The Week in Bentos: March 4-8, 2013

by Wendy Copley on March 8, 2013

I was pretty happy with the lunches I packed for the kids this week, but we had a hard time with uneaten lunches and wasted food due to mean comments in the elementary school cafeteria. Surprisingly, very little of it had to do with how the food was packed and it was entirely about what my kid had in his lunch boxes. I personally didn’t feel like these lunches were that weird, but my son had trouble with the other kids teasing him every day this week.


Big Kid Grilled Cheese Bento #722

When I went to make Wyatt his lunch on Monday morning, it felt like we were completely out of food. As you can see by the lunch I put together, we had lots of stuff, but everything you see here was the last of something — last orange, the bottom of the cracker bag, etc. I love it when I can use the last little bits of something by filling a bento box. Truly, this is one of the big benefits of packing lunches this way.

I filled the PlanetBox with apple slices, mandarin orange wedges, a grilled cheese sandwich, a few rice crackers, and a silicon “suitcase” filled with raisins.

The grilled cheese was Wyatt’s idea and I was happy to make it for him and cook it while I was putting the rest of the lunches together. I was a little skeptical that he would like it cold, so I kept asking him if he was sure he would eat it. Wyatt promised that he was “so excited” for lunch so you can imagine how annoyed I was when I opened his lunch box after school to find the sandwich untouched. Apparently one of his table-mates told him that eating a cold grilled cheese would “make him throw up” so that was that as far as Wyatt was concerned. No way he was going to eat it. This turned out to be a recurring theme this week.


Preschool Guitar Bento #410

On Tuesday, Augie’s lunch was packed into our Lunchbots Trio: goldfish, a guitar shaped PB&J, cucumbers, carrots, a mini pumpkin muffin and grapes.

Wyatt had school lunch.


Preschool Dumpling Bento #411

Wednesday, I used the school bus bento box to pack Augie’s lunch: grapes, a pumpkin muffin, strawberries from the farmers’ market (so tasty!), and three potstickers. The dumplings looked really pale and unappealing when I put the straight into the box, so I put a few pieces of silicone sushi grass beneath them for a spot of color.

Big Kid Dumpling Bento #723

Wyatt had a pumpkin muffin, grapes, wheat thins with pesto gouda, potstickers and dipping sauce (made with a recipe from Momables), and fresh, local strawberries.

Once again, Wyatt asked for the cheese and crackers (he loves this new cheese from Trader Joe’s) and he complained that I didn’t give him more dumplings and then when he came home he had barely eaten anything. “My friends said that the cheese looked disgusting and that they would never eat a potsticker.” Aaargh! The cheese comment…OK. I grant that green cheese is odd. But I can not believe that the kids at my son’s culturally diverse, San Francisco Bay Area school don’t eat potstickers. I simply don’t believe it.


Preschool Rainbow Bento #412

On Thursday, I packed Augie a lunch that is as close as I’m going to come to a St. Patrick’s day lunch this year. Since when did St. Patrick’s become this huge holiday with a zillion crafts and leprechauns visiting in the night? And we’re supposed to build traps and leave out fake gold now?? What the heck? I’m boycotting.

Anyway, I packed this rainbow lunch almost on accident. I had planned to put everything in it except the yellow tomatoes and after it was half-packed, I noticed I had nearly an entire rainbow, so I rearranged it a little to make it work. I packed this in a single layer of our monbento: ham roll-ups, strawberries, carrots, yellow tomatoes, grapes and a “pot of gold(fish)” at the end.

Brightly Colored Big Kid Bento #724

Wyatt’s lunch was basically the same, though I left out the tomatoes and goldfish and added in some wheat thins and bean dip for the carrots. It was packed in a Laptop Lunches box.

This day’s snide comment from the peanut gallery was that one of the strawberries — probably his favorite food in the world — “looked like a butt”. So they remained untouched at the end of the day, along with almost everything else.


Nothing Fancy Preschool Bento #413

Today I kept things pretty simple. Augie had mandarin orange wedges, grapes, ham, carrots, English cucumber slices, wheat thins and a summer berry flapjack.

Super Simple Big Kid Bento #725

Wyatt had an apple chunk, crackers, flapjack, ham, and mandarins — the same thing mostly, but in a slightly different configuration. We’ll see what mean comment keeps him from eating it today.

