The Community Lunch

This year, my daughter’s kindergarten instituted a “community lunch” on Fridays. This means that families take turns bringing lunch for the whole class, a total of 11 kids and 2 teachers. I like this idea because I no longer have to pack my child a lunch on Fridays (the school does not have a cafeteria). But every three months, I have to make an appealing meal for a bunch of 5- and 6-year olds.

The teacher maintains that sharing a meal like this is an excellent way for the kids to feel a sense of community. And it’s also a great way to introduce kids to new foods. Apparently they will eat things at school, among their friends, that they would never touch at home. This is one of those times that peer pressure asserts its influence for good.

The kids themselves were relatively oblivious to these benefits, and did a lot of grumbling in the weeks leading up to the first community lunch: “What if I don’t like it, I’ll be so hungry…” I must admit, there was a lot of pressure on the first family who had to bring lunch, as this experience would likely make it or break for the kids. Wisely, they brought an irresistible honey puff pancake with maple cream, chicken sausages and strawberries. Breakfast for lunch — sheer genius! And just like that, the kids were hooked on the community meal.

Other families have brought alphabet soup, and make-your-own sandwiches. What fun! Another mother came into the classroom earlier in the morning to actually make pasta with the kids — which they then cooked and ate together. They were even serenaded by the head of school, who brought in his guitar and played the song, “On top of spaghetti, all covered in cheese, I lost my poor meatball…”

Recently it was our turn, and I had to figure out what to cook for a bunch of kindergartners — subject to the approval of my own picky eater, of course. I lobbied for her favorite macaroni and cheese, with broccoli mixed in. But she wasn’t going to agree to anything I suggested. That kid wanted her all-time favorite meal: quiche, made with eggs from our own chickens. It was hard to argue with that.

So one Friday a few weeks ago, I dropped my daughter off at school then rushed home to make two quiches, using a whole week’s worth of our own eggs. I hear the quiches were a hit, and I’m glad. But what really matters is that my kid felt proud that day, and shared something valuable with her classmates. And apparently she even convinced one friend that eggs really are yummy. So, as stressful as it is to make lunch for a classroom of kindergartners, I’ll be happy to do it again when our turn comes around.

Jen McNally moved to Maine from Colorado four years ago, in search of a simpler, more natural lifestyle. Since then, she has planted her first-ever vegetable garden, raised a flock of six hens, and continues to learn about healthy living. She is a stay-at-home mother of two active girls, ages five and three. In her former life, she studied in Germany for two years, traveled to 6 continents and 31 countries, and was the marketing manager for an adventure travel company. Jen contributes regularly to the Guiding Stars blog.