Life Wellbeing Sanctimonious and judgemental: Why the Lunchbox Police should back off
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Sanctimonious and judgemental: Why the Lunchbox Police should back off

One lamington in a lunchbox does not a crime make. Photo: Getty
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Weekday mornings in our house – like most – are a maelstrom of madness.

Much of that madness resides in the making of school lunches. It’s not always easy to hit that sweet spot – the school lunch which doesn’t require carving carrots into roses or fashioning panda bear faces from sushi rice.

That lunch which doesn’t break the bank, doesn’t have too much wrapping and is ‘healthy’. And is rubbish-free. Oh, and allergen-free, too. AND CONTAINS FOOD THE CHILDREN WILL ACTUALLY EAT.

But there’s a whole new stress-point for parents constructing school and kindy lunches each day, it seems. The Lunchbox Police.

The Lunchbox Police are in fact teachers and educators who are self-appointed experts on nutrition and emerging players in the national sport of parent-shaming.

Last week the Lunchbox Police were out in force in a Victorian school, admonishing a mother for including a lamington – oh, the horror! – in her child’s lunch.

The uneaten lamington was returned, along with a note saying it did not “comply with the school’s nutrition policy”, and telling the mother not to include it in her child’s lunch again.

After posting the note to social media, the embattled mother received some support.

“Oh sorry! I thought the parent is the primary guardian of their child!” one wrote.

“We are becoming as stupid as the US,” said another.

This latest incursion by the Lunchbox Police followed a similar incident last year in South Australia, where a child was sent home with a similar note after the mother included a slice of home-made chocolate brownie in their lunch.

She was reminded that the brownie was in the demonic “red food” category and that she should choose “healthier food options” in future.

parents receiving notes in lunchboxes for unhealthy food choices
The note left for the homemade brownie. Photo: Facebook

Prominent blogger and friend of the woman, Melinda Tankard Reist, leapt to her defence, pointing out that the woman and her husband both held degrees in health science, and made all foods for their kids from scratch – even their bread.

Never mind the woman has eight children, probably has a fair bit on her plate and just may not have had time to activate a few ethically sourced almonds for the kids.

Not for one minute am I advocating sending kids off to school with a cronut, half a dozen of last night’s leftover chicken nuggets and a can of Solo. But one lamington, one slice of chocolate brownie and you get a note in the lunchbox? Shamed by someone who has studied numeracy, not nutrition?

The lamington in question, for example, contained 167 kilojoules (40 calories). Next we know the Lunchbox Police will start issuing notices to the irresponsible parents packing bananas in school lunches, what with their 426 kilojoules (102 calories) and 14 grams of sugar? They might even press charges for a sweet chilli prawn sushi roll at 1150 kilojoules (275 calories).

A lamington or a chocolate brownie is not a problem. A lamington or a chocolate brownie every day is a big problem. But in that case, perhaps the school could have a quiet word with the parents and ask if they need any help or advice, nutritional or financial.

But sanctimonious and judgemental notes from unnamed educators to parents questioning their common sense and parenting skills help no one.

In a world of egregious social media awash with opinions, advice and judgement, we’ve hit peak parent-shaming, from dummies to disposable nappies, from tantrum-taming to toilet training. And now even our kids’ lunchboxes are fair game.

To the zealous educators, think about those parents eddying madly around their kitchens in search of healthy, non-allergenic, gluten-free, dolphin-friendly, zero-waste, budget-wise lunch options in the midweek maelstrom, the next time you go to reach for the angry note and the red marker.

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