By Angie Hilton
Aaaarrrgghh school lunches!!! Sometimes I tear my hair out over them. I really do aim for the perfect blend of healthy food versus food they’ll actually eat. The thing that infuriates me is that quite regularly I’ll unpack the lunch boxes after school to find them still 80 per cent full. Sound familiar?
In my search for a solution I hit social media. Love it or hate it, if you’re prepared to sift through the junk you can stumble upon some absolute gold … as I did when I found School Lunch Box.
Creative Belmont dad, George Georgievski is the face behind the School Lunch Box Instagram and Facebook page with a reach of 45k followers. He has made an art form of the humble lunch box. His mission is simple: to inspire people worldwide to feed their children lunches packed with nutrients, love and a good dollop of fun.
I was excited to meet George and uncover his secrets to having a lunch box that returned empty. What I discovered upon our meeting was a passionate family man with an exuberant love of life and a desire for change on a big scale. I thought I was there to learn about lunches, but I found myself wanting to know more about what makes this man tick.
Name: George Georgievski
Day job: Small Business Owner at Carpet Call Geelong/Soho Tile Gallery
Family in a snapshot:
Occupation: Maxine’s Challenge Leader/Ambassador & Business Manager.
Three words to describe your wife: Beautiful, loving, anchored.
Daughter 1: Anela
Three words to describe Anela: Beautiful, sensitive, heartfelt.
Daughter 2: Kiara
Three words to describe Kiara: Beautiful, gangsta, rock star.
Let’s start at the beginning of your journey as a daddy. Were you front and centre at both births?
Anela was born the day after our wedding anniversary. It was the best moment of my life. My wife was taken into theatre, which totally freaked me out – so much so, I fainted! The nurses had to stop looking after her and attend to me.
The umbilical cord was wrapped around Anela’s neck. Thank God we had an amazing obstetrician in Brian McCully – I fell in love with that man. Five hours later we had our baby girl.
The moment I saw my wife look at Anela, I started balling my eyes out. I’m such a sook – I even cried when Bobby died in Home and Away!
Kiara’s birth was less dramatic; we had to plan for a caesar so it was smooth sailing. I remember making a music mix for both births and Kiara was born to the song Better Man by Pearl Jam. I certainly became a better man once my girls were born.
Watching you with your girls is really something special. They absolutely adore you. Did you always have a plan for how you wanted to be as a father?
I always said that if I could be half the dad my dad was, I’d be happy. He was a true gentleman. He passed away over 20 years ago, which turned my world upside down.
He taught me to play chess. As a kid I remember hating it, but I later found out he had a hidden agenda. In chess the queen is the most valuable piece, she can go in any direction whereas the king can only move one square at a time. The pawns are not really that important as they pretty much just make up the numbers. Thinking three to five moves ahead is important when playing chess too, trying to outsmart the opposition.
Fast forward to the day before my dad died in hospital – I will never forget his words to me. He said, “When I taught you to play chess I was teaching you life, always think ahead before you say something, think about the consequences of your actions. The pawns are like friends they come and go, but the queen is the woman in your life. She can do anything. She is your mum, sister, one day your wife and maybe even your daughter. Without a strong woman in your life, it won’t be easy playing the game of life.”
I only wish he got to meet my little family.
I can only imagine your dad would be incredibly proud of you, not only as the father you’ve become but also the husband you are. You and Marina look very much in love. What’s your secret?
She is my rock. She inspires me daily. We’ve been married 16 years now and I feel like we’re closer than ever.
Before kids, Marina was a real career woman with two degrees. The challenge for her was running a business from home whilst also caring for the girls. After five years of this, she knew she had to shake things up and get a sense of herself back. She decided to transform her body through Maxine’s Challenge. She completely changed her body shape and subsequently, her state of mind. She now has so much energy for the kids … and myself!
I feel like we’re a great team. There is a real mutual respect and appreciation. We both agree that there are no ‘mum duties’ or dad duties’, there are only ‘parent’s duties’.
So in dividing up household chores, you put up your hand for lunch duties. Is that how School Lunch Box came about?
Not quite. I used to start work early, but was home from work sick one day. I was pretty shocked by the morning chaos that my wife had to go through. I knew I had to step in and help out, so I asked how I could help out and she suggested making the lunches.
