Over the past 6 years of having a kid in elementary school and now with 3 of them there, all my kids have gone through phases of not eating their lunches. I've tried everything from polling them about what they would eat in their lunch, to going to eat lunch with them to observe just why they are not eating their lunch (their complaint of not enough time I observed to be just too much talking and playing with their neighbor in the lunchroom and not enough eating!), to even threatening that they were going to have to start buying the cafeteria food for lunch!
Mostly, I have happened upon some combinations of lunches that they will eat and I feel are healthy enough. But, really nothing has quite addressed the problem as efficiently as our newest solution.
At the beginning of the month, my husband let the kids know it was now their job to clean out their lunchbox in the afternoon or evening. Before they were just required to put their lunchboxes by the sink and he cleaned them out when he did the dinner dishes.
His motivation was transferring some work to them but the added benefit is best summed up by what my 6 year old said (who is currently my worst not-eating-his-lunch offender), "Now I try to eat all my lunch at school. Do you know why? Because that way it makes it easier to clean out my lunchbox!"
Of course! It is just that simple! Why didn't we think of this before?!!!
Here's that little guy cleaning out his lunch box before bed: