As the leader of an organization that works with children, and as a single, working mom, school lunches are on my mind right now. I bet I’m not alone.

I pack a lunch for my son every day. While it adds 15 minutes (at least!) to my morning or evening, it makes me feel good to “feed” my son, and I can’t seem to let it go.

Why should I even care about letting it go, you may ask? Well, some research has shown that our sack lunches are falling short – that compared to lunches provided by schools, we parents are including foods with more sodium and sugar.

Add that research to the fact that new school lunch guidelines are now in place, and there’s been a lot of chatter that a school-provided lunch can be a healthier option, not to mention more convenient and affordable.

Even with this information, right now I plan on continuing to pack a lunch. Believe me, if my son wanted the school lunch, I would happily let all the planning and preparation go. But, he wants to take his lunch and it makes me feel like I’m shaping his health more directly by making it for him…so onward and upward I go.

Of course, this may not be the right choice for everyone. This piece may help you choose which option is best for you and your family.

Nutrition is just one of many school lunch issues – what if our kids won’t eat what’s in front of them, wherever it came from?

Last year, I battled the half-eaten sandwich. This year, my son doesn’t like the dairy options I’ve packed – like yogurt and cheese – because they don’t stay cold enough for him. (FYI — dairy is supposed to be included in lunches, according to the new guidelines.)

To solve the first challenge, I ended up using less bread – making half a sandwich, but with the same amount of meat. So far, the container is coming back empty. Progress! I’m still working on the dairy problem, though.

In order to prevent lunches from winding up in the trash, I think it all comes down to education. Talk with your kids about food choices. Expose them to new foods when you can. Some kids are just picky eaters, and I won’t pretend to have an answer to that.

My kid happens to like vegetables, and will now even eat asparagus if served it! However, that only came after I got over my fear of rejection and served him what I like, while being mindful of his texture preferences. For example, he’s always eaten broccoli, especially if it is on the crispier, but still cooked, side. Thus, asparagus was not such a leap.

Let’s keep working on getting nutritious food in bellies and not in the trashcan. The more we talk to our kids about food and teach them about healthy choices, the better outcomes we will see – whether they are eating a packed lunch or a school lunch.

You may want to check out this article and get inspired to create an even healthier lunch for your kiddo!

And if you are looking for menu ideas, here is a helpful link. This one is great, too.

Keep in mind what will work for you and your child, and what will give them the best nutritional power to get them through their busy day of learning.

Do you “pack it” or “school lunch it?” Comment below, and let us know why.


As January comes to an end, I’m sure most people are tired of hearing about health and fitness. As everyone knows the New Year brings new resolutions, most of which involve getting healthier. This doesn’t have to be…. Here at Phalen Leadership Academy (PLA) AYS, the students and I are embarking on a journey to a healthier lifestyle. Each week we choose healthier snacks over processed, high-calorie snacks and focus on being active to stay fit.

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My main goal for the scholars here at PLA is to teach them that it is not about completely overhauling one’s life, but creating a healthy balance. Do we eat cookies sometimes? Yes!! Do we have chocolate candy sometimes? Yes!!! Do we always, everyday put our bodies through physical drills? NO! We find a balance.  What I have found here at PLA is that the students have started to crave the healthier snacks and look forward to our fun, wacky workouts.  After about a month it became routine in these young kids’ lives and now they are happy to be healthier and stronger!

                It’s never too late to change your life, and it doesn’t have to change all at once. Remember it is never about taking things away from your life but adding things.  Add one physical activity to your week this week. Add one more serving of veggies to your plate today. Encourage your friends and family to do the same and see what happens in a few months’ time!

By Christa Martini, AYS Program Director at Phalen Leadership Academy