A recent study by Harvard University doctoral candidate Caitlin Daniel found that some low-income parents can’t afford wasting food by buying products that their children may not eat. According to Daniel, it takes about 8-15 times for a child to accept a food they initial didn’t like at first. That's 8-15 times of complaints at the dinner table and, most likely, food in the trash. When your budget is tight, those are literally dollars down the drain.
Now that there are some major positive changes afoot in the American school lunch scene, we can now begin to look at the American lunch tray as a tool. School meals can ease the burden for parents and offer an additional opportunity for children to come into contact with new flavors on - and here's the important part - a repeated basis.
Getting children to eat something is not easy. But it becomes easier the more they are exposed. Through encouragement and vigilance, educators and aids can help guide children to a new understanding and relationship about what’s on their plate. Yet, what it boils down to is this: mealtime isn’t always about eating what you want. It’s about eating what is good for you and what will healthfully support your body and development. Sure, we indulge in what we truly want to eat - but if we gave in all the time the world would be a nation of butterballs and the environment would be destroyed.
As is often the case here, I think about how other countries tackle the age-old problem of kids being finicky eaters. Japan, despite being one of the largest economies in the world with a healthy middle class, has families living at or below the poverty line just like America. I imagine that for those parents - the cost of school lunch aside - on some level they are grateful that this burden of acclimating their children to less enjoyable vegetables is lifted from their shoulders and from their pocket books.