was going to save this sandwich.  We weren’t even willing to eat the bread.

The bag also contained the following:

  • A bag of Baked Lays (sour cream & onion)
  • A small bag of baby carrots and celery with two packets of fat-free buttermilk ranch
  • An apple
  • Grape juice
  • Your choice of 1%, fat-free, or 1% chocolate milk.

While I will applaud them for the apple and the carrots and celery, there are so many things wrong with this lunch.

While I’m not a fan of processed food, the Baked Lays are a far better option than traditional potato chips.  The carrots and celery are great, but why is it served with fat-free buttermilk ranch (that’s what they call it anyway)?  Would you like to guess the first ingredient in this particular ranch dressing?  It’s not buttermilk like the name would suggest.  High fructose corn syrup is the first ingredient in the fat-free buttermilk ranch.  Here’s the thing with “fat-free” foods (if you want to call them that), when you remove the fat, it must be replaced with something.  That something is usually sugar; almost always in the form of high fructose corn syrup.  So your children are having a side of sugar with their veggies (and GM sugar at that).

Our bodies need fat!  Young, elementary age children need the healthy natural fats (which should come from low-fat buttermilk in this case) for their developing brains.  Give the kids some full fat buttermilk ranch dressing, their brains deserve it!

Yay for the apple, but why is juice the go-to beverage for kids?  Why don’t they offer the kids water?  And wouldn’t water be less expensive too?

As for the milk, it’s unnecessary (this is whole other topic in itself).  But, if you’re going to offer kids milk, why 1% or fat-free?  Let them drink whole milk or at least 2%.

I think the absolute worst part of this is that more than 50% of this particular elementary school lives at or below the poverty level.  For many of those kids, this may be their best, most nutritious meal of the day.  For some, it may be their only meal.  Many of the kids have said that the lunches are just not enough; they’re still hungry.  Our kids deserve better.

Do your children eat school lunch?  Have you actually looked at what they are offered?

Toddler Fun: Rainbow Rice

Rainbow Rice

Ava and I are in Florida visiting my family. My sister is out-of-town this week and my mom went to prom this weekend (as a chaperone, not a date) and Ava and I needed to find something to entertain ourselves for a few hours.  I’ve wanted to experiment with some sort of rice sensory activity, so we got to work. (Please excuse the horrible pictures.  My mother’s kitchen has NO natural light.)

I decided on making some rainbow rice. It couldn’t be too different from dying Easter eggs, right? Before we left for Alaska, I gave my mom a half-full 50 pound bag of rice that I had. I knew there was no way that they had eaten 25 pounds of rice in 7 months. Sure enough, I found a giant container of rice. You will also need white vinegar and food coloring. I used gel food coloring since that’s what mom uses when she makes cakes. You could definitely use the liquid kind too. So here’s what you need for each color.

  • 1/2 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • food coloring (to your desired shade)

Sensory Rice

I decided on 5 colors to get us started.  First, pre-heat your oven to 175 degrees.  In 5 small bowls, I poured in the 1/2 cup of rice and 1 tablespoon of vinegar.  I then picked my 5 colors and added a bit of food coloring into each bowl.  Stir with a spoon until all of the food coloring is incorporated.  You can add more food coloring if the color is not dark enough for your taste.

Carefully spoon each color into a thin layer on a cookie sheet and smash into a flat layer.  Repeat with each color.  You will end up with a pan that looks like this.

Rainbow Rice

Bake the rice at 175 degrees for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and gently stir each color with a fork.  You will see that there may still be some moisture on the bottom of the pan.  Return the pan to the oven for an additional 10 minutes, or until all of the rice is dry.

Remove your rainbow rice from the oven and you’re ready to play!  I poured each color (as best I could) into different size measuring cups and bowls.

Toddler Rice Play

I also set her up with a few different scoops, spoons, and even a small funnel.  She had a blast!

Sensory Rice Play

I definitely plan on doing this on a larger scale once we get back to Texas.  Think: rainbow rice sandbox (ricebox?), but something with a lid.  Oh, and be prepared for a mess.  I think we will keep this as an outdoor activity.

Toddler Sensory Play

Even I had fun playing with the rainbow rice.  Do you think you will make some?