SOMWaD: The Lunch Conundrum

(As this is Thanksgiving week and food is on everyone's mind, I thought this was the perfect time for this post.)

Lunch at the middle school is different than Elementary school.  I found that out last year.  In the elementary school, where they don’t have a specific cafeteria, lunch could be purchased most days (not all) and options were limited.  You paid a set amount for lunch per day; around $3.50 a meal, which is pretty reasonable.  Depending on the options, every month I would fill out a form and send in a check for the days that my son would get a lunch.  It was around $25 - $30 a month.  Not a bad deal.

In middle school, the kid can pay for every meal, which means you have to remember lunch money and have enough.  Or you can prepay via credit card and then the money is deducted with every item your child buys.  Same company provides the meal as in elementary school, only now there is a dedicated cafeteria (so I'm assuming that hot meals can be made on the premises; although that might be the wrong assumption to make).  Only now the prices are a little more steep.  That fruit flavored water is $2.25!  The single slice of pizza is just as expensive. And of course he doesn't just go for a slice of pizza and water; there are the churros, fruit snacks and/or cookies.  All of which add up to a good deal of money.

After the first month of school last year, I knew purchasing lunch on a daily basis was not going to be financially feasible for us.  So I limited lunch purchases to the two days where he had band practice.  His backpack is heavy with books and lunch; on band days it also means he carries a trumpet.  So on those days, I had him purchase lunch.  It was still a chunk of change, but it made sense.  He could have the freedom to buy whatever he wanted two days a week and while a little costly, it wasn't going to break the bank.

Now it's a new year and I have a new issue.  On non-purchase days I see purchases; cookie purchases.  A $1.20 for two cookies might not seem like much, but it does add up.  Especially when you consider the full lunch box/bag that I pack when he takes lunch.  While I try to make it nutritious, I also include some goodies such as cookies. (Although I try to go for more "healthy" cookies like fruit bars.  I do realize that healthy cookies is an oxymoron, but let me have my little bit of fantasy.)  I have told my son several times that he should only make purchases on the days where he doesn't bring lunch.  While we are by no means poor, money is little tight in our household and I try to stress resourcefulness and good spending habits.

The other day, a “bring from home” lunch day, it came up that he bought two cookies at lunch.  I was a little irked because I had packed two different kinds of cookies in his lunch (2 Oreos and 2 fig cookies) along with a sandwich, flavor water and an applesauce.  Did he eat what I had packed?  Was he still hungry and needed two cookies?  And then it came out that he bought two cookies because his friend "N" wanted one.  Turns out that N is frequently asking/telling my son to buy him a cookie (or two).  

I did a little more digging (which clearly made my son uncomfortable).  While I appreciate him being nice and helping out a friend (being a good friend/person is a trait that I encourage), these continual cookie purchases were quickly depleting his lunch money account.  Is N having lunch?  Yes.  Does N buy lunch?  No, he has a lunch packed from home and N says its "crap."  Does N eat what he's bringing from home?  Yes.

I wanted to make sure that N was eating.  No child should go hungry and it seemed to me that N wasn't going hungry.  He just wasn't getting the cookies that he wanted.  Since he brought lunch from home, he didn't have a prepaid lunch account set up.  It seemed to me he was "using" my son to get cookies.

Now, N is not a bad kid.  My son has known N since kindergarten.  N is a good, if rambunctious kid.  I see him as the leader of the pack; while my son will generally be the follower.  I'm annoyed that he's using my son's lunch account (or my money) to get sweets, I'm not angry.  He's not a malicious boy; he's more the mischievous sort.  He's also a good and loyal friend and that makes him more than worth his weight in cookies.  However, I told my son (who will be purchasing lunch today) no more cookies.  If N is truly hungry and needs to supplement his lunch, he can buy him a piece of fruit (which is probably more expensive) or something that is more nutritious than a cookie.

Hopefully this will put a halt to the lunch money depletion.  At least for the time being...


Popular posts from this blog

Please Don't Ask Me...

Not Guilty

The First Night of the Last Musical