Day 15: cheese sandwich

Today’s menu: cheese sandwich, tater tots, orange, pretzels, milk

This meal actually reminded me of a hot lunch meal I enjoyed in school. The cheese sandwich actually tasted almost identical to the one I ate in school. However, it was accompanied by tomato soup. To me it was (and still is) a really great duo.

I survived today’s meal just fine. I was offered the peanut butter and jelly sandwich or the cheese sandwich. I couldn’t stomach the pb&j this time, but next time I’m offered it, I’ll force myself to eat it.

NOTE: major photo quality improvement! I figured out how to do it right.

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27 Responses to Day 15: cheese sandwich

  1. greenbean January 26, 2010 at 2:22 am #

    i used to loooove the grilled cheese and tomato soup. i'm with you, thats the combo. who needs tots with it. and pretzels! carb coma!

  2. Linda- Kitchen Therapy January 26, 2010 at 2:27 am #

    Hi,
    New to the blog. So sad you need to do this, but keept it up!

    I expected lots of processed foods- tater tots, white bread, pretzels. But is the amount of disposable plastic packaging usual for school lunch? And foam trays, paid for over and over again. Seesh!

  3. Whitney January 26, 2010 at 2:57 am #

    Funny that this meets the guidelines for school lunches (I'm assuming)! It does not, however, meet good "meal planning" guidelines, such as color and variety. Is ketchup considered the punch of color? Good luck with your project!

  4. Lisa January 26, 2010 at 3:08 am #

    This is a GREAT project. So glad an educator friend turned me on to it. I'm passing the link to a local org here that is working to facilitate food grown on local farms getting to local institutions like schools, nursing homes, etc.

    Also curious if your activity (working out, etc.) is the same, and if you'll notice any changes in your weight or energy as a result.

    Oh, how I loved tater tots when I was in school. They are so much more satisfying than french fries!

  5. Nicole January 26, 2010 at 3:45 am #

    I'm fascinated by the packaging. Our schools all cook the lunches right in the cafeteria here in Stafford, VA. The same was true in El Paso, TX when we lived there. That doesn't neccessarily make the food better for you, but it makes it tastier and fresher. They always have a vegetarian option, 2 main meal options, and a choice between fresh or cooked veggies and fresh fruit. At least at the elementary level. Not sure about higher, I'll have to ask my son.
    Yours seems to be simply heated up (microwave?) and shipped in from some company. It actually reminds me of airplane food.

  6. GreenFoodGal January 26, 2010 at 4:53 am #

    Was that "grilled" cheese actually nuked in the plastic wrapper? Thinking BPA and phthalates. Scary.

  7. Diane January 26, 2010 at 5:17 am #

    For the life of me I can't believe that all this food comes individually wrapped the way it does. Somehow I remember being served food directly on an actual plate that got washed! And I'm not THAT old – 35. I graduated from my K-8 school in 1988 and the lunches were pretty much the same the whole time. Anyway. Great project and has sparked some awesome conversations with friends and family about what they remember regarding school lunches. Thanks for doing this.

  8. Bigbnlc January 26, 2010 at 6:45 am #

    That's what I mean. Why is each item individually wrapped. That has to add a significant expense. The waste alone is noteworthy. Each lunch says a lot about our society today. I'll continue my diatribe at another time.

  9. Anonymous January 26, 2010 at 9:18 am #

    First of all, thanks for doing this. Most folks have absolutely no idea
    what school lunches are. Schools who participate in the National
    program get $ 2.68 per free meal & 2.28 for reduced meal – this $ is usually split 50/50 for staff /food costs. Also the program must be non-profit. This level of reinbursement makes it just so difficult to pay for a wider variety of ingredients and experienced staff. Also 30% of the meals caloriescan come from fat (but only 10% saturated fat).

    The food choice discrepancy between school districts is truly amazing.

    Our middle schooler has been in 3 different school lunch situations: 1. Private ISAS type schools where catering companies were under contract for meals/staffing, w/90% enrollment @ $ 4.00 day & 10% brought their lunches (& ate in a separate area!). Food was good but
    boring as menu repeating every 2 weeks with no daily "A" or "B" option. The days I went for lunch, 50% of the food was thrown out.

    2. A public school with 4 entrees: a hot lunch line with an "A" & "B" option; a separate sandwich line & a separate salad line plus 6 side items. Child must pick 1 entree and 2 or 3 sides daily. Prepaid only @ $ 2.75 daily. The days I was there for lunch, maybe 20% of food thrown out.This district had a real kitchen facility @ each school and food service is w/Aramark Education but staff is district employees. Aramark also does the catering through their casual catering department for district events – which a % reverted back to school's foundation program. Menu's on-line. 25% free lunch. Great food.

