Day 42: cheese lasagna

Today’s menu: cheese lasagna, peas, pear, milk, bread, butter

Wow. Truly monumentally bad. I couldn’t get through the main entree. I was hungry too… I bit the cheese lasagna and it didn’t even pass muster as pasta! Al dente? No, al crappy. The pasta couldn’t hold its form and it crumbled. I ate two bites and I was done. Yuck.

Luckily I keep peanut butter in my desk. I used the two pieces of bread that came with the lunch and made a peanut butter sandwich. The spork was my snife. I would have been so screwed without my little snack stash today.

The pear and the peas were good. If it had been a fruit cup, I probably would have cried.

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91 thoughts on “Day 42: cheese lasagna”

  1. Ick! That one looks like a true horror. I remember the great lunches I had in high school in the mid 1980s. Boy, school lunches have deteriorated fast since then. We had school-made entrees (which were usually pretty good) served w/ homemade yeast rolls (yum! Every day, too!). We also had another line that every day had the follow: baked potato bar, chili with meat, salad bar & cold plates w/ fried chicken, potato salad, sliced tomatoes & rolls. My high school lunches were actually quite delicious.

  2. I read about your blog on aol and hod to come over. I'll be a regular follower.

    I think what you are doing is great, though I fear it won't be beneficial to your health. If people could really see what schools feed our kids they should be outraged.

    This meal looked horrible.


  3. I don't get it. I thought pasta already count as one serving of carbohydrate? Why would you need another two pieces of bread? I think it would be better if they swap the bread for something rich in protein… chicken breast or something. Just a thought.

  4. Oh my! That does look "al crappy"!! I was glad to see fresh fruit and the peas still have some color.

  5. Thanks for committing to this…At my child's school the vegetarian option is usually a grey peanut butter substance that looks like putty.
    You have inspired me to pack the kids lunches again after being slack for awhile because of our busy schedule. Following 🙂

  6. That looks hideous… and nothing like lasagne at all. Such a shame what is passed off to the children of America as 'food'. No wonder there are so many fussy eaters around… I wouldn't eat that either.

  7. berenichi's got a point about picky eaters. if i was given this and told it was lasagna, no WAY would i ever voluntarily try lasagna someplace else. it doesn't even look like lasagna, it looks like a frozen waffle with barbeque sauce!

  8. as a high school student, i know how terrible school lunches are. everything we have is deep fried. chicken strips or pizza and (that cost extra) and french fries (also cost extra) are what most get. They recently started serving bread soup bowls and make your own sandwich bar with a ton of vegetables. they have a salad bar and some fruit, but i tend to stay away from the fruit. i've had so many mushed apples at school its ridiculous. i really like what you're doing. that food at your school looks horrible.

  9. I think this may be the worst lunch we've seen yet! That "lasagna" looks absolutely terrible. And this meal is tons of refined grains, all over the place. Filling, and fattening. At least there was a piece of fresh fruit. One actual food item in there!

    I love the idea of the make your own sandwich bar. I remember in college there was a sandwich place where you got in line and filled out a long form with all the ingredients you wanted on it: type of bread, cheese, meat, veggies. It was the best quick lunch. I loved it. I also like the idea of soup in bread bowls.

    I don't think bread is especially nutritious, but I think there are ways of making it healthier, like the bread bowls and sandwiches with fresh ingredients. And having a salad bar is so important.

  10. I saw your blog on aol as well and left a comment on your linky love post. As an RD that worked for the TX school system I am pretty shocked to see all of the little frozen/prepackaged containers used at your school. I applaud you for bringing attention to the poor quality food that your students have been served! Bleh!

    Not all school lunches are bad–it has a lot to do with budgets and the motivation/talent of food service staff. While supervising 13 districts and several charter schools I feel like I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly!

    I would love to see more schools promoting fresh food. Grant opportunities are out there!

  11. I applaud you for what you're doing! My great grandmother was a school COOK and she would be quite distressed at what passes as school lunches now!
    My oldest starts school next year and the thought of school lunches makes me sick! I'll be packing her lunch thankyouverymuch!

  12. I spent part of my daughter's naptime catching up on your previous entries. Your honesty is appreciated—I love that you're not afraid to "admit" when you think the food actually tastes good, as well as being completely candid about the terrible things. I hope that (especially if the higher-ups in your school find out) people understand that you're not trying to embarress anyone, and that you really do appreciate the work of the staff at your school. Thank you for starting this project.

  13. Just joined your blog – and you inspired me to refocus my attention on this completely disappointing aspect of American education. Thank you so much.

