Monday, March 8, 2010

Food Nazis

Be afraid, be very afraid. The food Nazis are on the hunt through suburban school lunch boxes. Food is no longer a private matter in our educational institutions; parents are quaking in their shoes, terrified that they will be judged on the efficacy of their social responsibility and parenting skills by the contents of the humble pail.

Forget guns and knives, this is the deadliest schoolyard weapon.
The fallout of which means becoming social pariahs based on white bread, or the inclusion of a Tim Tam.

Teachers peer beneath the lids of the not so humble receptacles (very seldom now a simple plastic box – they’re now themed, decorated, iced, chilled, heated, layered, compartmentalised and sheathed) and “tut tut”, or shake their heads at a child’s humble peanut butter sandwich or limp carrot.

Quite often, a ‘parent helper’ is on duty in the classroom and will also investigate what a harried, working mum has flung together and encased in cling wrap, subsequently broadcasting to all and sundry (other competitive mothers) that ‘Little Susie’ came to school with the dregs of the pantry, or an anaphylaxis just waiting to happen.

Do you remember the simple days as a kid, when everyone sat around at lunchtime in the yard, poking despondently at the sad vegemite sandwich and sipping on tepid cordial? Those were the days, when food was simple and only vaguely nutritious, before the prevalence of food allergies and the litigious nature of society.

You were responsible for teaching your own children not to steal other’s lunches and to refrain from picking their noses without a hanky. Now it’s all about fear, the school live in fear of being sued by parents angry that ‘Little Angus’ in the class next door consumed a peanut butter sandwich fifty metres from their ‘Little Johnnie”, the poor mums live in fear of being judged a failure if they don’t whip up a three course meal and box it up everyday.

The poor kids live in fear that they will be made consume their midday repast whilst sitting on the special chair at the front of the class reserved for children who have dared to come to school with natural roasted almonds as a snack, quarantined in case a sliver of a ‘tree nut’ sprays on ‘Little Angus” who has a peanut allergy. If “Little Angus” at the age of 10, doesn’t know enough not to stuff a stray almond in his mouth which he found on the floor, then “Little Angus’s” parents have got a problem on their hands!

What is happening, where did personal responsibility go and privacy for that matter, is food the new frontier of the Nanny State? I don’t advocate my children sharing food, and they are well aware of the dangers of food allergies – they live with a mother who could expire on a mouthful of mango, but this is ludicrous. The guilt, the oversight, the intrusion.

Today I will send my offspring to school with wholegrain wraps, filled with home baked Mediterranean chicken, mayonnaise, chives, home grown cherry tomatoes with a chaser of yoghurt dip and home made berry coulis. Tomorrow, I’m bloody well sending grated chocolate sandwiches on white bread and a chocolate Hershey bar. Take that Food Nazis – I will choose what I feed my kids and I’ll thank you to keep your noses out of my Tupperware – my kids’ impending malnutrition and/or constipation is our own business.

PS: I am not that pro-peanut butter, I keep a separate, nut free shelf of snacks for visiting kids with allergies and am very concerned with the issues of allergies in general, but gee, I have packed lunchboxes for four of my own kids, also two stepchildren, two foster children, sundry nieces and nephews who have lived with us and frankly, I am exhausted - I've been making cut lunches for twenty five years already and my youngest child is still only 6! So cut me some slack and enough with the personal attacks on my mothering capabilities and my children please!


  1. Here here! I concur. Last year, both days of preschool, my son's teacher made some snide remark about the 'banquet' I had prepared for his lunch! I always ignored her because I think there's nothing worse than being little and being hungry. I kept packing it the same way through the whole year, I didn't budge, even when they told me his lunch was so big (the lunchbox almost always returned home empty). It really riled me up. And lunches ARE difficult (and boring) to pack - especially when there are allergies in the school - fish AND nuts. Ack. School lunches are the bane of my life, and we're only in preschool stage so far!

  2. As a parent with a son allergic to Egg, soy, chicken and potato, I'm scared. I have peanut and Hazelnut allergies so I feel it is only fair to take these steps.

    LIving with allergies is hard enough at the best of time. Maybe we get to have things turned in our favour, for our children's safety.

