Cinnamon buns

“You need new lunch money? Again? That’s just not possible. I sent a thirty dollar check to school only three weeks ago and you hardly had school lunch since.”
My seven year old son just nods, the paper slip requesting fresh funds clutched in his outstretched hand.
“Listen, I’ll call the lunch lady tomorrow and I’ll talk to her,” I say, refusing to take the slip from him, “There must be a mistake. Some other child probably uses your pin number to buy food. But no worries. I’ll set it straight.”
“Oh,” Thibaut says, blushing, “are you really going to call her?” He suddenly looks somewhat alarmed.
“Of course,” I say resolutely, “I’m not going to sponsor lunch for the whole school. This has got to stop.” I turn to face the stove, marking the end of this conversation.

Thibaut doesn’t move however. I feel his eyes burning into my back while I stir vegetables in the wok.
“What is it?” I ask without turning around.
“Well, mama,” my son whispers, “it might be the cinnamon buns.”
What? I turn to face him.
“What might be the cinnamon buns?” I ask.
“Well, the lunch money,” Thibaut explains, staring at his shoes. “Maybe my money’s gone because of the cinnamon buns.”
“What do you mean? I’ve never seen cinnamon buns on the monthly menu.” And, between you and me, I am grateful for that. Pancakes, French toast, pizza, hotdogs and chicken tenders relaying each other on a ‘healthy’ school menu sounds bad enough to me. No need to add cinnamon buns to the mix, is there? Empty calorie bombs like that would probably be about the worst thing a school cafeteria could offer to young children. Surely the county’s menu planners are smarter than that.

“No mama,” Thibaut breaks my line of thought, “they’re not on the menu. They are just there, at the cafeteria. And I sometimes buy them.”
They are just there? On offer at the school cafeteria? And my son ‘sometimes’ buys them? That explains why all those healthy lunches I lovingly prepare each morning come back home, seemingly untouched. Turns out that “I was not that hungry” or “I didn’t have enough time to finish my lunch” really means “I stuffed my face with a cinnamon bun that looked a thousand times more appealing than my cheese sandwich and carrots. After ingesting that sugar bomb, my appetite was gone.”

“How often is sometimes?” I wonder, “every day?”
“No no! Not every day, mama!” my son exclaims, adding, “Only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.”
“So what about Tuesdays and Thursdays? Are you sure you don’t buy cinnamon buns those days too?” He must do so. Tuesday and Thursday lunch boxes are hardly more emptied than the other days’.
“No, honestly!” Thibaut replies, “I don’t! They don’t even sell cinnamon buns those days.”
“Then why don’t you ever finish your home-packed lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays?” I wonder.
“Well,” Thibaut’s gaze drifts back to his shoes, “that might be because of the Doritos.”

Doritos? Okay, I guess school cafeteria offerings can be worse than just cinnamon buns!


Helene Toye is the author of ‘Go West, A Belgian Attempts American Motherhood’, available on Amazon :

If you also want more healthy school cafeteria food, please consider signing this petition :


16 thoughts on “Cinnamon buns

  1. Helen, I found your blog a while back and I absolutely love it – you hit another nail on the head with this entry! As a Belgian in America myself, I’ve gone through much the same experiences! Already looking forward to your next post 🙂

  2. Ha ha ha!Cinnamon buns & Doritos indeed!Tough competition for a healthy sandwich and carrots!
    “Go West” must have hit the Dutch Market:
    a volunteer from Alkmaar mentioned that a friend of hers, who married an American, read the book in preparation of moving to the States!

  3. This is so true ! I always give a homemade lunch to school for my 2 daughters+ homemade snacks 🙂 It’s much healthier and maybe cheaper too .

      • Ik moet wel toegeven dat ik ze nog nooit geld heb meegegeven om lunch te kopen in school. Ik veronderstel rond 5 dollar, daar kan ik toch wel 2 sneetjes zelfgebakken brood voor smeren of een slaatje ,…..voor meegeven. Ze zijn wel bijna de enigen in de school die zelf lunch meebrengen,maar ze krijgen altijd positieve reacties 😉

  4. I’m ashamed to say I would probably be staring at my shoes as well in his place… And I’m a grown woman supposedly wiser!… 😦

  5. Awesome blog. We’ll link to it from our next e-newsletter. What school is your son at? You can always work with our rep there if we have one or become our rep and advocate for unhealthy choices like that to be removed from your cafeteria – they’ve done it in other schools.
    Lindsey, Co-Director, Real Food for Kids – Montgomery

  6. Schools in the US didn’t used to allow fast food or other unhealthy foods to be sold on their campuses; this is a sad change. Tempting the children with such offerings isn’t fair and it isn’t realistic to think that most children will just walk by and ignore the goodies. It seems like a way for the school to raise money at the expense of the children’s health. I wonder how many parents really know this is going on? Lindsey makes a good suggestion about advocating for healthier choices at the school.

  7. Love this post! – Here at CPS (Chicago Public Schools) breakfast and lunch are free. In the morning they serve: milk, cereal and fruits. For lunch they have sandwich & veggies. But still I prepare lunch for my 5-yr old myself: whole weat bread with cheese, cucumber sticks, apple, and the occasional slice of homemade (or whole foods) cake of course 😉 My experience is that in the US it is easier to find healthy food in supermarkets and even public schools than in Belgium … Maybe we are just lucky?

    • I think you’re lucky, Leentje.
      We live in a pretty well-developed place (at the outskirts of the capital of the US …), but school lunches are really not that healthy – even thought the ‘menu-planner’ says they are. Hotdogs, pizza, doritos and such don’t make my list of healthy foods.
      On the other hand, I fully agree with you on the supermarket offerings – as long as you are near a big city. When we go on road trips, eating healthy becomes a real challenge! (but that would probably be the same in many places in Europe).

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