Tag Archives: school

Will Kids Eat Healthy Food?

As a school employee, I get to take my turn at cafeteria duty every day. It’s not much fun, but I do get to see what kids do and do not eat. Over the past few years, I’ve seen good progress toward healthier school meals. Our food service department has been cutting back on packaged junk-type foods, increasing fruits and vegetables, and adding a variety of local fruits and vegetables.

And this year, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) changed its requirements for school lunches.

The final standards make the same kinds of practical changes that many parents are already encouraging at home, including:

  • Ensuring students are offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week; • Substantially increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods;
  • Offering only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties;
  • Limiting calories based on the age of children being served to ensure proper portion size; and
  • Increasing the focus on reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium.

So far this year, I’ve noticed that a packaged dried fruit mix is being served with most lunches, and that only unflavored milk (2% or fat-free) is offered. The fresh, local fruits and vegetables are continuing to be offered in the variety bar (kids choose which items they want). The entrees appear to be the same as before, and I haven’t noticed portion sizes shrinking.

However, there are reports, like this one in the New York Times, of trouble in other school districts, especially at the high school level. Students don’t want to eat fruits and vegetables, and they feel they’re not getting enough to eat.

I don’t doubt these reports. Teens are hungry, and they love junk food. But the schools are required to offer them a minimum of 750 calories as lunch, so they’re not starving, either. I don’t know. I don’t have a teen yet, and I don’t have boys, who I understand will eat several times their weight in food. Maybe the teen meals do need some adjustment.

The other issue being reported is food waste — students are simply throwing out the fruits and vegetables. There’s a picture with the NYT article of a garbage can full of foam trays (yuck) containing leftover vegetables, which is supposed to illustrate this.

Here’s my take on food waste:

Yes, some kids will throw away the vegetables. That’s just how it is. However, I’ve also seen kids taking and eating fresh spinach, asparagus and watermelon – even when they didn’t know what was until that very moment. NOBODY eats the waterlogged canned spinach. The dried fruit mix has taken some time to be accepted. But the fruits and vegetables are being eaten by at least some kids.

Also, many kids over-fill their trays. So even if they ate some fruits and vegetables, there are a lot left on the tray. We try to monitor and discourage this, but since they serve themselves, and we can’t watch every kid 100% of the time, it still happens.

So at the elementary level, I think it’s working. And maybe when these kids are in middle and high school, there won’t be so many complaints.

A New School Year

Tomorrow’s the first day of school, but no one here is particularly excited. Well, maybe our second-grader is. She’s excited about being in a class with her friend, and she’s excited that another friend is starting kindergarten this year, so they will be at the same school.

Our fifth-grader likes her friends, and does well at school, but I think she really prefers being with US. She was upset today because she didn’t get to go shopping with either of her parents.

Both of them will likely be in classes with over 30 kids this year, which worries me. A lot.

Our seventh-grader will be mostly home-schooled this year. She’ll take a couple of classes at the middle school (we’re still hoping she can get into band; she’s on the waiting list), but do the rest of her work independently. Middle school didn’t turn out to be a positive environment for her last year, and since I don’t see it as a positive environment either, I’m happy to have her out of school for the time being.

And me? I worked a couple of days last week, and tomorrow will be the first day with students. But my job is changing a bit this year, and I’m apprehensive.

Normally I work mainly with technology — maintaining the computer lab and all of the other computers, printers and audio-visual equipment in the building and helping teachers and students use the technology equipment. When classes visit the computer lab, I work with the teachers to help students with typing, art projects, math and reading tutorials, and more. When we have standardized testing, it’s all done in the computer lab, and I’m in charge of that. And I’ve always had some kind of lunch or recess duty, either in the computer lab or outdoors.

I used to have eight hours per day to do all of that. Last year it was cut to seven, because, budget cuts. And then I was asked to do after school crosswalk duty, and was granted an extra paid half hour for that specifically. Until they decided to downsize that, too. The principal decided to have the morning crosswalk person do 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon, instead of having us both do half an hour. Because, budget cuts.