So, I really want to know: how do you deal with lunch time bullying like this? I’ve been coaching Wyatt to stand up to his friends, talking to him about food waste, etc., but none of it seems to have an effect. Thoughts?

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  • Gah! I am angry on your behalf by the comments Wyatt is getting! What little buggers he is lunching with! I have no advice. I ask Ethan periodically if anyone makes comments about his lunches (moreso because I fret they will tease him for it being too cutesy) and he replies that the kids only say nice things. I would be incensed if he was being ridiculed for food choices. You have my sympathies. πŸ™

  • Oh wow. That sounds really unpleasant. My daughter loves to say “we don’t yuck someone else’s yum,” but she’s in kindergarten and that is easy. I think your lunches look awesome. I would love the green cheese and I love how you arranged them on the crackers. So cute. Is it possible that the food is still in OK condition to eat as an after school snack or along with dinner? My kids often want to finish whatever they didn’t have time to eat during their lunch period.

  • By the way, “pot of gold(fish)” is way cute! I love St. Patty’s day. I’m not sure why exactly, but it’s always struck me as a lot of fun. I remember being in 2nd grade or so and overhearing the excited Kindergarteners exclaim that leprechauns had visited their classroom leaving little green footprints on all the desks and I was so envious and wish they had visited mine too. πŸ™‚

  • brookesun

    wow. my fourth grader gets some grief now and then, but nothing like that. He just always replies with, That’s what I like, that’s why my mom packed it. If it continues, I would mention it to the teacher. Why do they feel the need to comment on his lunch? Are they commenting on everyone’s lunch? If kids are going to be like that at lunch, chances are they are going to be rude in general and it needs to be addressed. Just my preschool teacher and mom opinion.

  • Laurie

    You did mention that you were teased for eating lox and creme cheese at school when you were a child. Tell him that story and how you felt and what you did about it. Maybe just a regular old PBand J for awhile. He is almost into fourth grade now so cute lunches may not work well anymore ?…We do a couple a week and there is no teasing only awe!!!

  • Alyssa N

    See if you can get the teacher to read The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania of Jordan.

  • Venia |

    Ugh. Sounds like somebody at his table is enjoying their ability to ruin Wyatt’s lunch, and turning it into a power trip. I don’t think it matters what you pack at this point. They’re going to figure out a way to mock it. Wish I knew what to say to give Wyatt the power to disarm the little megalomaniac. I’d reinforce that fact that he’s handing this kid/these kids the keys to his kingdom…giving them the power to choose what he likes, and letting himself go hungry in the afternoon because what they say matters more than what he, himself, believes. Ask him if he’d be okay with his best friend being treated that way…I bet he’d balk at that idea. Tell him I said I love cold grilled cheese, btw. πŸ™‚ And, butt shaped strawberries just want to be bitten, too.

  • It makes you wonder if the kids dont like any of Wyatt’s food, WHAT, exactly are they eating? Ialso remember being 9 years old and wishing my mom would pack my lunches like some of the other kids’ moms did. I have to say I was a little resentful towards those kids, maybe there is some of that going on?

  • Go into school at lunch time. Go into his classroom and read books about good nutrition and cultural diversity. Most importantly, make sure his teachers, the lunch aides, and the administration knows. This sort of meanness can turn into bullying.

  • RookieMom Heather

    Wendy, that food bullying makes me so mad. But I have zero tips for you. I suspect the kids saying it are just trying to be hilarious and have no understanding of their impact…argh.

  • RookieMom Heather

    Also, I think celebrating st patrick’s day in a big was is BS.

  • RookieMom Heather

    One kid said to Milo early in his kindergarten career, “it looks like you don’t have very much to eat” and Milo was sooo mad, he put that kid on his LIST. Well, I asked Milo, “what were you eating?” and he said, “nothing, just milk”

