Thursday, May 26, 2011

"Everything's Not-So-Fine Down Here In Lunch Lady Land": With Three Days Left In The School Year, The Mystery As To Where My Children's Lunch Money Has Gone All Year Has Finally Been Solved

School is officially out next Tuesday. I feel like I've been going crazy all year trying to figure out why I keep giving my children checks with rather large sums of money written on them and they keep coming home within a matter of weeks with sheets of paper in their Friday Folders showing a negative balance for their lunch money. Where is all my money going? It clearly states on the school website that hot lunch costs $2.00-2.50. I'm not a super stellar math genius, but I did pass Calculus II in college, and I know the simple things--like how to crunch numbers. WHAT THE CRAP IS HAPPENING TO ALL OF MY KID'S LUNCH MONEY???

I can hear the hecklers now: "Well, if you were a GOOD mother you would send your children to school with a healthy lunch that you packed yourself!" Well listen up here all you hypothetical heckler people, this mom USED to do exactly that. I would go out and purchase organic fruit, make sandwiches on whole grain bread, include organic fruit snacks, etc. And then something super awesome happened. Every day I would go to open my kid's lunch boxes to clean them out and find exactly what I had packed for them, completely intact, less one or two bites out of a sandwich, and a warm, floppy piece of organic, spoiled fruit. And to boot I would have children who looked all floppy and miserable because they hadn't eaten anything all day. Some people might be saying, "Well if they get hungry enough, they will eat it!"--which is not the case with my children. I happen to have two of the most stubborn twins on the planet. I also am not aiming to be contacted by the Childhood Anorexia Society because my children refuse to eat what I make for them. I finally threw my hands up in the air, and threw all my organic reject fruit into the garbage bin, and decided that my children were now going to be "hot lunch" kids.

One of the moms was joking around with me after school one day about hot lunch. She said, "Do you remember when we were kids--only the poor people bought hot lunch! Now it's the "cool" thing to do!" All I could think was, "Why is that? Has school lunch actually become good?" I looked at the menu online of what they offered the children to eat for hot lunch. It didn't look super fantastic, but it didn't look like they would be dumpster diving or eating from soup kitchen options, either. They even have options now where you can go online and put money into your child's hot lunch account and check their balance. It's crazy how advanced these hot lunches have become. On with the story...

I sent a check to school with my children for $100 last month for hot lunch. "Let's see...$100; 2 children's hot lunches; 21 days in the month to buy hot lunch in April--well that should nearly get me through until the end of the month. At $2.50/lunch that should be 40 lunches." **insert visual of me opening my children's Friday Folder on April 15th and pulling out a sheet of paper that states, "Dear Ms. Madison--your children have a negative balance of $4.25/each. Please provide funds to credit their hot lunch account." WHAT? Wait a minute. What is going on here? Where did my money go? This has officially become known as, "The Hot Lunch Mystery"...

So my children hopped into the backseat of my car the other day and Emma pulls a bag of Chocolate Chortles and a Gatorade from her backpack. I said to her, "Emma, where did you get that?" She told me, "For lunch today." Hmmmm. I don't remember seeing that on the monthly menu posted online. I'll have to look into this...

Do you remember what school lunch used to look like when you were a kid? I certainly remember our "hot lunch". We had plastic trays that were divided into sections--like a TV dinner. Each section would be filled with food as the tray got passed down the "lunch lady line". Each lunch lady was armed with a long, stainless steel spoon and a hair net, and would plop whatever portion of the meal she happened to be serving into the appropriate section of the plate. Then there was a crate full of milk over to the side, so after you got your tray of food, you stopped by the milk crate, hand the cashier a prepaid lunch ticket that looked like it came out of a ski ball machine at the arcade, and then it was off to sit down at the long lunch tables and eat. I only had hot lunch a couple of times while I was growing up. My mom would pack our lunches everyday, which sounds like a good thing, but she was going through rice cake and peanut butter phase for years that wasn't pretty.

Fast forward to this morning: Emma was beside herself today because she said they had "closed the snack shop" for the year and now she had no way of getting her daily snack at school. "WHAT? What daily snack? What snack shop?" OMG...they have a snack shop at their school. Not only have my girls been purchasing "snacks" every day, but it turns out, after further research, that the $2.50 for the school lunch?--that only includes their main portion and one side dish. Then they have a plethora of options for drinks (Gatorade, bottled water, milk, juice, probably Red Bull and Rock Star, too), and they have supplemental options for dessert or other "crap" that you can throw in on top of your main dish--like Cheetos, Chortles, and Funyuns for an extra charge.

NO WONDER OUR CHILD OBESITY IS THROUGH THE FLIPPIN' ROOF! Hot lunch has become a scoop of prepared food and a visit to the vending machine! Not to mention all the additional charges that came with it! By the time my children purchased their "hot lunch" and their "daily snack" I would imagine I was spending well over $5.00/day/per kid on this junk food! THAT'S WHERE ALL MY CHILDREN'S LUNCH MONEY IS GOING!

Do you ever wonder what else is going on at your kids school that you don't know about? Good Lord. I feel like I've been bamboozled. All this time I've been wondering about "evaporating lunch money" and I've even put in calls to the guy who runs the lunch program at school to troubleshoot how my children could develop a negative balance on their lunch funds so quickly--and every time I call he acts like I'm the biggest idiot on earth and provides me with zero information as to where my money has gone. Maybe I should get on board with the PTA and institute a "Bring Your Mother To School Day" so I have some idea of what is happening during those six hours a day my children aren't in my home.

No wonder hot lunch has become the "cool thing to do". It's like shopping at a 7-11--and costs about as much, too! SHEESH!

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