New York grade-schooler’s kimbap lunch touches hearts of immigrants in US

Posted on : 2023-09-18 17:06 KST Modified on : 2023-09-18 17:09 KST
A video posted by the official social media accounts of the NYC government has prompted numerous comments applauding a third grader for her pride in her culture’s food
An elementary student named Avery shares what’s in her lunch bag in a video posted to the official Instagram account of the New York City government. (still from @nycgov on Instagram)
An elementary student named Avery shares what’s in her lunch bag in a video posted to the official Instagram account of the New York City government. (still from @nycgov on Instagram)

“[This is] rice. Then my mom packs me a foil and seaweed. So I can make this Korean food called ‘kimbap.’”

Avery, a third grader who appeared to be Korean American, opened up her lunch bag and took out some ingredients her mom had packed for her. After taking off the lid of her thermos of rice, she made a work mat out of aluminum foil and removed the wrapper from a pack of seaweed.

“So the kim is the seaweed, [and] the bap is the rice,” she explained.

“I put the seaweed on the foil, and then I usually just take the rice and put it on the seaweed and flatten it out. Roll it up, and this is kimbap,” she said, as her tiny hands went to work preparing her very own kimbap roll.

When asked why she likes kimbap, Avery shrugged, “I just think the combination of seaweed and rice is very good.”

An elementary student named Avery shares what’s in her lunch bag in a video posted to the official Instagram account of the New York City government. (still from @nycgov on Instagram)
An elementary student named Avery shares what’s in her lunch bag in a video posted to the official Instagram account of the New York City government. (still from @nycgov on Instagram)

Her kimbap may not have had all that much variety in its ingredients, but it was the kind of simple roll that many Koreans have prepared for themselves when feeling peckish in the morning.

Avery’s clip was posted on social media such as YouTube and Instagram by the city of New York on Sept. 9. The city captioned its post on YouTube with the sentiment that “kids learn so much about the world when peeking into friends’ lunchboxes.” As of Friday morning, the clip had over 190,000 likes on Instagram.

With the new school year kicking off this September, New York City has posted similar clips featuring elementary school students of different ethnicities, including the Dominican Republic and India, sharing what’s in their lunchboxes.

The 55-second clip drew a number of messages expressing support for Avery from viewers who shared their own experiences of racial discrimination during lunchtime as immigrants attending school in the US.

An elementary student named Avery shares what’s in her lunch bag in a video posted to the official Instagram account of the New York City government. (still from @nycgov on Instagram)
An elementary student named Avery shares what’s in her lunch bag in a video posted to the official Instagram account of the New York City government. (still from @nycgov on Instagram)

One user who appeared to be Korean wrote, “I remember these girls wanted some of my kimbap. I only had about 8 pieces but gladly gave one to each of them. They took a bite and spat it out, saying it was gross.”

“I felt embarrassed and sorry for my mum who woke up every morning to make lunch for me,” the user continued.

“I insisted I wanted sandwiches for lunch from then onwards. This video healed a little girl in me!”

Another user wrote, “Avery, you healed the little part of me that got teased and shamed for bringing kimbap to school as a kid.”

Other users who immigrated from different countries also shared their experiences. One who appeared to come from a Japanese background wrote, “[I] got flamed for eating ‘sushi’ at lunch. [I] told my mom to make me a ham and cheese sandwich in a brown paper bag after that.”

Another who appeared to come from a Filipino background wrote, “It took me back to 4th grade, bringing tocino [a traditional dish in the Philippines] and rice… when I was teased because it wasn’t a traditional school lunch. Happy we are making strides in diversity and acceptance.”

Another user wrote that the clip had her “reminiscing the many times my mom and dad would prepare my lunch with ethnic food. The times other kids and teachers would stare at my lunch or ask ‘what’s that smell.’ Wish I could go back and give little me a hug and tell her not to be ashamed of her own food from her own culture.”

An elementary student named Avery shares what’s in her lunch bag in a video posted to the official Instagram account of the New York City government. (still from @nycgov on Instagram)
An elementary student named Avery shares what’s in her lunch bag in a video posted to the official Instagram account of the New York City government. (still from @nycgov on Instagram)

Many commenters applauded Avery for her confidence in her identity.

One commenter wrote that “as a first generation, I tried so desperately to hide my ‘asianness’ and begged my mama to pack me sandwiches instead of whatever amazing meal she had prepared the night before. I’m sooooooooooooo happy for this little girl to live in a world where she can bring whatever lunch she wants.”

“We come a long way from being bullied because I had burrito or taco in my elementary school days not a peanut butter and jelly sandwich like the rest of the kids,” another wrote.

By Joh Yun-yeong, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Related stories