The vrot fruit lunchbox
How to get something healthy eaten at school? Karin Schimke is ready to despair.
The lunchbox lay in the school bag all weekend. I reminded my son a few times that it needed to be removed, but weekends are a time of complete disconnection from school responsibilities and the gap between walking in the front door and unpacking the lunchbox was too great for him to wrench himself back.

Being of the “learn through consequences” school of parenting, I left the thing there, quietly vrotting in the corner all weekend and on Monday morning asked him to bring me his lunchbox.

“And clean it before you give it to me,” I added nonchalantly.

His shoulders slumped. He looked at me with something close to pleading in his eyes, but he knows about the consequences thing, so he didn’t push it. Instead, in one of his usual dramatic gestures, he fetched a peg from the clothes line and put it on his nose, and collected the lunchbox from his bag with a pair of braai tongs. He abhors having to come close to kitchen bins, and has a sensitive nosey-wosey.

“There’s a half-eaten peach in here,” he said nasally as he made his way to the bin with the handle of the little cooler lunchbox dangling from the end of the tongs. I ignored him.

Lots of kerfuffling around the bin and the basin and the thing is presented to me, ready to receive offerings for break-time snacks from the maternal kitchen.

“The peach was disgusting,” he says.

I ignore. I ignore. I ignore. Not because I am trying to teach him a lesson with the silent treatment, but because I am struggling again with the eternal lunchbox question: what fruity or veggie thing can I include that will actually get eaten during school?

He’s not a bad eater of fruit and vegetables – unlike his younger sister who first put a green thing in her mouth at about the age of three, and confines herself only to green things that are either apple, cucumber or grape and nothing else. Leafy green is definitely out. Broccoli, peas, beans – not a chance. But getting him to eat a fruit at school is impossible. He says it’s because the fruit is hot when he gets to school. I totally get that. Hot fruit is just plain yuk.

So I bought the cooler bag lunchboxes, and half-freeze the water or put in tiny freezer packs. But still the healthy stuff doesn’t get eaten. Not cucumber, nor baby tomatoes, nor whole apples, nor peaches, nor grapes. Every single thing that grows in the ground and gets put into the lunchboxes comes home hot and soggy, weeping fruity tears out of tiny boxes, or coming back soft, shrunken and slightly blackened from a day of being thumped around inside a school bag.

But I persist. I don’t know why. From magazine articles and recipe books I have this cool picture in my head of what a healthy lunchbox should look like, and this includes the pretty colours of fruit and veg.

So I put a peach in again. And it came home again. I can’t seem to let go of the fruit-that-won’t-get-eaten ritual. Help me.

What’s your secret healthy lunchbox weapon?

Read more by Karin Schimke

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