With the assistance of 4 local high school students, MHHM staff asks all children and teens in the vicinity of the market if they would like a free lunch or a snack. Lunches are regularly rejected. Snacks, such as whole wheat animal crackers, and fruits, especially the orange or apple the fits in a child's hand, are readily accepted.
The teens working at the market say they never eat the lunches at school. They don't like the taste- too bland. They report the trash in their schools' cafeterias are filled with discarded meals. One teen working with me, bragged that she never eats the school breakfast or the lunch and she only eats her Mom's dinner. Interestingly, she doesn't bring lunch from home, even her Mom's leftovers, because, as she told MHHM staff, there is no microwave. She and the others don't seem to be concerned about how not eating may effect their learning.
Several of the teens have chronic medical conditions or diseases which should be managed with diet and regular meals. Type 2 diabetes is on the increase among Boston children and teens. However, those who mentioned having it at the market, felt being on diabetes medication was all they needed to do- not eating regular meals.
Even though we are handing out lunches, the teens working there do not eat them except for one teen who eats a particular meal occasionally. For most, the work day begins with a late breakfast and large sweet drink from the national donut chain with 3 locations on Mission Hill. More money is spent on lunch from local restaurants. A few local Moms, who have come to the market, said they budget money for their teens to buy food as part of their school year daily activities.
The MHHM makes condiments available at the market for those who want to add mustard to a sandwich or salt and pepper to a baked potato. The teens believe the food beyond improvement. They say because they are from cultures with seasoned foods, this food can not be improved except by new recipes. On the other hand, occasionally, lunches are rejected by children at the market for being "too spicey"!
The farmers market, being near the Mosque, has many Islamic families passing on Fridays. Because the meals are not Halal, the families do not take them. How many children and teens are not eating them at school for the same or similar reason.
As the state, cities and towns implement this new law, the MHHM hopes, the dietitians, chefs, school lunch providers, and parents can work together to ensure each child and teen will eat the meals provided.