  14. How does that even pass as lasagna? It looks like there's cracks in the sauce… the SAUCE! How?? I don't think my children would even recognize it at food, let alone agree to eat it.

    It's sad that this is even a step up from the lunches I used to eat in high school… for me it was fries (frozen shoestring, deep fried until soggy) smothered in ketchup AND gravy, a carton of white milk, and whatever chocolate thing I wanted out of the vending machine. No fruit, no veggies, just a few stale muffins and the few other scary-looking offerings from the hot food area (still don't know what the "pizza bun" was).

  15. Thank the heavens for the pear. At least that one was real food. I have 3 school aged children, 2 of which, on occassion, purchase a school lunch. I know it's not healthy at all but your pictures really are what's eye opening. I wouldn't serve that to my kids at home so why do I allow it at school. On top of that, I see all of the pre and over-packaged items headed right to the landfill. Today's a new day!

  16. Have you ever talk to the food service director about what he is up against? We food service directors have to work on a tight budget. Stop blaming the school for all the problems. It starts at home only 18% of meals kids eat are from the school lunch 82% come from home. Do you realy think that the school lunch cause obsicity. Most of the kids have formed eating habits way before they go to school. I feel I am doing my part by going to all wheat products and making a lot of things from scratch. There is only so much we can do. Lets start educating Parents on healthy eating so they can pass it down to there children.

  17. I'm actually relieved that the lasagna crumbled. My first thought when I saw the spork next to the dish was "Oh dear, there's no way the kids can eat that!" I was envisioning lifting the top, rubbery noodle up with the fork and biting off a hunk, scraping off the cheese layer, then repeating with the bottom (probably mushy rather than rubbery) noodle.

    Thumbs-up for a recipe that works with a spork. Sounds like a thumbs-down on flavor, I'm sorry to hear that.

    I wonder if the kids made butter sandwiches, since they had no peanut butter? Butter sandwich day was my favorite snack day in kindergarten (1983). Looking back now I'm horrified from a nutrition standpoint: a thick layer of butter between two slices of soft white bread.

  18. Wow!! Home-school beats everything I can eat good food…The pics of food look Disgusting!!!!

  19. I like this blog a lot. It is very disturbing to see how much food has changed since even when I went to school. (i'm 26) I remember elementary school lunch was 1.00 or an extra .10 if you wanted milk. you have whatever was the hot lunch item or you could get a pbj there was always an apple or banana and milk, or juice. after lunch you had to have your tray checked and if you had eaten an appropriate amount we recieved a ticket to get into the dessert line in which we could choose 1 dessert of which was between 10 – 25 cents.
    If you didn't like the lunch choice.. you packed and my mom always taped a dime (eventually a quarter or what ever to the top of my lunch box for milk.) very cut and dry. Yes the food was not very good and I often packed my lunch but I know not many kids at my school had parents that did pack thier lunch because of income, time…etc.

    Middle school though was totally different. Suddenly at 12 years old I was apparently prepared to make the best choices among many that were offered there was still the hot lunch such as chick patty (cold breaded ?Chicken?) served with sliced peached(glowing orange slimy sugar slices) and broccoli with cheese (wilted nasty steamed beyond recognition and then covered in melted plastic) served with a roll (pretty yummy actually) and milk choice (strawberry? chocolate, or white). I usually packed but the two girls I sat with chose the Ala carte menu which had everything from chips, ice cream and pizza of which they chose bbq chips icecream cookie sandwhich(sandwhich is good right?) and chocolate milk. Why would they choose this? because they could. when we arricved in Highschool it was even better? there is about 6 different lines all with crazy processed choices of junk! I was raised under the impression that beggers can't be choosers and for a little while i was under the reduced lunch program and i ate what I could out of that line and or i went with my mom to the grocery store and we budgeted out lunch food (thus the reason i have amazing budgeting skills to this day)
    I am now i guess grown up i just celebrated my 6th wedding anniversary and i teach container gardening to food pantry participants and am amazed at how little people know even about food. I ask the children to pick out thier least favorite food. almost everytime? green beans. I take an empty greenbean can fill it with soil and have them nuture and actual green bean plant and by the end of the year it they are eating them straight off the vine! Give kids crappy veggies they will always turn to something tastier. Give them fresh good veggies and no OTHER choices… they will eat and enjoy those items..
    to sum up this crazy long train of thought. knock out the junk food choices. make the only choice better and increase the nutrition education.

    Ps. add recess back but have it before lunch so kids are tired and hungry.
    also what is up with off campus stupidity? lock the school.

  20. WOW! I just re read my comment and want to assure you that the grammar you see in my previous post does NOT reflect the education that I actually recieved in my public school. The tenses are all off and my senior year English teacher would kill me if he saw my punctuation. I am truly sorry to all who had to interpret that.