  • Karen

    My son had some amount of lunch criticism when he was in, I think, 2nd grade. I can’t even remember what it was that the other kid made fun of (some veggie I believe) but it never went with him to lunch again that year — he wouldn’t have it. And all my coaching about what to say did absolutely no good. Still eats everything at home though, and we did a lot of “whatever is still in your lunchbox when you get home becomes part of your after school snack.”
    I think kids just go through this sort of thing around 3rd grade (maybe 2nd for some, 4th for others). I don’t know that there’s much you can do but ride it out, unless you choose to address it at the classroom or school level. Kids this age are really really sensitive to what their friends say (there were a couple of shirts that my son refused to wear for the same reason). They do seem to outgrow this particular nasty behavior though. My son’s in middle school and nobody says anything at all about his lunch.
    The really funny thing is the kid who harassed my kid so much about his lunch, became his best friend in the last few years of elementary school…

  • Grazi

    I would send a quick message to his teacher. It is absurd that a kid is teased when he brings REAL food instead of the junk so many bring to school. Hopefully someone will supervise and advise kids about keeping their food comments to themselves. ALSO, I bet it is jealousy because very few kids have such cool lunches!

  • OhForgetIt

    UGH. Hell hath no fury like 4th grade boys.

    you could have sent him to school with the cheese-n-Turkey lunchables, a capri sun juice pouch, and a pack of mini oreos for lunch (the ULTIMATE in enviable lunches back in my 4th grade days), and some little smartass would have had something to say about it. I applaud you for still trying to keep both boy’s lunches interesting and tasty, even if they aren’t thanking you for it now.

  • J Langley

    I do have to agree with the other comments that a lot of the issue, is kids be jealous
    that he has a β€œcool lunch.” What about if you packed each item in an individual container with a lid; that way he would only open what he wants to eat and the other kids would not see his entire
    lunch on display. I know that this may not work with you bento plan, but it gives the kids less to see and less to comment on. Also please tell Wyatt that grilled cheese sandwiches are cool and I eat cold ones all the time. Best of luck and keep the cool lunch ideas coming!!!

  • Could you make a bento nibbles snack for the class to share? Without dropping a ton of cash, obviously. Could be if they try new stuff they won’t judge so harshly? Good luck with this one.

  • Jenn Christ

    Poor Wyatt! What awful kids πŸ™ I would definitely mention it to the teacher because maybe he should be sitting at a different table. Or the teacher should be talking to the kids about being polite at the lunch table! I highly recommend this book: if you can find a library copy πŸ™‚ It’s a great story about a little boy whose friends think his food is weird. He tries eating their favorite foods but misses his favorite! So he ends up bringing enough char sui bao to share and when the kids finally try it, they like it!

  • Karo

    God, it seems like kids get meaner and meaner these days…I absoluty HATE when someone comments on the food other people are eating ! Even now as an adult I sometimes see it happen – of course in a less ‘mean’ / childish way – and it really annoys me. Everyone should just eat what he wants, it’s not like it’s bothering anyone else πŸ™‚

    I think the kids are probably jealous, or they don’t know the food at all so they think it’s weird…?

    Maybe it’s a good idea to talk to his teacher and have a ‘healthy food’ week or day in his class ? Then parents (or the teacher) can come in and talk about food, and prepare it in the classroom or something ? Kids usually like (unknown) foods more when they help preparing it. Good luck !

  • Bluedidzy

    Sorry to hear he is having trouble with a kid ruining his lunch:-( I’d have to agree with the comment about getting him to realize he can’t just hand over the keys to his kingdom like that. I’m working with my daughter right now to realize that everyone is different, and sometimes you just have to let others know you don’t need them making unwanted comments. My mom and daughter came up with some great replies and practiced them so she could have an arsenal of perfect comments next time things happened. For example, “That is so 3 years old.” (When they tried to pull her hair); “oh too bad you think it’s dorky, I think it’s pretty cool:-)” (delivered with a big smile), etc. They came up with some great ones specific to her situation. Personally, I think he should take some butt shaped strawberries to school again and offer it to his nemesis along with some chocolate syrup smeared on it, hehe. Sorry, I just have a twisted sense of humor like that. But these are 4th grade boys, if they are making fun of how ‘gross’ his lunch is, why doesn’t he just laugh and say, “yeah, how cool is that?” Once they realize he isn’t affected by their comments, he is going to gain some serious coolness points.