    3. Current school has a hot lunch line with only 1 choice or the sandwich line. 1 out of 5 lunches are inedible due to "gross" visual factor. Again 40 – 50% of the food is thrown away. District is
    maybe 35% free lunch.Although the kitchen is fully equipped, the
    food is Sysco sourced and primarily cyrovac items and pre-done sandwiches that are placed in a hot box mid-morning and served in their wrappers. Cafeteria workers seem to have no idea how to use the equipment with the exception of boiling water in stock pots for the cyrovac bags or emptying food from the food-service bag & placing in steam table inserts. If an item can be prepackaged (pie slice, cookies, fruit cups) it is served rather than having employees cut an item or serve it into a cup, plate or bowl. So far only bananas for fresh fruit. The amount of packaging is staggering! This is all for concerns on food tampering & safety.

    I just don't know what the answer is to turn this around. There are "farm to school" initiatives out there but they have to have
    a committed volunteer base (w/ background checks) to work beyond the vegetable garden type projects.

    The reinbursement rate pretty well means that most schools will have to outsource and get prepared foods from the big institutional food service sources as there is no $ to employ staff to prepare the
    USDA provided cases of spaghetti sauce ($ 12.34), the whole grain spaghetti ($ 8.70) or mozzarella ($ 47.37) that could be used.
    The rinbursement rate would need to be doubled to do this.

  10. Lisa RR January 26, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

    I notice that each time you have an orange, it must be peeled. How do children, with a limited amount of time – and some with a limited amount of ability – eat them? Do they get eaten? That concerns me. It's probably the most healthy part of the lunch, as it is fresh fruit, and many kids might not even be able to eat it.

  11. mrsncook January 26, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    I saw an article with your link in the Pittsburgh paper, and I was very curious to see what you've been running into in the cafeteria. I remember when my girls went to school, and I had to fight with them constantly about providing alternate foods for my children with food allergies. (The no outside food rule of the preschool classroom gave way to compliance when my one child ate something she shouldn't have and got VERY ill.) I thought a donut every single morning was terrible, until I started reading this. I quickly handed the article to my children, logged in to the blog, and told them there was an interesting read for them.

    As I read your entries, I cringe and am glad I didn't eat breakfast. 😛 I've come to several conclusions, including that I am very glad I homeschool my children who get real food at every meal and that I am very thankful my mother packed my lunches when I was a child. Thank you very much for the look into a school lunch program and highlighting the need for more nutritious food. I'd also love to see some real veggies, because it's no wonder children hate them when they have that mushy stuff. It's no wonder people are surprised when they ask my children's favorite food and my girls tell them it's salad.

    Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts and posting such wonderful pics to highlight the horrors of your school meals. I can't wait to see what else you post!

  12. Miss Jumper January 26, 2010 at 2:01 pm #

    I think those are dog treats! Mmmmmmm!
    Keep up the good work!

  13. Anonymous January 26, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

    The comment about the funding is interesting.

    I don't think there are a lot of people who would say there is NOT room to improve school meals.

    I think the interesting discussion is HOW! Where to start? Which opinions to follow? Where to get the time/money? Can anything be done within the current structure until wide-scale changes come about?

    I hope to read see more of that here. But, I'm not really sure what the "project" is that the blog title mentions, so this might not be what the point is.

  14. Anonymous January 26, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    Could you please comment a bit about the cooking facilities available in your school's kitchen? (Do you actually have a kitchen with real stoves?)

  15. My Year Without January 26, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

    Wow, what an interesting blog and endeavor. I'm fascinated…..!

  16. Jen January 26, 2010 at 4:19 pm #

    I found your blog from themarketingmama.com. SO INTERESTING. My oldest child is starting Kindergarten in the fall. She's been in daycare her whole life (almost) and has never been able to bring her lunch. I'm now looking forward to being able to pack her lunches for her instead of having her eat school lunches!!

  17. Anonymous January 26, 2010 at 5:13 pm #

    I love reading your blog, even though I usually cringe as I read it (because of the food, not because of your writing!).

    Is it feasible to add a Facebook icon to your page so we can share your posts on Facebook?

  18. Anonymous January 26, 2010 at 6:44 pm #

    Bread, pretzels, tater tots, processed cheese — all brown. So, the carb, fat and salt groups are definitely covered. I'm curious as to whether the "Nutrition Facts" for the meals are available at lunch. It also makes me wonder how these meals compare to what's served in prisons.

  19. dm January 26, 2010 at 7:59 pm #

    Since I started reading your blog I have packed my first grader's lunch every day. Everything at his school is also prepackaged and there are many of the exact same items as are served at your school. No wonder he was always starving when he gets home – he doesn't eat those nasty lunches.

    I 2nd the Facebook link suggestion!

