I Left My Lunchbox in the Fifth Grade: How Some Things Never Change

Photo courtesy of Cassidy Petroccione.

Cassidy Petroccione

Senior Staff

When I was still in elementary school, the 11:53 a.m. bell was a siren song to hungry stomachs everywhere. As kids, we’d scramble to our Disney-themed backpacks, clutching our matching lunch boxes with the urgency of a NASA mission. Nestled among classmates at the designated lunch table, the unveiling of our lunches was the highlight of my day. My lunch was always a turkey sandwich accompanied by strawberries, a bag of Doritos, and an Oreo — all lovingly packed by my mom. My friends would showcase their culinary treasures too: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, ham and cheese, and the ever-coveted Pizza Lunchables.

Despite the array of mom-made lunches, I was always jealous of my friend with the Lunchables. I remember informing my mom that my lunch paled in comparison to the pre-packaged delight. Her response was firm yet loving: “It’s either a turkey sandwich or nothing.” I opted for the sandwich. 

As I remember those memories, I realize that the simplicity of those turkey sandwiches taught me consistency and practicality, values that have stuck with me over the years. 

Fast forward to my fourth year at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB), and not much has changed — I still bring a lunchbox to school. Technically it’s a paper bag now, but the principle remains. These days, my DIY lunch consists of a turkey sandwich on toasted sourdough with mustard and lettuce, a couple of oranges, and the remnants of last night’s Starbucks Cold Brew. On long days, a protein bar might sneak in to sustain me. 

Packing a lunch throughout college has been more than just a method to satiate cravings: it secures my spot in the library post-class, before the lunchtime rush, teaches me how to properly portion lunches for the week, and ensures I will always have something to nibble on — no matter the time of day. Most importantly, it is a routine that keeps me healthy and saves money — lessons that are simple reminders of those early school lunchtimes. 

But sometimes when I forget to pack a lunch for school, I order a spicy Italian from Subway or grab a snack from the Arbor. Although the Arbor is out of oranges most of the time I am there, it is a great place to grab something from — especially if you are in a rush. In these moments, when I start relying on the convenience of fast food, I see how much I have come to appreciate the lunches I prepare myself. 

From the simplicity of a turkey sandwich in elementary school to the mature choice of crafting a balanced meal in college, my lunchbox has evolved. Yet, some things remain the same: the comfort of knowing what’s in my meal and the independence it brings. Maybe it’s not about the lunchbox or the food itself, but the little bit of home you can bring with you — no matter where you go.


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