Should teachers/staff tell children what (how) to eat at lunch? — The Bump
School-Aged Children

Should teachers/staff tell children what (how) to eat at lunch?

My dd is in first grade and was very slow to warm up to the idea of buying lunch.  She's a very healthy eater but kind of particular and not very adventurous (just like most first graders probably).  Anyhow, she will sometimes buy her lunch on Weds or Fri now which is awesome for me because I have to take my other dd to pre-school those days and it's nice to not worry about packing a lunch in the morning. 

Last week she came home upset because she was told by the lunch monitor that she had to eat two side dishes before the main course.  (the main course was a cinnamon roll and dd was already starting to eat it).  Anyhow, my dd is a total rule follower and she took this as being reprimanded for doing something wrong.  Now she doesn't want to eat lunch at school on cinnamon roll day.  She was upset to the point she cried and she never comes home crying about stuff.

Honestly, this REALLY irritated me.  The lunch monitor has told me how healthy my dd eats and what great lunches I pack so clearly she knows she doesn't have any issues.  Secondly, who gives a crap if she eats the cinnamon roll first?  Is that even important?  And like my very smart dd pointed out, it's always fine to eat french toast or pancake first on those days. 

I'm not sure if I'm blowing this out of proportion or not but I just don't think it's important or necessary to dictate what order kids eat their food.  Shouldn't they have control of something? 

Is this the norm?  If so, is everyone ok with it?  Should I contact the lunch monitor? 

Thanks for any input!

*btw-I checked school policy and it just says they encourage making healthy choices or something along those lines. 

Re: Should teachers/staff tell children what (how) to eat at lunch?

  • Why in the world was the main course a cinnamon roll? Where is the protein?

    I have no issue with kids being told to eat school lunch a certain way, but I do have an issue when I used to pack DD's lunch and her teacher's aid would tell her what she could eat and what she couldn't. She would call her Clif bar a candy bar and take it away...ummm no! I packed her lunch and ONLY include things she can eat and since she is underweight due to the meds she takes, a chocolate protein bar is a-ok with me. Now, school lunch is different to me because they get to pick and choose and kids don't always make the best choices. :)

  • The sides were scrambled eggs and fruit.  Really the cinnamon roll was the dessert but it was placed as the entree.

     

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  • image-auntie-:
    imagePinkPiano:

    The sides were scrambled eggs and fruit.  Really the cinnamon roll was the dessert but it was placed as the entree.

     

    That makes more sense. I'm guessing that the eggs were the entree even if they were placed in the smaller well/usual side dish spot.

    If the class rule is to eat in a specific order in order to encourgae sensible eating among the whole group, then the lunch aide was doing her job. I'm sorry your kid was upset, but it doesn't sound like she was singled out. Part of school is learning to go along with rules that are meant for others and to take direction from other adults.

    I don't think she was singled out but she didn't know this unspoken rule until she started eating and that's why I think she felt bad.  I just don't want her to end up being nervous at lunch time about how she eats and worried someone is scutinizing her tray. 

  • I am PISSED that they told your DD what and when to eat. I would honestly marchy butt in there and ask that aide when she became a nutritionist. Unless it breaks a written rule like no peanuts then they better not tell my kid how to eat the crappy food they are serving, how the hell will these kids learn when some minimum wage worker that works about 10 hours a week is telling them what to do. 
    Jen - Mom to two December 12 babies Nathaniel 12/12/06 and Addison 12/12/08
  • image-auntie-:
    imagePinkPiano:

    The sides were scrambled eggs and fruit.  Really the cinnamon roll was the dessert but it was placed as the entree.

     

    That makes more sense. I'm guessing that the eggs were the entree even if they were placed in the smaller well/usual side dish spot.

    If the class rule is to eat in a specific order in order to encourgae sensible eating among the whole group, then the lunch aide was doing her job. I'm sorry your kid was upset, but it doesn't sound like she was singled out. Part of school is learning to go along with rules that are meant for others and to take direction from other adults.

    That is bS, I know many healthy people that eat a bite of eat food and not all of one side before the next item, that is ridiculous and I all but guarantee it is not a written rule and I would want to be shown where it is written.  

