The Happier We’ll Be!
A blog on eating meals and snacks at school by Joey Voxnaes
We eat morning snack, lunch, and afternoon snack daily at Elm House, as you all know. For those who are still here at 4:30, we eat a “tiny snack” which usually consists of one rice cake per child. But, why do we eat so often? How do we choose what we eat? Who chooses it? I’d like to open up the world of food at Elm House for you in this blog in an easy-reading format that you can share with your children at home!
First, Megan works very hard to meet Northwest Nutrition requirements. Mage made fantastic, informative posters to place on the fridge, next to the counter where we plate snacks and lunch, that tells all of the staff how much food is a serving for not only a particular meal (snack vs lunch), but also a particular category (protein, grains, vegetables, or fruits). Bee and Iternity have contributed awesome ideas to our menu! I’m the person who plates lunch daily. We all take turns plating snack. But who cooks the food? Amber, who works at Tulip Tree Preschool, cooks our lunch every morning before delivering it to Elm House. We are so grateful to have a chef who brings hot food daily!
For lunch and snack, we serve the children food from trays, family style. We all sit at a round table together and begin eating at the same time. We split the children into 3 groups for all snacks and also for lunch, so that there are no more than 6 children at a table together. We have conversations with our young friends and read stories while the children eat.
This a photo of ZS, HA, EW, LR, and BL eating lunch together. We use medium sized, heavy ceramic plates for our food and real glasses for our milk. We have begun eating with adult sized spoons, as the small spoons were not large enough to get adequate amounts of food into our mouths. We eat much more efficiently now! At lunch, we begin with a small serving of fruit. Then a teacher gives us protein, vegetables, and grains at once so that we can combine foods and try new flavors together. The teacher pours the milk last, to prevent spilling during the exciting part where food is spooned onto plates.
Sometimes milk gets spilled. But, as Pete the Cat asks, “Do we cry? Goodness no!” We simply clean it up with a cloth, as EW is pictured doing here, and then we go back to eating our lunch. Spilled milk happens! We do our best to avoid it by being careful, but we also know that it’s okay and we can just clean it up when it happens.
Sometimes we like to sit really close to our friends, as BL and FD are doing here. However, we do not share food or milk because then we would be sharing germs. We keep our plates, utensils, and glasses to ourselves, and we do not trade food.
When other friends have finished, they clean up after themselves, and the rest of us continue eating together. We stay in our seats until we are all done!
When we are finished eating, sometimes we begin to play with our food and put it in our milk glass. That is a sign to the teacher that we are finished eating and it is time to clean up. This is when the teacher will remind us to clean up after ourselves, and remind us of the steps in the process.
As you can see here, there is a big blue “bucket” that we use at the end of the meal for cleaning up — it’s our compost bucket! Each child scrapes their own plate off into the compost bucket, so that food stuffs can be disposed of safely and properly. Then the child puts their empty plate on the tray. Then, they return to the table for their glass and their utensil, which then gets placed on the tray. Finally, we push in our chairs under the table. Even the teacher puts away their adult sized chair in the closet.
After we clear the table, it’s time to sweep the floor! ZS, SM, and MS are pictured here helping Joey clean the classroom after lunch. ZS has a small hand broom, SM has a big broom, and MS is holding the dust pan, so that ZS and SM can sweep their collected crumps up to be thrown away. The teachers are always thankful to have help cleaning!
Last but not least, the children find a quiet activity while the teacher sprays the table with bleach solution (hands off!) and then wipes it down. No more germs!
Lately, Joey has been asking their friends what the food tastes like and if they like the texture. Thinking about food while we eat it helps our bodies digest properly. Of course, second and third servings are offered when requested at lunch. At snack, we simply eat what is offered and then drink water if we are still hungry.
I encourage you to have regular conversations with your child about what they eat at school and what they eat at home. If you have any vegan recipe ideas for us, please let us know! We are always looking to incorporate new foods into our menu (about which you can email Megan) and everybody loves it when parents come in to cook or bake with us!