    Louise (concerned parent)

  3. You clearly have no idea of how dangerous food allergies can be.

    What you have written is self indulgent, self serving and plain old SELFISH.

    My son has almost died twice now, due to anaphalactic shcck brought on by things as simple as a tiny amount of peanut butter (the knife had been wiped clean by the mother) - his allergy is so severe that the minuscule amount of residue still caused him to stop breathing.

    It is not his fault he has this. It is not his fault that another child eating a peanut butter sandwich may then touch him and cause a reaction severe enough to hospitalise him.

    But it happens. And that is why the teachers and helpers are so vigilant.

    It is not about what your child eats, it is about taking small steps to try and prevent an unnecessary hopsitalisation or death through inadvertent cross contamination.

    So please, take a minute and think before spouting such self righteous rhetoric as this.

  4. I found what you wrote to be offensive and inconsiderate. It's not funny or witty or anything I can relate to. So your sick of packing School lunches? Find a better way of writing it than this. PS. The poor afterthought doesn't change my view. You have deliberately taken aim at a disadvantaged minority. If you can't handle the comments dump your blog.

    Kelly (Mum of anaphylactic risk kids)

  5. I appreciate your words Jacqueline, but the reality of the matter is that this is about life or death for our children. Every year I get up in front of my son's class parents, and tell them about anaphylaxis face to face. I don't tell them not to pack nut products, but I explain to them my wish for my boy to come home from school every day.

    Last year he had a slight reaction because the girl next to him parent's decided to ignore my wish, and pack peanuts for their daughter. The oil got on the table, it got on his fingers, and he rubbed his eyes. No epi-pen thankfully, but still a trip to the hospital.

    As a parent yourself, I surely hope you don't have to go through what we go through every day. And I'm sure that you would wish for us, that our child comes home from school - because THAT, is the crux of it all.

    Your letter and blog are hurtful to the actions that we are trying to undertake for our children's safety. It is not their fault that they are anaphylactic. That my boy was born into the condition is no fault of his, and I will love him and protect him through this as any parent would.

  6. I teach at a performing arts school where the little ones have a snack in the middle of class we have one rule"NO SHARING" i as the teacher have no input or influence on their lunch boxes. I have a nephew with severe food allergies and a few other friends kids. Interestingly i one kid i have taught for 2 yrs and had no idead how allergic to everything he is, because his mum handled it. It wasn't a anaphylactic allergy but they were very severe. My sister has a penicillin allergy that put her i hospital when her kids were given penicillin for their illness. While it is terrible to deal with i find that the more severe the childs possible reaction the more straight forward the parents are. I have experienced this.
    Also i have one allergy that while it's not going to kill me hurts like hell but interestingly is the only one people give me the "oh sure you are" face. It may not be peanuts people but i'll allergic to chilli and over reaction to others opinions and calling them names. I love your blog j

  7. I've just read some of the comments and I think I'm missing something here...from what I understood from the comments, your children (or any person for this matter, be it a child or an adult) can be allergic to basically ANYTHING - from peanut butter to chocolate and milk! Now, I understand you are worried about your children's well-being, but if I was to follow your way of thinking, children basically shouldn't be allowed to bring ANY lunch at all as there ALWAYS exists a potential threat of another child being allergic to whatever your kids are having :/

    I understand that in a situation when a child has a severe , or even life-threatening, case of allergy and other parents are informed about this issue on the parents meeting, then children should stop bringing those particular types of food to school....But you cant possibly know what each child in each class in allergic to!!! :/ I think this is the point Jacqueline was trying to get across - that all those 'rules', although relevant in certain cases, are sometimes exaggerated.
    Stop attacking someone for having an opinion :/

  8. What gets me is that we live in a world where all of these food allergies have suddenly appeared! I am vegetarian and the decision has been solely mine to be so, however everyone thinks that it's their business. I am constantly defending my decision not to eat animals. I am sick of it - food is a private family affair! I am with you JP! A good natural lunch should not be outlawed and maybe kids that have these allergies should be the ones that are quarantined at lunch and not the MAJORITY!!! I thought this was a democracy people!

  9. Sorry for many reader's children with these allergies, but its up to them to take responsibility. Just like "boy in the bubble", the kids need to be quarantined, not the rest of us. Get your kid a special suit with a helmet, and accept the cards dealt to you.