    Jen - Mom to two December 12 babies Nathaniel 12/12/06 and Addison 12/12/08
  • I few of the moms I met when my DS was in preschool went on to volunteer as lunch and recess aides in the elementary school.  Especially in primary grades, one of the things the aides are supposed to do is make sure the kids eat the food the parents intend them to eat (i.e., the main course before dessert.)  Kindergartners also need supervision to make sure they eat their lunch in the time provided, instead of talking/playing and running out of time to eat.

    As a parent, I appreciate someone making sure my kid eats the sandwich I pack or the slice of pizza I'm paying for. 

    However, I also have sensitive kids who might feel bad if they were corrected in the way your DD was.  I can understand your frustration.  I would just talk to your DD and help her understand that even though the cinnamon roll was in the "main course" spot, it's really important to eat the eggs and fruit.  This way you have a chance to talk about nutrition AND help her understand that she wasn't "bad" but that the cafeteria teacher was just trying to help her make good choices.

    True story:  My DD once gave herself a raging case of constipation because her first grade teacher told the whole class that many of them had been taking too long in the bathroom.  What the teacher meant:  Don't play around in the bathroom.  What my daughter heard/understood:  Pooping takes too long - don't do it because you'll make the teacher mad.

    I talked to her about the need to think logically about rules and ask the teacher for clarification if something just didn't seem to make sense.

    High School English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

    DD, born 9/06/00 -- 12th grade
    DS, born 8/25/04 -- 7th grade
  • imagePinkPiano:

    The sides were scrambled eggs and fruit.  Really the cinnamon roll was the dessert but it was placed as the entree.

     

    If they want the kids to eat the foods in a certain order that order is determined by how/where they are placed on the plate than I would be upset.  Calling the cin, role a main dish scares me and the kids should have been given a small cin role and a nice helping of the eggs and fruit.  My kids go to/will go to a school that really stresses healthy eating and buying locally and I don't see this lunch being served at all like this ever.  I honestly would have a bigger issue with this meal in general over what the lunch monitor was trying to do.

    Jenni Mom to DD#1 - 6-16-06 DD#2 - 3-13-08 
  • imageneverblushed:

    I few of the moms I met when my DS was in preschool went on to volunteer as lunch and recess aides in the elementary school.  Especially in primary grades, one of the things the aides are supposed to do is make sure the kids eat the food the parents intend them to eat (i.e., the main course before dessert.)  Kindergartners also need supervision to make sure they eat their lunch in the time provided, instead of talking/playing and running out of time to eat.

     I disagree. It is one thing to make sure the kid does not throw out their lunch and what is unbeaten can be sent home but unless you sat with them to talk about your intentions then they are assuming and if as a parent you do not want your kid to eat anything before their sandwich then you either talk to your kid and hope for the best or you only send healthy food. DS is 5 and if he was in Kindergarten I would be sending him a "main" like yogurt and mists "desserts" would be strawberries or watermelon, etc and Even if it was cookies I honestly have no issue wih eating a cookie and then yogurt, I do not treat cookies as a reward for eating the healthy food and do not want some lunch lady or volunteer telling my kid that I intended them to eat their yogurt first. And honestly I think it is all BS that schools serve crappy pizza and then tell a kid that is healthy and needs to be eaten first, most school pizza is no healthier than the dessert. 

    Jen - Mom to two December 12 babies Nathaniel 12/12/06 and Addison 12/12/08
  • We don't tell the kids what to eat or when to eat at our school.  We're just happy when they DO eat!  
    KateMW: I can't believe that someone would take food out of your child's lunch!  That's crazy!!
    And PP, I don't know what kind of lunch monitors you have but ours are support staff and not "minimum wage workers who probably only work 10 hours a week" or whatever.  Our paraprofessionals work just as hard as we as teachers do.  I hope that none of our parents feel that way.
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  • I am a teacher and do daily lunch duty at my school.   I often ask students who take "hot" lunch to eat things in a certain order but it rarely has anything to do with the actual food. 

