Confessions of a lunch lady: Hell is a brown banana

Want to know the inside scoop on what happens at your kid’s school during lunchtime? One unnamed lunch lady tells it how it is.

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Photo: Jane’s mom

“And so my lunch making hell begins (unless I want to stock up on smoked salmon and ‘party cheese’),” my friend Julie posted on Facebook. Her daughter Jane wrote a list titled “What to Pack for lunch and not  — Never, Sumtimes and any time.”

I smile and I “Like” because I’m Jane’s Lunch Lady. Technically, I’m her “Lunchroom Supervisor” and won’t be making her “water melan” and “corissants” from the “any time” list. But as the person who keeps children safe, behaving and hopefully eating at lunchtime, I know that any bananas, “chikun,” or ham that make it into her lunch will end up in the trash.

Well, some little boy will probably grab the banana and put it down his pants first — then I’ll confiscate it. But bananas always end up in the trash, even the ones that arrived in fancy banana keepers (if the kids can manage to open them).

“Hahah — I was verbally given the same kind of list. And now I have to make two lunches! Ugh,” commented my other friend Kate.

Full-day kindergarten has arrived in Ontario! Having been offered a kindergarten classroom to supervise, I begged to stay in the lunchroom for grades one through six. There are fewer tears, from the parents, the students and me — we’ve all grown thicker skin.

“The only thing Jane is excited about back to school is ‘making [her lunch monitor] mad’” was Julie’s response to my comment that bananas are never ever eaten. I felt sad for a minute, because kids sometimes see a raised voice, because of a loud lunchroom, as anger. Or, they think a person is angry when they’re unsympathetic to their claim that they’re allergic to everything but the Fruit by the Foot in their lunch. I’m not. It’s never anger — it’s a frustration we all feel. It’s eating time, and why does eating have to be so hard for everyone?

For parents, lunches can be stressful. It’s a power struggle; an extra chore; an opportunity. Whether packed with loving care and attention, or muttered curses and groans, it’s a tossup as to whether or not they’ll be eaten.

For students, lunches are more than fuel — they’re reconnecting with home; they’re recharging the battery; they’re social currency; and they’re often an activity along the lines of a science experiment (much to my chagrin.)

For lunch ladies, lunches are a window into the student’s life — an unspoken expectation from the parent (except when I’m accosted at an event or in the hall and have to put on my “Lunch Lady” hat to answer). They’re also a reminder that the school day is full of dizzying highs and depressing lows, where “strawberrys” are a comfort and joy that sustain you for the rigors of First Grade.

Read more confessions of a lunch lady here.

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