FOOD TEASING AND THE UNTOUCHED LUNCH BOX
There is a phenomenon in schools with the younger set that I refer to as “Food Teasing”. It’s when that kid who sits next to yours looks over at your kid’s lunch and, with a scrunched up nose, says “Ewww! What is that???”
“That” can be something as simple as a thermos full of pasta or any sandwich that is not a PB&J. My daughter got teased for mozzarella, so even seemingly innocuous foods can be targeted by these bullies. Now, if a kid is getting teased for Italian food, which by now is pretty mainstream, can you imagine the children from other backgrounds? I heard a disturbing story the other day about a South Asian mom at our school who was not able to send Indian food to school with her kids because of the teasing. This is tragic on two levels: First, Indian food is AWESOME. And secondly but most importantly, this child is learning to be ashamed of his heritage. Food is a part of our history and our family traditions. To take that away from our children is to take away a major part of their identity. So what do we do, aside from bringing in the teachers and lunch monitors to help? Here are a few things that could help not only the victims of the teasing, but the teasers themselves.
1. Expose children to all foods of all cultures at an early age. If the teaser was raised in a McDonald’s, of course when he sees good food he won’t recognize it. The more educated children become regarding food, the better for everyone in the long run – both health-wise and socially.
2. When in restaurants, order children something that is not on the kiddie menu. If we limit them to the same 5 foods from the time they are old enough to eat, we are doing them a great disservice.
3. Model kindness at all times.
4. Have the kid who’s getting teased turn the question around. Instead of being offended by the question “eeeew, what iiiissss thaaaat????” and coming home starving with an untouched lunchbox full of organic and homemade food, address the question normally. “This is mozzarella. It’s a type of cheese.” or “This is naan. It’s a kind of bread.” Oftentimes, the teaser becomes subdued. He just learned something. He just got schooled. He may even ask for a bite!
That last one actually worked this past week. And the teaser took a bite…and he liked it 🙂
– Tina Fanelli Moraccini