Thank you all for your thoughts on the food situation. I needed a touchstone to make sure our instincts weren’t miscalibrated. We’re switching E back to meals from home. We’re also making a commitment to really work at expanding his diet and finding new foods for him to try. The part of him eating the center lunch I was most excited about was that it would give US ideas of new things to feed him, but there are other ways to reach that goal. It’ll just take some extra work on our part.
My concerns about the weirdness factor were never really about him and the other kids. I’m reasonably confident that there isn’t a lot of judgment around the toddler lunch table. It’s more about us not wanting to be That Family. We’re already the only two mom family AND the only cloth-diapering family in the whole school (and they’ve been completely awesome about both of those things) but it just seems cliché for us to be the only special food family too, you know? Once M and I talked about it in those terms and had a chance to acknowledge our hang-up, we saw how poor an excuse it was for accepting low-grade fuel for our little guy.
The other thing we were most stuck on was how to move him off the center food without it coming across as judgmental. All of the other kids eat the center food. All of the staff eat the center food. If we give any impression that the food isn’t good enough for our little prince, that implies a negative judgment of them and their own dietary choices, and we genuinely don’t want to hurt feelings. We were granted an out when E developed a wicked diaper rash this week. It may have been a coincidence, but you better believe I’m blaming it 100% on his rapid diet change. When I picked him up yesterday, I casually mentioned to his teacher that I was worried the new diet wasn’t agreeing with him because of the diaper rash she’d seen and some stomach upset I invented. I told her we’d like to switch him back to his regular diet for a while to see if it makes a difference. She agreed it was worth a try. Easy peasy.
This solution falls short of the activism some of you suggested, and a part of me is disappointed in that, but it’s the solution I feel most comfortable with for now. The bottom line is that I don’t feel that I know enough about the situation to advocate change at this point. I don’t know the center’s budget or by what means the food comes to them. It’s a non-profit urban center and I know they serve a lot of subsidized families that live in the neighborhood. I imagine that part (all?) of the food comes from the WIC program. A move to privately-purchased, healthy food options might revolutionize their expenses so dramatically that a dozen other major changes would need to take place first before it could even be discussed. I truly don’t know, and I don’t want to initiate a conversation about it until I’ve had the chance to educate myself a bit. I may look into the parents’ association in the future (you know, in my copious free time) but for now I’m just going to focus on my own family and making things work for us the best I can.
Thanks again for all of the feedback. I have no idea how parents coped in the pre-internet era.