My situation is specific since I work in a private kindergarten, so I will write from that starting point:
Children and school staff are only allowed to eat the lunch the chef prepares for everyone. The food is specifically vegetarian as well. Any outside food is really not welcomed since it can cause a distraction and does not fit in with the school community rules. Unless of course, one has serious health issues or food intolerances written on a note from a doctor, then they can bring their own food.
Customized food from the chef is not frequently available due to the resources and time to prepare the food. One of my coworkers is gluten-intolerant, and sometimes the chef has food for her to eat, but other times there isn’t so the teacher has to pick on the other foods (like salad).
For me as a teacher assistant the obligation of having to eat this food is one of the personal problems I have with the school. First because: children are essentially ”forced” to eat food they are served with, and some children don’t like the food at all and refuse to eat, causing conflicts and disagreements between the child and teacher. For me I experience an internal conflict when this happens, because I want to respect the child’s refusal of the food but as my ”job” as the teacher I have to try and make them eat something.
When a child doesn’t want to eat anything, the teachers and I are not allowed to give that child another type of food or snack (i.e and apple or banana) because that would influence the other children to want to eat that instead, therefore we as staff we are obligated to either forcibly recommend the child to eat a little piece of the food or just have them sit there and not eat.
Me personally would like to bring my own lunch because some of the food the school presents is heavy in dairy or carbs which is what I don’t like eating in the day (it makes me tired). We have heard complaints from parents themselves of the choice of lunches but despite it nothing has changed. Being a teacher assistant I must be an example to the children, follow the classroom rules and eat what is given to me, even despite my internal dissatisfaction.
These lunch rules really honestly suck in my perspective and I dearly wish that there was the option of children and teachers being able to bring their own food. We would still be able to get that sense of ”community” the school emphasis by sitting with each other, but we have the freedom of choice to eat what the school makes for us, or eat the lunch from home.
In an ideal world, each child and teacher would have the knowledge and awareness of the food that they want and is supportive for their body, and that food would be available for them to eat. Similar like a free-for-all buffet line with an abundant of foods that the child and teacher can freely choose at their will when they are hungry.
How can we as teachers, school staff, parents get to this idealized lunch time for the school participants? Is this even possible?
Yes, it is possible, but it requires a decision by the collective — an agreement with the community and school director, and a responsibility and awareness of the financial needs of food transportation, food availability and what is best for the children and teaching staff.