    Using the example you gave, at my school, the cinnamon roll would be individually wrapped, the lunch you mentioned would also be VERY popular.  So I would likely suggest that students eat the eggs and fruit on their tray first mainly because with a popular lunch chances are pretty good that kids will spend more time in line and have less time to eat.  I would ask studetns to eat the eggs and fruit first so that when it is time to clean up they could still clean their trays but work on the individually wrapped cinnamon roll while they wait for their classroom teacher to pick them up.  That way the janitor can start working on moving the trays to the dishwashing area and clean the floors because he has to have the gym ready for class in 25 minutes.  My point being that a lot more goes into a successful lunch period that just eating. 

    The difference for me between the cinnamon roll and pancakes or french toast would be that they have to eat those things on their tray.  I often do the same thing if kids are given sherbert, jello, or individually wrapped chips/crackers.  They can eat those things while the trays can start being washed etc.  With sherbert I ask kids to eat that last so it has a little time to thaw otherwise the kids spend their entire lunch period digging at sherbert instead of eating.  A lot more than just eating goes into creating a successful lunch period.

     My personal opinion (since you asked) is that you are blowing it our of proportion but if you are really that concerned about it talk to the lunch supervisor.  I am always happy to talk to parents about our procedures and rules.  I can honestly say that every decision I make is made to ensure that kids have enough time to eat the things that will help them learn the best in the afternoon. 

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  • imagePinkPiano:

    The sides were scrambled eggs and fruit.  Really the cinnamon roll was the dessert but it was placed as the entree.

     

    It was the dessert, but I would assume too big to go on the side...so really they told your child not to eat the dessert first. I have no issue with that really. 

  • imageoprastr:

    I am a teacher and do daily lunch duty at my school.   I often ask students who take "hot" lunch to eat things in a certain order but it rarely has anything to do with the actual food. 

    Using the example you gave, at my school, the cinnamon roll would be individually wrapped, the lunch you mentioned would also be VERY popular.  So I would likely suggest that students eat the eggs and fruit on their tray first mainly because with a popular lunch chances are pretty good that kids will spend more time in line and have less time to eat.  I would ask studetns to eat the eggs and fruit first so that when it is time to clean up they could still clean their trays but work on the individually wrapped cinnamon roll while they wait for their classroom teacher to pick them up.  That way the janitor can start working on moving the trays to the dishwashing area and clean the floors because he has to have the gym ready for class in 25 minutes.  My point being that a lot more goes into a successful lunch period that just eating. 

    The difference for me between the cinnamon roll and pancakes or french toast would be that they have to eat those things on their tray.  I often do the same thing if kids are given sherbert, jello, or individually wrapped chips/crackers.  They can eat those things while the trays can start being washed etc.  With sherbert I ask kids to eat that last so it has a little time to thaw otherwise the kids spend their entire lunch period digging at sherbert instead of eating.  A lot more than just eating goes into creating a successful lunch period.

     My personal opinion (since you asked) is that you are blowing it our of proportion but if you are really that concerned about it talk to the lunch supervisor.  I am always happy to talk to parents about our procedures and rules.  I can honestly say that every decision I make is made to ensure that kids have enough time to eat the things that will help them learn the best in the afternoon. 

    Thanks for this explanation. I would have no issue with this reasoning but would have an issue with anyone judging the value of the items.  

    Jen - Mom to two December 12 babies Nathaniel 12/12/06 and Addison 12/12/08
  • imageKateMW:
    imagePinkPiano:

    The sides were scrambled eggs and fruit.  Really the cinnamon roll was the dessert but it was placed as the entree.

     

    It was the dessert, but I would assume too big to go on the side...so really they told your child not to eat the dessert first. I have no issue with that really. 

    It was listed as the entree on the school menu but there was no other sweet/treat offered so that's why I said it was dessert but it was clearly listed as the main course.  And at dd's school they are allowed to get seconds if they eat all of their entree (usually more fruit or veggie).  If nothing else, it's kind of confusing to the kids.

    The lunch monitor is not a part-time aide, she's a full-time staff member.  I actually like her very much and have had nothing but pleasant interaction with her in the past, that's one of the reasons I hesitated to do anything at all.   

