When my kid started school this fall, I came face to face with a challenge experienced by all parents of young, school-aged children: what the heck am I supposed to give him/her for lunch every day?

As with many first-world parenting issues, this one should really be no big deal. So why is it many of my parent acquaintances find themselves rummaging through their cupboards at 7 a.m. on a Monday morning, searching for snack crackers through clenched teeth while their offspring whine, “Are you giving me celery sticks AGAIN?”

I remember primary orientation day at school mostly for the terrifying directive given by our son’s friendly and well-organized young teacher: “Please send a healthy lunch and two healthy snacks to school every day in non-disposable containers. We want to reduce waste as much as possible, so no juice boxes or other packaging. And no sweets.”

I quickly realized how spoiled we had become during our kid’s preschool years, with its supplied lunches and snacks; back then, I barely registered what he ate between breakfast and supper since his food needs were being so seamlessly attended to.

It was the dawn of an uncomfortable new era.

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My five-year-old’s school has a lovely fall tradition. On Harvest Day, early each October, the classes take part in an epic baking, crafting, and pickling marathon, with mixed-age groups rotating through apple pie baking, Irish soda bread mixing, salsa and pickle making, and fridge magnet construction.

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