“’Vi are ‘ze Lunch-stapo, ‘und you ‘vill open your lunchbox now.”
The state’s jackbooted lunch inspector towered over my five year old daughter. She didn’t know what to do. Fear slank into her eyes. She looked towards me, but for some reason, I was frozen. I wanted to move, to cry out, to do anything to protect my daughter, but an invisible force held me in place.The Lunch-stapo: make sure your daughter has a vegetable in her lunchbox! Click To Tweet
The Lunch-stapo officer peered down, squinting through his monocled eye, his stiff black uniform constructing an edifice of unyielding power. She unzipped her Dory lunchbox and lifted the flap showing Hank the Octopus carrying a fishbowl.
He leaned over to inspect the contents. I wanted to stop him, but I couldn’t move. “You are missing a vegetable!” He turned to the two bullies over his shoulder. “Arrest ‘zis little girl!”
“No!” I shouted. “No, stop, no!”
My daughter began to cry…
“Wake up. Wake up.” My wife was shaking me.
“Stop the lunch-stapo,” I said, half-asleep. “Don’t let them take her.”
“What are you talking about?”
As I became aware of my surroundings, I opened my eyes and rolled onto my back. “Bad dream,” I said. She seemed satisfied, but I was still breathing hard.
Was it only a dream? We had been to our daughter’s school the day before, and had learned about Kentucky’s “state lunch inspector.” Colleen’s lunch box would have to contain at least one vegetable and one fruit, any less could result in suitable punishments. The state would enforce this through random inspections.
I rolled back to my side and closed my eyes again…
The Lunch-stapo: Herr Inspektor
By eleven a.m., the children are playing at various stations in the classroom: one for Lego projects, another for a rice table, one for reading, among others. They’re talking and laughing as five-year olds do. Not one suspects they are about to receive a visitor.
The door opens. Immediately, the teacher straightens up, her smile switched off by the shadow of the Lunch-stapo.
“Herr Inspektor,” she says. “Please come in.”
“I am already in, Fraulein.”
The realization startles her. “Yes, of course, so nice to see-“
“Enough small talk,” he says. Herr Inspektor pounds his palm with a black leather riding crop. “Line up ‘ze lunch boxes NOW!”
A column of kiddies presents their wares. An assortment of Spider Mans, Batmans, Hello Kitties, and various princesses array themselves in a row, my daughter’s octopus a noticeable exception.
“Unzip ‘ze flaps!”
In unison, the children grab and pull sliders along the zipped rims of the boxes.
Flaps up, Herr Inspektor walks the line, leaning over to inspect the contents of the cowering student’s zip-locked baggies and plastic containers, nodding and frowning, picking up a random bag to examine one student’s carrots or another’s strawberries.
He arrives at Colleen’s lunchbox. Her angel’s eyes are rounded to silver dollar size, cupcakes with vanilla icing and a dab of blue jelly bean. I hold my breath. This time, he nods approval and passes onward. I release.
He reaches the end of the line. I think he’s finished, the nightmare over. But no. He turns to his grunts. “Arrest ‘zem all!”
“No,” says the teacher, her face arched in terror.
“Ja wohl! All of ‘zem! Every single ‘vun and ‘ze teacher!”
I rush forward, but the state’s enforcers grab me. Herr Inspektor stares at me. “It’s ‘ze vegetable gardens for all of you!”
“No! Noooo!” I can’t get free.
Are They Kidding?
Was it a dream or was it real? A vision of a dystopic future, or more of my crazy ramblings? Who can say?
Regulating kid’s lunches? A state inspector? I thought it was a joke when I first heard about this policy. It couldn’t be real. They wouldn’t put our tax dollars to use checking kid’s lunchboxes, right?
Unfortunately, they do. I thought back to my elementary school lunches: tuna fish sandwiches on white bread with a bag of potato chips on the side and chocolate milk in a thermos. I would have failed the inspection every day of my teen and pre-teen life, and I turned out all right.
Stop it. I did. Really… Okay, mostly.
Out of Control
So far, Colleen has escaped the inspector’s wrath, but how long can we keep it up? We’ve been successful toeing the line, but what happens if we forget to include some celery one day? Are veggie chips a vegetable? She’s only five years old.
What if she decides not to eat the vegetable? If she doesn’t touch her tomatoes, is that a fine? Jail time for a half-eaten apple?
Just leave us alone!
I’m going to have pizza for dinner tonight – without vegetables! How about you?