    I appreciate the comments and input.  We're on spring break this week so I have the week to decide if I want to do/say anything.

    Thanks again!

     

  • I think the explanation above is reasonable; otherwise, no I don't think they should be told what to eat. 

    One of the schoolsI sub at expect silent lunches, personally I am not a fan. 


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  • imagePinkPiano:
    imageKateMW:
    imagePinkPiano:

    The sides were scrambled eggs and fruit.  Really the cinnamon roll was the dessert but it was placed as the entree.

     

    It was the dessert, but I would assume too big to go on the side...so really they told your child not to eat the dessert first. I have no issue with that really. 

    It was listed as the entree on the school menu but there was no other sweet/treat offered so that's why I said it was dessert but it was clearly listed as the main course.  And at dd's school they are allowed to get seconds if they eat all of their entree (usually more fruit or veggie).  If nothing else, it's kind of confusing to the kids.

    The lunch monitor is not a part-time aide, she's a full-time staff member.  I actually like her very much and have had nothing but pleasant interaction with her in the past, that's one of the reasons I hesitated to do anything at all.   

    I appreciate the comments and input.  We're on spring break this week so I have the week to decide if I want to do/say anything.

    Thanks again!

     

    I'm just blown away that the entree was a cinnamon roll. What has happened to our school lunches? Wow 

  • imageKateMW:
    imagePinkPiano:
    imageKateMW:
    imagePinkPiano:

    The sides were scrambled eggs and fruit.  Really the cinnamon roll was the dessert but it was placed as the entree.

     

    It was the dessert, but I would assume too big to go on the side...so really they told your child not to eat the dessert first. I have no issue with that really. 

    It was listed as the entree on the school menu but there was no other sweet/treat offered so that's why I said it was dessert but it was clearly listed as the main course.  And at dd's school they are allowed to get seconds if they eat all of their entree (usually more fruit or veggie).  If nothing else, it's kind of confusing to the kids.

    The lunch monitor is not a part-time aide, she's a full-time staff member.  I actually like her very much and have had nothing but pleasant interaction with her in the past, that's one of the reasons I hesitated to do anything at all.   

    I appreciate the comments and input.  We're on spring break this week so I have the week to decide if I want to do/say anything.

    Thanks again!

     

    I'm just blown away that the entree was a cinnamon roll. What has happened to our school lunches? Wow 

     

    Cost, that is what has happened to school lunches.  The cost of fresh fruit/vegetables and healthy protein has skyrocketed to the point that providing it for students (and in many cases at little to no cost) is no longer possible.  That is why we are seeing things like pizza sauce counting as a vegetable.

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  • Who gives a cinnamon roll for lunch!? At the school age level I would let the kids eat what they want on thier tray. I work for an early education program and we encourage the kids to eat or at least try the main dish first followed by the sides and we have the fruit last. A lot of kids will only eat the fruit if we give it to them all at once (its kind of like the dessert I guess) so we encourage the healthy main components of the lunch first.

    But.....I'm sure a school age child can figure out on her own what she wants to eat! Poor girl, that lunch lady sounds wierd!

  • imageKateMW:
    imagePinkPiano:

    The sides were scrambled eggs and fruit.  Really the cinnamon roll was the dessert but it was placed as the entree.

     

    It was the dessert, but I would assume too big to go on the side...so really they told your child not to eat the dessert first. I have no issue with that really. 

    I agree with this.  They were encouraging her to eat the healthier, heartier stuff first.  I have a sensitive kid too, so I understand your concern, but I just don't think what happened is something to get angry over.  Think about it another way - if your daughter did not feel reprimanded or "in trouble" woudl you otherwise be ok with someone suggesting she eat eggs instead of a cinnamon roll first?  IMO, your reaction is partially b/c of your daughter's personality - not b/c of what the aide necessarily did.  (and again, I have a 7 yo extremely sensitive child, so I'm aware that it's not an easy path to navigate.)

  • I would be more concerned that the school is considering a cinnamon roll a "main course". I can't even imagine what kind of sides they would serve with it.

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