Life skills learned in school lunch bartering – Chilliwack Progress

In many homes across our great nation the angst and stress of ‘back to school’ can be captured in one word.


It is true for both parents and children.

One day the kids are allowed to innocently forage in the cupboards for granola bars and Kraft Handi-Snacks, and the very next they are met at the top of the stairs by a wild banshee, flames shooting from her eyeballs and screaming ‘Who opened the Wagon Wheels? Those are for LUNCHES!”

Of course it is more serious than that.

Food security, poverty and hunger are cancers in our communities, never more so than today, with the rise in inflation and particularly the climbing costs at the grocery store.

(Last week I spent $4.99 on a 28-ounce can of dark red kidney beans. It was either that or put back all the other ingredients in the basket meant for a chili. For five bucks I would normally expect the beans to be magic. I would plant them in the back yard, grow an enormous bean stock and climb above the clouds to an enchanted castle full of gold and treasure.)

According to Statistics Canada more than 1.5 million Canadians under the age of 18 experience some level of food insecurity, whether it is not having enough to eat, or having to go one or more days with no food at all, or just the plain worry of where the next grilled cheese is coming from.

There are food banks, and there are school programs structured around various models. Some are more effective than others and the best preserve a child’s sense of worth and privacy.

One can hunger for dignity, as well.

Locally I see bowls of fruit on school counters, and teachers know. There are many who take personally the challenge of making sure every child in their classroom is fed, while trying not to be obvious.

Every parent with a little means can help informally. Pack an extra sandwich and a drink box in your kid’s Spider Man lunch box and encourage your child to eat with a friend.

Children, many appearances to the contrary, are not stupid. They know too. And school is a great place to learn to share.

Another unfortunate reality of food insecurity is that actual nutrition comes dear.

In other words, if the budget is tight, it is more practical to stock up on inexpensive items, often packaged and highly processed.

Well I remember a period during one school year in Ontario.

Desirable lunch stuff seemed to go in fads, like running shoes. There was just one small school in our community, Kindergarten to Grade 8, and for reasons that were never satisfactorily explained, Mr. Noodles were all the rage for about a month.

You know Mr. Noodles – those brick like, cello-wrapped dry Asian-style noodles normally meant to be boiled in water and accompanied by a seasoning package that is totally comprised of ingredients I don’t know how to spell.

The kids ate them raw, crunching the noodles and then shooting the season package like it was an ounce of tequila.

This was strictly outlawed in the DeMeer household, over the cries of “well everybody is doing it.”

One morning the youngest DeMeer asked for $1, so he could stop at our little market before going to school.

When I asked what the money was for he said it was for Mr. Noodles and my hand hit the Formica with considerable force.

We’ve been over this.

The child then assured me he wasn’t going to eat them. mr. Noodles were on sale for 25 cents a package and for four Mr. Noodles he could trade for a large carton of chocolate milk.

That day I realized my son was a noodle dealer, and moreover, that he was gonna do just fine in life.

Andrea DeMeer is the editor of the Similkameen Spotlight, a sister paper to The Chilliwack Progress.

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