This year, in order to save money and perhaps exert more autonomy in what the kids eat for lunch, we decided to bring lunches from home. From the standpoint of the kids, this experiment has been a success; they have not complained about anything, and I think they enjoy what is in their lunch versus a precooked school meal.
Of course the perfect school lunch would involve homemade bread for the sandwiches, which would be made from local, sustainably raised sliced meats. Locally produced cheeses would be painstakingly sliced and included. Of course this isn't happening. We buy meat and cheese, and even bread in bulk from a national warehouse food store. We include pre-made granola bars and cheese crackers, even overly packaged juice.
This brings the dilemma of food choices vs. price out in the open. We are a middle class family getting by on 1 1/2 incomes. Of course we would love to be totally self sufficient, but realistically I do not see that happening. It takes a substantial endowment to live the Mother Earth News lifestyle, sad to say. I do not have the answer; just sayin'.
So for now I'm happy saving a few bucks a month packing lunches myself. The most rewarding part is taking an active role in what my kids eat instead of passively paying money for whatever the school has to offer, which in the end probably is not of any greater nutritional value. I do like the feeling I get knowing I am taking a greater role in their lives in lunch matters anyway.