Helping the Lunch Box Pass Inspection

Apr 03, 2009

By Bernice Hurst, Managing Partner, Fine
Food Network

If you think about it, lunch boxes provide
all sorts of opportunities. Granted, they require both shopping and preparation
time. But retailers who find ways to simplify the procedure and show parents
how to produce tasty, healthy, economical and quick-fix solutions are likely
to accumulate brownie points and loyalty from doting parents and their
sated children. Pester power can be turned to advantage as children accompany
their parents up and down grocers’ aisles.

As if this wasn’t reason enough, parents
fighting with teachers inspecting lunch boxes and confiscating anything
of which they don’t approve, will be relieved to see peace reign. According
to the Daily Mail, teachers in a British elementary school have
started inspection schemes, removing items they consider to be unhealthy,
such as candy, chocolate, soda and full-fat chips. The report said, "The
snacks are returned at the end of the day but only if parents ask."

One particularly irate mother pointed out
that her daughter had a sandwich and an apple as well as a small box of
candy. The girl’s father added, "The whole situation is ridiculous
and the teachers are acting like the mealtime Gestapo by going through
their lunch boxes. The crisps have to be approved healthy ones and they
can cost a small fortune."

Parents were notified in advance and told
that the school is trying to follow government healthy eating guidelines
advising that "all pupils consume a well balanced meal at midday in
order to promote healthy eating and maximize…potential learning in the
afternoon sessions."

Going back two years, another school, attended
by teenagers, was forced to take action when students called to have sandwiches
delivered after being told they could not leave school during the day to
visit fast food outlets. Teachers asked the police to stop the deliveryman.
All of which could, perhaps, have been avoided had local grocers taken
the initiative and tempted students and parents with the wherewithal for
more appealing lunch box contents.

Discussion Questions: What’s
the likelihood that there will be increased oversight of children’s meals
at schools in the U.S.? Are retailers doing enough to encourage well-balanced,
healthy lunch box content? What more can/should they do?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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8 Comments on "Helping the Lunch Box Pass Inspection"

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Ben Ball
13 years 11 months ago

Max makes a great point. Instead of playing bad cop and telling kids they can’t have crisps (thereby making them all the more desirable–as Mary points out), imagine what might happen if instead the teacher asked each child to open his lunch box in the period before lunch and they do a quantitative analysis of the food values–good and bad–of their own lunch. Of course this should be a “work at your own desk” exercise, avoiding the temptation to make one child a public spectacle.

But then, this would be educational, and oh so boring. With none of the psychological highs of self-importance and authority that come with a holier-than-thou police approach. And teachers would have to forgo the additional satisfaction of having given that naughty parent a figurative flogging as well. Heavens!

Michael Boze
Michael Boze
13 years 11 months ago

This is a tricky issue. Soda drink makers have pop machines in the schools, McDonald’s site location criteria views being near schools as a plus. Fast food makers support school activities. Many private schools have chocolate sales for fund raisers.

As many school districts struggle with their budgets, guess who is willing to step in to help them out. There is a real conflict on doing healthy food for school age kids.

I would hope the posting of calorie counts per meal helps raise awareness on the part of teenagers about diet an obesity, there parents seem asleep at the switch.

Pass me another cheese puff please.

Max Goldberg
13 years 11 months ago

Having teachers inspect lunch boxes puts them in a role that is not part of their job. Let teachers educate children about healthy eating rather than policing what they are eating. Policing lunch boxes builds resentment among teachers, parents and students…just the opposite of what a good education system is supposed to do.

Nikki Baird
Nikki Baird
13 years 11 months ago
This topic is near and dear to my heart, as I struggle to find quick, yet nutritious things to put in my son’s lunchbox–hoping that they don’t come home with him at the end of the day, uneaten, or worse yet, dumped in the trash and I never know about it. But while I don’t think this kind of solution would ever fly in the US (certainly not at my son’s school), it highlights the heart of the struggle. Full-fat potato chips, for example, are cheaper than the baked ones, and frankly, easier to find in the single serving size that goes in lunches. Chips should play a “treat” role in the average diet, but because of the cost and convenience, they end up playing more of a “staple” role. Whose responsibility is it to get it back into the role of “treat”? CPG? Retail? Schools? Parents? It’s easy to say “parents” and just be done with it, but the reality is, that’s not working. I see kids at my son’s elementary school–and I live… Read more »
Dr. Stephen Needel
13 years 11 months ago

Having teachers inspecting lunch boxes would take away from the valuable time they spend filling out government paperwork. Clearly our friends in England have not learned the importance of government forms and hence have way too much time on their hands.

Ken Yee
Ken Yee
13 years 11 months ago

Big difference between teaching and parenting.

Teachers are suppose to teach, they should stick with it. They obviously have too much time on their hands, which should be used for improving their skill sets and knowledge.

Last time I checked, most teachers concentrate on the same few subjects over and over again for years…sometimes decades. Easy work, easy money, lots of holidays and once you hit that tenure, you’re set for life with no encouragement to improve your work.

Also, when I was in school, whether it’s elementary, high school or university, the teachers and professors are no healthier than the students. Many were just as overweight, many smoked, and you can tell some hit the bottle.

Practice what you preach. I highly doubt English teachers are all healthy, lean machines.

Mary Baum
Mary Baum
13 years 11 months ago
The one thing we’re all forgetting in our obsession with controlling what goes into everyone’s mouths is that the more obsessive we get as a society, the higher obesity rates climb. To anyone who’s ever even skimmed the child-care literature, this should be a no-brainer: fight with your child over what s/he eats, and label certain categories of foods as good and others bad, and you will raise a child who craves only sweets and fast food, and spurns all other food groups as unappealing–somehow psychologically labeling them as duty foods, or even as punishment. Now, in our infinite wisdom, we’re doing that as a society–setting up fruit and vegetable requirements and in the process making the eating of them feel like a duty instead of a pleasure–exactly is it did for many of us when we were children. If we really wanted to get people to eat more fruits and vegetables, we would be better off running campaigns about how scarce and expensive they were getting–how the government was thinking of taxing them or… Read more »
Cathy Hotka
13 years 11 months ago

I say we take the lunchbox examination a step further, and install those see-through-your-clothes devices that the TSA has dreamed up, in every school….


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