An Unusual Incentive for Good Behavior Works Wonders
Never underestimate the palate-pleasing power of a school lunch
All parents bribe their children from time to time, right? We are constantly trying to think of new and creative ways to encourage behavior we want from our children and reward them when they follow through. There are endless possibilities. Perhaps cute stickers or an ice cream cone would suffice. New toys, video games, a trip to a movie theater or an Abercrombie sweater might satisfy young thirst for praise and payment.
I’ve offered my sons all sorts or treats and trips as motivation to continue good school performance and polite behavior. To my complete surprise, I discovered a treat that pleases my sons like no other. I can get them to do just about anything I want with this offer. Not even Kalahari or Nintendo can top this one.
It’s a school lunch ticket. My sons jump for joy at chances to buy lunch at Surrarrer Elementary. If they earn a few bucks doing chores or charming relatives, they almost always use the money to buy lunch.
Comedian Adam Sandler’s jovial jab at school cafeteria fare in his song “Lunchlady Land” no longer applies. Sloppy Joes aren’t even on the menu anymore. Greasy meat patties and soggy pizza squares have given way to reduced-fat, low-sodium Nachos Grande and pizza delivered fresh from a local parlor.
School lunch has gone hip, healthier bistro. It isn’t a perfect dietary plan. Kids are still kids, so tofu burgers remain unlikely to come the least bit close to their mouths.
Strongsville schools’ modern lunches pack more of what kids should get, such as whole grain, and less of what they shouldn’t, like trans-fat. Canned vegetables are out, and more fresh fruits are in.
A few selections from the January menu include Tyson popcorn chicken, Hot Pockets, cheese quesadillas, bacon cheeseburgers and stuffed-crust pepperoni pizza. Should these and other entrée choices not appeal to purchasers, the schools offer chicken nuggets, pizza, yogurt and cheese as daily alternatives.
Truthfully, I was until recently a little baffled as to why my sons are so excited about buying school lunch. Is it that carrying a tray is fun? Do they enjoy extra time to goof off in the lunch line?
It can’t be that my packed lunches are lousy. My sons eat Fruit Roll-ups, pudding cups and peanut butter sandwiches at home too. I don’t pack the same things for them every day. So I asked my sons why they love to buy lunch. “Because the food’s good,” they said, almost in unison.
It’s no accident or coincidence that the food is so good. Much planning and effort goes into creating a top-notch, modern school lunch program. Jill Orris, the schools’ food services coordinator, will travel to Columbus this week to sample new items suppliers will make available for next school year’s lunches.
Orris and her food services team have the delicate task of creating nutrient-dense meals children will actually eat. Orris never stops seeking fresh ideas for menu items friendly to school budgets, kids’ palates and federally mandated nutrition criteria.
One might be surprised to know that Strongsville schools serve turkey sausage, chicken-based corn dogs, baby carrots, whole wheat soft pretzels and trans-fat free chicken nuggets and potatoes. Grilled cheese sandwiches are made with a nonfat, cholesterol-free butter spray. Candy is no longer sold in cafeterias.
Strongsville High School family and consumer sciences teacher Colleen Schemrich recently secured the district’s participation in a program that funds consultations with a local chef. The chef will review the district’s current food service operations and work with students and food service staff members to develop new and healthy food options.
Orris also wants kids to like the lunches because it helps generate more federal funding for the district’s food service operations. The more lunches each school sells, the more money the government provides it to purchase food products. Elementary school students pay $2.75 per lunch. Middle and high school lunches cost $3.
I picked up a roll of quarters the last time I went to the bank. I figured I should be prepared the next time my child gets two dollars, turns to me and says, “Mom, I need 75 cents!”