My kids’ school offers many different volunteer opportunities for parents. You can help organize books in the library, plan Halloween parties, or co-chair various fundraisers. I serve food in the lunchroom. I don’t want to brag, but I am so good at serving food in the lunchroom that I assumed the Lunch Volunteer Coordinator (LVC) position after only a few months.
There are so many reasons why I was drawn to the cafeteria. For one, I love food. For two, I love to spy on my kids and see how they act when I am not hovering over them. And three, I love to hover over them. I’ve seen quite a bit in my three years as the LVC, and although me and my fellow lunch ladies Martha and Betty (not their real names) jokingly acknowledge that “what happens in the lunchroom stays in the lunchroom,” I have observed that there are six basic types of kids:
1. The Gourmand. I make it a point to visit this kid early in my shift so that I can see what his lunch looks like in full and remember it for when I have to host my extended family at Easter. Nothing is too fancy or exotic for this kid–Coq au Vin, Osso Buco, and Duck a l’orange have all made their way into his boîte à lunch, and I have to physically hold myself back from asking for a taste.
2. The Marine. This kid brings her lunch in what appears to be a stainless steel mess kit with individualized compartments that keeps her food safe from the enemy. It is the most organized thing I have ever seen, and all of the food is carefully selected to meet current US Department of Agriculture guidelines. While the rest of her class is running around the room high on sugar, this kid is extremely well-behaved, and when the lunch monitor tells her it’s time to clean up, she snaps her shoulders back and salutes him.
3. The Machine. This kid must have woken up late and didn’t have time for breakfast, because he purchases not one, not two, but three lunches and wolfs them down in five minutes flat. He will also consume several beverages and make sure he is first in line for dessert. Then he’ll mention how he brought his lunch from home and eat that too.
4. The Director. This kid doesn’t like the food his Mom packed for him, so he plays with it instead. He sees his lunch items not so much as celery and cookies but actors with roles to play in a musical about their life in a lunchbox. He will indulge you when you urge him to take a bite because lunch is almost over, but he will throw the rest of his lunch in the garbage because life can be very harsh for a stalk of celery.
5. The Emotional Wreck. This one comes into the lunchroom shaking with sobs and gasping for breath because she f-f-f-f-f-forgot her n-n-n-n-n-number. Several staff members and parent volunteers will try to soothe her anxiety and assure her that no one will ever go hungry in this lunchroom. They will tell her, “All you have to do is tell the cashier your name and everything will be fine.” But it’s not fine, because now everyone knows that she isn’t perfect but a complete, bonafide mess, and she will probably start a blog about it when her last kid is in first grade.
6. Robin Hood. This one is mine. He will buy six cookies from the cashier on the left and another six cookies from the cashier on the right and hand them out to all of the kids at his table every day for three weeks. I didn’t realize this was happening until my credit card was denied at the shoe store. So embarrassing. Fortunately, I know the cashier personally and now there’s a two cookie limit on his account. That’s just one of the immeasurable benefits I get from being the LVC.
Related post: The Bento Box Solution