I recently looked over a display of insulated lunchboxes at a local retailer, admiring the collection of Barbie, Spider-Man and Hello Kitty offerings.
Lunchboxes have come a long way since my day when they were actually made of metal and usually featured some kind of television show characters on the side.
It started in the 1950s with Roy Rogers and Trigger. (Long before my time.) By the time I was in grade school, the Partridge Family lunchbox was the sought-after design, followed a few years later by Welcome Back Kotter and Charlie’s Angels.
None of these characters ever held my lunch, which was dutifully packed inside a brown bag each day.
I can’t imagine that lunchboxes were all that expensive in my grade-school days, but my mother wasn’t one to go for such frivolities. Today, we would say that a reusable lunchbox would save a tree or two. Back then, it was an extravagance we lived without.
My mother would no doubt interject here if she had the chance, “And you survived all these years later to complain about it.”
One thing I rarely complained about were the lunches inside those bags. My mother made up for the plain packaging by investing in the contents. There was always a nice variety of sandwiches, leftover pizza, hard-cooked eggs, fruit and celery sticks. And she almost never forgot dessert.
As we head into a new school year, I’m sure there are plenty of parents out there packing up some fancy new lunchboxes. If a newly released survey is any indication, unlike my brown bag, plenty of kids aren’t too happy about what they find in that box.
The survey was taken on behalf of a group of organic food brands — Stonyfield, Organic Valley, Honest Kids and Annie’s — and was conducted by an online poll of more than 1,000 students, ages 8 to 18, asking them how they felt about their lunches.
Here’s what the survey revealed:
• Only 17 percent said they actually liked their lunches.
• 54 percent said they would give their lunches a grade of C or lower.
• 84 percent of children grades 3 to 12 prefer to bring their lunch from home.
• 53 percent of students grades 3 to 12 actually do bring their lunch to school each day.
• 55 percent of the students responding said they get practically the same items in their lunch every day.
• No surprise that more than 62 percent identified snacks or desserts as their favorite items, while only 7 percent said sandwiches.
• 43 percent said they trade items from their lunch two or three times per week.
• 39 percent said their parents don’t know that they throw lunch items away.
In the same survey, more than 9,000 parents with school-aged children were polled and identified their No. 1 challenge as coming up with a variety of items, so the lunches they pack for their children are not traded or thrown away.
Of those surveyed:
• 70 percent of the parents said they struggle with providing a variety of items.
• 59 percent struggle to find healthier options for the lunch box.
• 45 percent said they have a hard time finding items that will keep until lunchtime.
Apparently these days, finding the lunchbox is easier than deciding what to put in it.