2006-03-31 / On Second Thought

Thirty-something speaks

No soup for you! How about some crackers?

Mike Maddock

A couple of local school districts caused a bit of a stink recently because they announced something had to be done to stop the rise of delinquent school lunch payments. Apparently, some parents have either forgotten or chosen not to pay for their kids' sloppy Joes on a regular basis, and it's costing the districts a pile of money.

Officials at the school districts suggested cutting off little Timmy and the slacker parents by denying him a tray of pizza and green beans and sending him to his seat with little more than a pack of crackers and a cup of juice. While some important people and several media outlets were alarmed at the supposed callousness of the higher- ups in our school system, I was thinking, "Hey, those guys are finally serving something my kids will eat!"

My wife and I have been busting our tails daily trying to come up with something other than Oreo Yo-Crunch to put in our kids' lunch boxes. Now I find out all we have to do is send them to school with pitiful expressions and an I.O.U. and they'll get crackers and juice. Those officials wouldn't even have to give my oldest child juice because she doesn't like that either. She'd be more than happy with a cup of water.

Please understand I am speaking from the perspective of a parent with two elementary school age children and one pre- schooler who believe the food pyramid should be little more than a pile of buttered noodles and a bowl of cereal. Crackers would be considered a treat to them. So I don't mean to mock the potential implications of any new policies.

Having said that, my youngest daughter is in kindergarten and goes to lunch at 10:30 am. She's still digesting her waffles when she and her classmates are asked to choose from chicken nuggets and baked apples or a cheeseburger and broccoli. I can eat most anything, but I don't know if even I'm prepared to make that choice so early in the day.

What's with these combinations anyway? How about some nachos and corn cobetts? Or some pizza with green beans? Sloppy Joes and pineapple tidbits? Are we betting kids don't have the experience to realize someone is trying to play a really cruel hoax on them? Green beans shouldn't be in the same zip code as pizza, but who am I to question the wisdom of cafeteria officials? Maybe some kids really go for grill cheese and sweet peas at 10:30 in the morning.

I'm just saying when lunch starts about the time the toothpaste taste wears off in your mouth and this culinary match-making sounds suspiciously like someone's trying to clean out the cupboards, crackers and juice just don't sound all that bad. Maybe instead of giving little Timmy crackers and juice as a reminder to pay his lunch money, they should give him double helpings of the pizza and green beans...and make him eat it all.

After a couple of days of that, I'm betting Timmy will find the lunch money himself.

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