Wednesday, January 23, 2013

On Pizza Day

My children's school - and I only have the luxury of saying that for the rest of the school year, because The Girl is off to high school in the fall, if you want to know what time rushing by feels like - has hot lunches once a week, when they make a big pizza order. But! Should you want pizza, you will need a pizza card - a pre-bought card that entitles you to a certain number of slices - and this pizza card costs close to $40, so my children only rarely have one. Even when we can afford them, we're just too damn cheap.


A few years ago, you could buy pizza by the slice and so my kids DID get to take part once a month or so. But the shift to requiring a pre-paid pizza card has made it inaccessible - not just to my kids, but to a lot of other children in our low-income area. And while I don't think equal access to pizza is a huge social justice issue - it's more of an issue about the limited number of harried parent volunteers, and I ALSO don't think that my kids are all that hard-done-by for not taking part in the doughy school pizza - school lunches themselves are a landmine of issues for kids.

For example: some kids get to bring Lunchables and pop to school EVERY DAY, as I am reminded frequently by my poor, poor children, who are forced to bring (reasonably) healthy lunches to school by their cruel tyrant of a mother. Some kids bring elaborate hand-crafted lunches, courtesy of their mothers who take Pinterest REALLY SERIOUSLY. And some kids bring sparse, heartbreaking little lunches that whisper quietly of neglect, of living on the edge of hunger all the time.

"A friend of mine didn't have much of a lunch, so I gave him most of mine," said G after school, shruggingly explaining why he needed such a big snack.

The same volunteers who run the pizza program quietly fill up snack bins in each class - granola bars, applesauce cups, cookies - that all of the kids are free to take from during lunchtime. And they do: N frequently comes home with granola bar wrappers in her lunchbox that I KNOW I didn't send in with her and while I'm not enthusiastic about this nutritionally, morally I am all for this pragmatic way of helping hungry children while protecting their dignity. It is only a stop-gap measure, of course, but it's something.

And then on pizza day, I get up - dammit! - half an hour earlier than normal to make homemade miniature pizzas for my kids. It's a pain, but it's only a small piece of work on my part to keep my kids feeling included. The bigger, never-ending job is finding ways to keep all kids included in a system with limited funds, limited time and limited volunteers and problems that go far beyond easy solutions.

Today's school lunch: nothing. School was cancelled because of the extreme cold.


  1. We do pizza day here and it's not too bad - so far - as we've only got one kid in school this year, it's not out of the realm of the possible.

    What we also have for some inexplicable reason is popcorn Fridays. It's only a dollar! BUT MO-OM EVERYONE GETS POPCORN!!

    But on the rare occasions when I buy it, the fruit & veg I packed comes home uneaten, because he's full of popcorn. And for some unaccountable reason it just bugs me, anyway.

  2. There was a family at our school, the mother of whom had died when the youngest was in kindergarten. The kids were well fed and provided for, but one of them often hid her lunch or left it in her brother's backpack, so that her teacher would give her the various snacks kept for the kids who forgot their lunch, or needed something extra. She liked the extra snacks and the extra time spent with her teacher, and it breaks my heart a little to think of it. Those programs are good programs. Not an easy solution, and it's hard to remember that there are kids whose lunches are lacking because food is lacking.

    Unrelated: pizza day at our school is FUN LUNCH and I think you know how I feel about it.

  3. We have pizza Fridays and my kids do not participate. It would cost us, and this is no joke, $600 per school year just for pizza Friday. It's $3 each, $15 for my K-8 kids, times 40ish weeks. NOPE.

    I'm glad your school has snack bins.

  4. We have the pre-paid pizza situation at the girls' K-6 school and we do partake. You sign up for 3 months at a time. Frankly, I do it because I like the break but I do prefer the way D's middle school does it - pizza available four days a week for $2 a slice. You just order at first break and can have it at second. It gives the option to not participate every week, which I think is more inclusive.

  5. I hate this. I hate that you have to front the money for something like that. I hate that we all send in so much money (that we don't always have) just to allow our kids the opportunity to feel included. We have $5 days that "earn" our children the right to dress down and have a chicken biscuit for breakfast which, since you didn't ask, totally opens up the Chick-fil-A can of worms. We are in a private school setting, but the tuition is pretty low cost. I just feel like all the add-ons do more harm than good. What if you can't afford the pizza? What if I can't afford to register my kid in the 5K race so that he can later have a dress-down day? Then what you do is multiply this angst by however many children you have. After that, multiply that angst by however other children you feel sad for if they cannot participate.

    In this situation I just don't understand why kids just can't "sign up" with parents' cash at the beginning of each week and have the volunteers place the order with the money they are given. It seems mean.