  20. deconstructed-life January 26, 2010 at 8:15 pm #

    Wow. I cannot believe the poor quality of these lunches. I was always a "hot-lunch" kid but I am just realizing how amazing my school system was. We had a choice of the hot lunch (changed everyday), the deli bar (choice of bread, choice of filling, chips and fruit) or the salad bar (an open salad bar where you took as much lettuce and toppings as would fill the plate).

    The only times I bought the hot lunch option were pizza day, make-your-own-loaded-potato day, and a few other random meals (sloppy joe day for some reason was always a big hit). Generally I got a sandwich or made my own salad. And it was $1.25, but that was a while ago. We didn't have any vending machines.

  21. SlyGly January 27, 2010 at 12:19 am #

    Bread, potatoes, and pretzels! So many carbs!

  22. Anonymous January 27, 2010 at 4:43 pm #

    I think this is a great project. But it is unfortunate that you remark too often that something so nutritiously bad for you, such as the "ribacue" sandwich, "actually taste's great!". Often foods that "taste" great really just have addictive qualities to them that get you hooked. Bad food is an addiction at the most serious level. School lunch itself is a good enough reason to want to home school my children. Bad food affects health at all levels, including proper brain function. No wonder we are fat lazy and stupid. This stuff is awful and I can't believe there is someone consciously deciding these menus.

  23. Anonymous January 27, 2010 at 10:18 pm #

    A few random thoughts….Someone mentioned the excessive packaging. Well, I'm sure it saves money on the dishwashing end, and also they probably employ fewer people if they don't actually have to cook the food from scratch. Also, I'm sure the food is "cleaner" since it appears to arrive and be served in sealed packages.
    I am curious as to whether this school is on the federal lunch program. There are very strict guidelines that must be met to be on this program. 1/2 cup serving vegetables, 1/2 cup serv.of fruit, 3 oz of protein, for each meal, just to name a few. Also, 12 servings of grains has to be met each week for grade school level. That is why it seems so heavy on the carb side.
    Also, when you complain about the taste, that is because sodium is very restricted in the government program. So are fats, and other additives.
    A lunch is not supposed to be a meal that meets a full day's requirement of nutrition. However, in many cases it is for many children. But that is a whole different catagory that cannot be met by a struggling education budget. Other options should be made available for needy families.
    If you have any questions about the food, talk to the kitchen manager. She can tell you about serving size, ingredients, calories, fat content, etc.
    from
    Anonymous – the lunch lady

  24. Mrs. Q January 28, 2010 at 4:18 am #

    Thanks again for the comments. As far as saying something tastes good, I'm just expressing an opinion at the time. I am physically hungry when lunch rolls around.

    I would love to interview the kitchen manager, but I feel restricted because I need to protect my anonymity.

    In regards to the facebook link comments, I have no idea how to do that technically. If anyone knows, please comment.

  25. Buttonwillow Six January 29, 2010 at 1:22 am #

    Pretzels AND tater tots? In my mind those are in the same food group…

  26. CJ March 27, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    Just found this on a government website-

    http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/governance/regulations/7cfr210_09.pdf

    Scroll down to pages 20 and 31 for Food Planning Requirements.
    Paraphrasing-
    Ages 12 and over. Recommended quantities. (*minimum quantities)
    1- 3 oz. (*2 oz.) serving protein, (meat, poultry, fish, cheese, meat substitute, or 1 large egg)
    2- 3/4 cup servings vegetable/fruit
    Grains/bread, 10 servings per week (*8 serving per week), must be enriched or whole grain, slic of bread, biscuit, rolls, 1/2 cup rice, noodles or cereal grains

    So basically- 1 protien, 2 veg/fruit, 2 grain/bread

    Your previous meal of tater tots w/ketchup pack, cheese sandwich, pretzels and a tangerine had 3-4 starches and/or 1-2 fruit/veg (depending on your interpretation of tater tots being in the vegetable or grain/bread category). Either way, it was truly awful.

    Nice to see a little broccoli on the tray.

  27. rd April 11, 2010 at 11:33 pm #

    i've read a few of your blog posts and think what you are doing is great. i've just gone back to read them from the beginning and am shocked at how often tater tots and pizza are offered. i know they are fun to eat and easy to make, but tater tots aren't really a vegetable and the pizza looks extremely processed. among a gazillion other fixes that need to be made to the school lunch program, they should find better, easy to prepare "repeat" menu items that are kid-friendly, nutritious, and less processed.

    i'm pleased to see some fresh fruit on the plate every now and then.
    thanks for doing this and opening up a great dialogue! i hope these issues are fixed before i have school aged kids.

    one more thing – the salad bar was a huge hit at my high school when they started one. is any type of salad / fresh veggie bar available at your school?

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