  • That’s horrendous. My daughter is not packing lunch yet – next year in kindergarten. Right now she eats the school lunch in her preschool and it’s really fine. But she loves the kind of lunches like you pack your boys in the bentos and I really think that’s the way we’re going to go. I am not looking forward to any of this nonsense. I remember kids making fun of my lunches in school…my mom made sure we had good, healthy, and interesting things. And she had genius ideas, now that I think about it, like packing a hot dog in a thermos of hot tomato soup so at lunch I’d have a warm hot dog to put right on the roll and also a cup of hot soup. Kids laughed at me and – you guessed it – I was too embarrassed to take the hot dog trick. I think I got over it eventually. But who do kids think they are making fun of what other people eat? Ugh.
    St. Patrick’s Day…I completely agree. Personally, I’m still trying to figure out when Halloween became a decorate the front yard like it’s Christmas holiday. Unbelievable.

  • Sarah

    Well, as both a parent and a teacher I would advise showing up about the time the kids are sitting down to lunch. Scare the bejeezus out of those little brats! All while eating those delicious foods πŸ˜‰

  • Plume

    So it’s the same kid every time or various kids? Just Wyatt or they pick on everyone else’s lunch?It’s terrible that Wyatt gets teased because of his food. I would probably mention it to the teacher.
    My pre-k’er, that I know of, hasn’t been teased because of his lunches, but he doesn’t want to bring them to school anymore. He just wants what everyone else has (he’s one of two or three that brings their lunch). It’s annoying trying to compete with burgers, fries, nuggets, pizza… I actually have thought about sending sushi on his lunchbox, which he loves, but end up wondering what would the other kids say about it, not knowing if they like it or not, if someone would say anything to him.

  • Meredith Ball

    You should mention this to the teacher. If a kid was making fun of say, a pencil he had, you could just teach him to ignore the comments and to continue to do what pleases him. Granted this is good advice for the food situation too, this is coming from a health standpoint. If he doesn’t get appropriate nutrition at school, he is going to starve and not perform well. I would be in there tomorrow morning if I were you.

  • How old is Wyatt? You might be getting to the age where he wants to buy his lunch at school so he can be in with the ‘cool’ kids. The ‘cool’ kids I have discovered only really are jealous because their parents are not packing a lunch for them so they make snide remarks if they know it will make the child upset or get a rise out of them. My daughter went through that at ages 9 and 10. Now at age 11, almost 12, she has been asking me for a lunch daily. She really wants to have one, after eating in the cafeteria from Aug – Feb. She shares her lunch with her friend so I pack a bit more of everything and she says she’s eating it. I hope she is. My 8 yr old special needs daughter on the other hand, was throwing out her lunch when her teacher told me about it. Teacher helps her pick both breakfast and lunch (which are free at our school) out each day and says she will eat a variety of food so it’s not a problem, they will help her pick something healthy. I was surprised, but she really didn’t want a packed lunch, after wanting one because her sister had one that she was throwing out food. Now her teacher makes her bring it home if she has not eaten it and I pack one for her about once a week, usually on Fridays. You just never know but I have found that my older daughter really got out of wanting a packed lunch at ages 9-11. Now she wants one. Probably next year at 12, I will let her pack it.

  • Colleen Humphreys

    Absolutely, call or email the teacher. Give the name(s) of the obnoxious ones, and the teachers can make sure they are seated apart, and can speak to the other kids. In Massachusetts, schools are required to have anti-bullying programs, the good programs really do work to limit this sort of thing, at least in my kids’ experience. They only started when my second kid was in middle school, so the difference I saw in high school between the two, and then 8 years later, with my younger two, is astounding. But teachers and parents all need to be on the same page, so the programs need a parent component.

    In my town, kids aren’t getting meaner. Fewer kids will tolerate other kids being mean to others. All it takes is a couple of kids, unwilling to be bystanders, and all is far more civilized. Open Circle teaches this, effectively! So does Kim Payne’s program, and there are plenty of others.

  • Wow this is intense, that is so hard that the kids made comments like that. Especially to me, and most adults, all of these lunches look incredibly appetizing and as an adult I am envious and would totally eat that at work. My daughter is getting a little older to the point that I would love to start making these types of lunches for her again. I tried when she was like two and there wasn’t a lot of buy in. I have never thought though that she might get mean comments at lunch about what she was getting packed for her. If anything I would have assumed that the comments would have been the same as mine above “envious” comments wishing they had “cool” lunches too. I personally love “Karen’s” comments, some sound advice there!

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