This year I still have seven hours. But now I have a half hour of front door duty before school, a half hour of recess/lunch duty, and a half hour of crosswalk duty. And no, I won’t be granted additional time for any of those. It all comes out of my technology time.

And sure, I’ll be working with students during that time. But my duties will basically be HERDING students, which is, in my opinion, the least valuable part of public school. Students have to be herded, usually in large groups, into and out of school and from place to place within the school. NOBODY likes it, but under the current system, it has to be done.

And somebody has to do it. And I guess it’s gonna be me. But it’s disappointing.

Bicycle Commuting Today: What a Change!

Yellow BikeLast year around this time, I was struggling to get the kids to daycare and school and myself to work by bike.  All I had was my old yellow bike. I didn’t have a child seat or trailer on it.

We got everyone into jackets and backpacks. The big girls put on helmets and were ready to ride their bike and scooter, respectively. My little one? I tried putting her on the tricycle. She just couldn’t keep it going. I tried walking my bike with one hand and holding her hand with the other. My bike chain fell off.

Yes, I cried.

We abandoned my bike and walked down to the daycare providers house, and I took a bus to work.

xtra2But today? Today, we loaded backpacks and bags into the FreeLoader bags on my Xtracycle and wheeled it to the top of the driveway. I put my youngest on the front of the SnapDeck, and my seven-year-old climbed on behind.  My oldest rode a scooter. A few minutes, and we were there (the daycare provider is only half a mile away).

I rode on to work. I didn’t push myself; I knew I could get there on time. I pedaled steadily and kept myself relatively sweat-free. I might even have enjoyed the cool morning air and the exercise!

I’m grateful for the experiences of the past year, and for my Xtracycle. It makes all the difference.

Kids and Parents and Conferences

child-cryingI attended parent-teacher conferences for my two older kids tonight.   My girls are excellent students, and in general well-behaved, but we did discuss a couple of areas of concern.  Nothing big, and I’m not going to dish about my kids online, but of course I keep thinking things over and planning what to do.

I’ve been thinking and wondering about kids in general lately, too.  I work in an elementary school, as the computer lab specialist, so I see a lot of different kids each day, including kids with special needs and kids with behavior problems.

I spent more than two years working in a self-contained special ed class, so I know there are kids who need special accomodations in order to function at school.  At our school, some are in regular classes and some (with moderate to severe disabilities) are in self-contained classrooms.

Kids with more obvious disabilities or needs are, in some ways, easier to deal with.  You know they will behave differently.  You know that you may have to respond differently. Our expectations tend to be lower (and now I’m wondering whether that’s OK).

With other kids, especially those with severe behavior problems, it’s harder to know how to respond.  Is this kid throwing a fit because his brain is wired differently, or because his parents let him do whatever he wants to do at home?  Or is it a combination of the two?  Should I hold firm to my behavioral expectations, or change my approach?

Luckily for me, most of the time it’s the classroom teacher that decides how these things will be handled.  I don’t have to make the decision.  But I still wonder.

Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography

Bicycle Commuting Mama: Bike Commuting, Kids, and Daycare — an Update

Last time I wrote specifically about bicycle commuting and daycare, I was pretty anxious about it.  I’m still doing it, though, so I thought I’d better write an update on how our commute is going.

Transporting Kids by Bike

At one point, I was dithering about how to transport my youngest (three years old).  Fellow blogger Sarah Gilbert helped me out with a child seat.  She had one in her backyard that wasn’t being used, so we’ve borrowed it.  I’ve got one kid on her own bike, one on a scooter, and one in the backseat of my bike.

Bike Commuting + Daycare = Scheduling Nightmares?

I started off taking all three kids to our daycare provider Kris’s house, half a mile away.  We were trying to arrive by 7:45 so that I could make it to work around 8:00, but we were late more often than not.

Kris would then take the two older kids to school and pick them up afterward.  I rode down to her house after work to pick up all three.

That routine was pretty rough.  The morning just wasn’t working at all, and I was dead tired by the time I got home.

