In today's day and age where school lunches are coming under fire more and more for being both unhealthy and expensive, one Midwestern father goes to extraordinary lengths to make certain his son is not only eating healthy, but is also the hit of his school's lunchroom.
Kai Wilken, who is a stay at home dad from Omaha, Nebraska, wakes up early or stays up late every school day and spends close two hours creating unique and edible sandwich "artwork" featuring pop culture figures of particular interest to his son and his friends at school. Wilken uses artist and scrapbooking tools to turn everyday school lunches into "works of art" that feature everything from superheroes to cartoon characters to school buses and snow men. All of Wilken's creations are made using the same wholesome ingredients that make up a regular sandwich, including bread, lunchmeat, cheese and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Wilken began creating lunchmeat art two years ago when his oldest son started going to school. He wanted to remind his son that he and the entire family were thinking of him. On his first day of school, Wilken's son opened his lunchbox to see surprise and a very familiar face – Batman – which inspired him to play "Batman and Robin" with several of his new friends at recess.
"When we first sent our son off to school, my wife and I wanted to not only make school fun for him, but we also wanted to find a way to help him to develop healthy eating habits," said Wilken. "When we learned that the special lunch I had packed for him on his first day of school was the hit of the lunch room and helped him make new friends, I knew this was something I would continue to do."
When preparing his son's lunches, Wilken also incorporates some special treats that he knows he will enjoy, such as the sweet potato chips in this school bus sandwich. Wilken finds that when he includes garnishes with some of his son's favorite snacks, he is more likely to eat – or at least try – all of the healthy items included in his creations.
Wilken's creations actually get their start the night before school when he completes a mental inventory of all of the conversations he and his son have had recently to identify the subject matter for the next creation. He then takes out a piece of paper and draws a rough sketch of his masterpiece.
Wilken either immediately goes to work on tomorrow's lunch, or wakes up at the crack of dawn, pulls out the sketch, all of the necessary ingredients and his tools and gets to work. He starts by fitting a piece of bread snuggly into a small container, so the sandwich doesn't shift in transit when completed. He then shapes the "foundation" of his design by cutting the larger elements out of lunchmeat and cheese into their desired shapes. Once he has his larger shapes formed, he spreads what he calls the "glue" – better known as mustard or mayonnaise – on the bread and places the larger shapes (the meat and cheese) into place.
At this point Wilken's true artistry begins. He uses his collection of art and scrapbooking tools that include small shearing scissors, a variety of hole punches in different sizes and a group of small pairing knives to bring unimaginable level detail to his sandwich creations. He shapes fruits and vegetables into the details that truly bring each creation to life.
Association with Land O'Frost
When Land O'Frost, Inc., the nation's third-largest and fastest growing lunchmeat brand, first became aware of Wilken's unique talent and deep commitment to his family, the company immediately reached out to him to join forces to promote his unique talents and encourage wholesome eating and family activities.
Specifically, Land O'Frost will feature Wilken and several of his creations and musings on the company's YouTube and Facebook pages.
"Working with Kai is a natural fit for Land O'Frost. As a family owned and operated company we share the same commitment to family values and making smart choices in the lunchroom," said Stephan Williams, vice president of marketing for Land O'Frost. "Much more, he clearly illustrates that it is rewarding to take an interest in your children's lives and that helping them eat healthy can be fun."
To learn more about Kai and see him create a back-to-school sandwich that gets an A+, watch his videos at www.youtube.com/landofrost. You can also view additional behind the scenes pictures of his work at www.facebook.com/landofrost.
What do you want to see next?
Log on to www.facebook.com/landofrost or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us what you want to see Wilken make next. We will choose some of your suggestions for the next series of sandwich art videos.