I started searching online for inspiration but what I found was either too hard, too complicated or way too expensive to create. So I stopped searching and I started creating, I simplified complicated recipes to create my own “simple dad version”.
And that’s the beauty of your lunch ideas. I love your philosophy that lunch should take no longer than five to ten minutes.
Yes, it should be easy and visually appealing. Kids eat with their eyes, so if you cut things into bite size pieces so it looks bright and colourful, they’re excited to gobble it up.
I also suggest shopping with the kids and getting them to pick out the fruit and veggies they love. It gets them more engaged and they also learn the value of things. They will respect the food more, especially at the checkout when they see you have to pay for it.
I notice you have a few unique creations in your lunch boxes that I’ve never heard of before.
Yes, I encourage the girls to get creative with me, so we often experiment with the food and create new names for our inventions.
We’ve created names like: the Spring-wich (an imitation of a spring roll). I cut off crusts, press the bread flat with a rolling pin, fill it which cheese, roast chicken and carrot and roll it up.
I also have Rav-wich (ravioli), Cup-wich (cup cakes), Sand-ling (chinese dumpling), the Lolly-wich – (looks like a lolly but healthy). I also made a special one called a Rose-wich. The Rose-wich was inspired by a girl called Zara and I wanted to create a rose sandwich so we can all stop and smell the roses. Respect life and love it.
You can check them all out and how to make them on Instagram.
And the beauty of social media has meant you can reach places you’d never expect to. Have you been surprised by the following you’ve received?
It blows my mind – it has literally gone global! For a whole year on Fridays I’d focus on a random country and I’d use food from that country – we called it ‘Heritage Friday’. It was my way of teaching my daughters about countries through food and culture. For example, did you know in Switzerland you can lease a cow to have your own fresh milk? Or, Macedonia was the first country in the world to be completely WIFI? Fun facts, focusing on the positives of countries was my way of making the world smaller for my girls to appreciate, respect and understand other cultures.
When I’d post the lunch on social media I’d hashtag that country and then bang! The response was huge, people in Ethiopia were like, “Who’s this dad from Geelong showcasing our food and culture?” They immediately got curious and wanted to know more about me, so I did a heap of media all around the world. I’ve done TV interviews in Macedonia plus a heap of press. I was even on the front page of a newspaper in Poland for sharing their culture in a positive light – unfortunately I had to share the cover with Donald Trump!
American Express Magazine voted me most inspirational lunch box creator. I’ve done interviews in China, Indonesia, U.K, U.S, South Africa, Chile and Europe. Actually, that’s every continent. I’m totally blown away by it.
Are you super strict with the kids and their eating habits?
My wife and I are not strict ‘no-sugar’ parents. We believe you can’t ban them from it, you just need to make them understand moderation. They go to kids’ birthday parties etc, so of course they will be curious. My theory is, it’s better to educate them about the consequences of having too much sugar and to let them have it occasionally.
We have a box at home labeled ‘junk’. It’s where all the lollies and sugary items belong. We never refer to it as a ‘treat’ or ‘reward’ – you never reward someone for doing something good with something that is bad for them. My version of a treat is something like frozen passionfruit or mango, a rare fruit or a no added sugar creation.
If you could inspire change in the way children eat, what would it be and why?
Just remember the numbers – three to five veggies and two pieces of fruit a day. Avoid processed foods and high sugar content foods. I have a few no added sugar treats on my blog for simple creations.
Believe me you’ll thank me one day when you are saving money on dentist bills or when their grades are improving because their attention span has lengthened because of lowering the sugar content.
With 65 per cent of Aussies being overweight or obese it’s important to make that change to stop them from becoming a statistic.
Also, we all love our children, show them how much you love them by giving them food that will enhance their little bodies and minds.
That’s the best inspiration I could offer.
Any future plans for George Georgievski? By the way that is a stage name if ever I’ve heard one … you were born to go global!
(Laughs) I’m a great singer in the shower!
I’m currently trying to get funding to change school canteen menus to ‘regulations’ rather than ‘guidelines’.
I’m also trying to get into schools to do demonstrations for the parents on just how easy it is to make healthy lunches with minimal fuss and maximum impact.
Well sign me up George Georgievski. We need more great leaders like you.
Thanks Angie. You rock!
Check out the gallery for some of George’s yummy lunch box ideas