We had an opportunity to change things up, however.  The kids’ school has a free afterschool program, which started on September 29, so we needed to change the daycare schedule anyway.  Now, I’m taking all three girls down to the school by 8:15 (still by bike), and meeting Kris there (she still takes other kids to school).  Kris takes our youngest back to her house.  The older two go to the afterschool program, and I pick them up there around 5:00-5:15.  We go directly home, and my husband picks up our youngest on his way home, around 5:15-5:30.  This routine has been much less stressful and tiring so far.

Not a Fair-Weather Bike Commuter

I had also been worried about fall and winter weather.  We had some rain gear, but no lights, and certainly no specialized cycling rain gear.  I’ve since picked up a set of lights for myself (still gonna need some for kids).  If I can just remember to turn them OFF when I’m finished riding, I should be fine after dark and in the fog.

The rain is another story, though.  A little rain is fine, but the other day my legs got thoroughly soaked.  If I can’t find an old pair of rain pants that fit, I’ll have to buy some of those too.  I’m also thinking ahead to needing long, wool underwear.  And finally, a hat or helmet with a brim to keep the rain out of my eyes.  I wasn’t sure I really needed it, but it turns out that I do.  For now, I’m planning to try a ball cap under the helmet.

I’m a Commuter, Not a Mechanic

With the rough routine and rainy weather, I was getting pretty frustrated with bike commuting.  But the schedule’s gotten better, and I think I can manage the rain.  The one problem remaining was the bike itself.  It’s an ancient J.C. Penney 3-speed, and I’ve been having problems with the brakes.  It also seemed like it kept getting harder to ride instead of easier.

I tinkered with the brakes as much as I could, but ended up taking it to the Bike Gallery this weekend.  They replaced all four brake pads, replaced a wire in the front, and completely adjusted both front and rear brakes so that they work properly now.  That is a big relief.  I also had the bike shop replace the bolt on the seat-post, because it had been stuck for a while and I couldn’t adjust the seat at all.  The seat is now a little lower, and it feels so much better.  I had a much easier time riding today than I have in weeks.

Tips for Bike Commuters Heading to Daycare and School

So, if you are going to be bike commuting and transporting kids to daycare/school:

Create a schedule that works for you. This includes bedtime and waking up time.  If the kids need to be up by 6:30, they are probably going to have to be in bed by 7:30 or 8:00.  If that doesn’t work for you, perhaps you can talk to your boss about an alternate work schedule.

Make sure you have a reliable form of transportation for each person involved. Walking counts, too!  Be sure to check bikes and scooters to make sure all parts are in working order.  Check tire pressure as part of your daily routine.  If it needs more than you can handle, take it to the shop.  Make sure each person is equipped with helmets, lights, and any other appropriate safety gear.

Be ready for the weather. If they don’t have to go too far, the kids can probably get by with their normal rain gear and winter coats.  For you, a raincoat/poncho and rain pants will probably be necessary.  Other items might include a helmet cover, waterproof booties, gloves, and leg or knee warmers.  I’m also carrying a rag to wipe off the saddle, and a plastic bag to cover the child seat while parked (haven’t figured out a way to secure a bag to it if I’m riding with an empty seat in the rain).

Prepare for each day. I carry a fanny pack with my purse items, a multi-tool, and a patch kit in it.  I also carry a backpack with my laptop, lunch, and a change of shirt.  We are all supposed to prepare everything the night before, so that we won’t have to look for things in the morning.

Pamper yourself. Make sure you have time for a few minutes to yourself when you arrive at work.  Take time to refresh yourself.  I don’t take a shower when I get there, and I don’t wear special cycling clothes that I have to change out of, but I do take time to sponge off and change from a t-shirt into a work shirt.  I keep a bottle of post-ride body spray at work.  I’ll usually get myself a hot or cold drink, depending on how I feel, before I settle in to check my work e-mail.  Ahhhh!

Home pampering is good, too.  I’ve started showering at night instead of in the morning, and it’s a great way to relax either at the beginning or end of the evening.

Above all, give it some time to work! Everything will not work perfectly the first week you try bike commuting.  You can work it out in time, though.