  21. I can't believe how much packaging the food comes in now! I don't remember hot lunch being all that tasty or healthy when I was a kid, but I remember it being dished up on segmented trays so at least they just had to be washed and nothing needed to be thrown away aside from the napkins. It's sad that there is also a huge environmental cost to all of this in addition to the obviously poorly balanced/unhealthy meals.

  22. Wow that looks nasty! I usually had my own lunch throughout my school years, but at my high school and senior high, the food served was nothing like that! It was all slopped onto the trays from pots or big steam trays. That looks like you're eating lunch from a gas station.

  23. I totally agree… I would never eat the cafeteria lunch…
    I recently read that in France they serve healthy food and a full 3 services starting with a salad, then meat or fish with vegetables. They can eat fries but they have to pay extra money to get it.
    The dessert will vary from fruits to pie or cake baked with vegetal oil instead of butter. Nothing comes from a can and they are really working on organic food… because they notices the kids get more disease and it would be related to the chemical used to spray the fields… in a little area in the south of France people, one after the other, in a little village got cancer and the studies reported that it could be the new chemical used by the farmer to spray. The farmer himself was diagnose with a brain tumor… he is the one mixing the chemical before spraying…
    This is pretty scary!

  24. wow, I'm going to start reading this at lunch to make my lean cuisine look dang appetizing as a comparison.

    good luck.

  25. The food at my elementary school looked even worse than that. Pizza and curly fries, every day. At the beginning of the week the fries were at least fresh from the freezers. By the end of the week and 10+ reheats (meals are the same for breakfast and lunch) the "seasoning" on the fries fell off around them. The pizza dripped grease down your hands while you ate it.

    There were other lunch options, but they were even more foul so no one ever ate them.

    What is wrong with the school systems??

  26. Why are all the lunches you show in individual mirowave containers? Our school in PA makes food on trays and cuts a portion for each tray. I volunteer and serve lunch duty once a week. I eat the same lunches as the kids and they look good as well as taste good.Vegetables are spooned on the tray, but most kids don't eat them! Good food wasted everyday. Seems your kids would love to eat at our school.

  27. All I have to say is I remember school lunches didn't come in little plastic containers and they were pretty good and that was just in the late 80's early 90's when I was in school. They should go back to the way it was. I saw those pictures of the food and ewwwwwwwww!!!

  28. How many servings of carbohydrates!!??? Wow! They could have at least offered green beans or other lower carb vegetable.

    I don't know how you do it Mrs. Q. But I do appreciate the information you provide us with everyday.

  29. I have been looking through all the pictures and not only does the food not look appetizing but is is all individually wraped which I think creates alot of waste. Back in my school luch days (about 7 years)our trays along with eating utensils were washed everyday and the food was actually prepared and cooked on the premisses. Don't get me wrong I didn't always the like the main dish but I could always count on having a fruit, veggie, milk, and fresh salad. Idon't know if it makes a difference that I went to a private school, perhaps it does, still it's sad that the quality of food is so bad.

  30. The thing that strikes me is the plastic waste!! Aren't we in a green movement?!
    Our school also has mass made tray food cut into portions…probably cheaper, tastier, and better on the environment!

  31. Why is all the food wrapped in plastic? It seems as though they just microwave it from some frozen box. Why dont they prepare hot meals?

  32. I'm not sure if this is a state thing or not, but every school I have worked in in Utah county has a fresh fruit/veggie/condiments bar. Our meals also look nothing like yours. I know at our school they serve only a few frozen foods and more fresh foods are being made for lunches. Now you can choose the "hot meal" (as they call it) or the sandwich. The sandwiches are packaged and gross looking, so I never eat them. I have tried every entree they serve at our school and only found a couple that I did not like. Our pizza is ordered from a local place and brought in for pizza Fridays. Definitely not what your pizza looked like. I believe there was a policy put in place to ensure that the students get fresh/healthier foods. We do still have hot dogs, but only about once a month.

  33. The food was better when I was in high school (1983-1987) but not by much. I had no idea that everything was pre-packaged now…why not just serve EMRs? Ick.

  34. I read about your blog in an article on Yahoo! I think it's great your blog is receiving so much publicity, hopefully then something will be done about cafeteria food. And I have to say, it was only about 10 or 11 years ago that I was in elementary and at least our food looked a little more real and appetizing than the chemistry project it looks like they serve you. I know first hand how bad cafeteria food is for you, I became overweight when I started eating school food and got tired of being picked on so I started packing my own lunches to loose weight and I did! Something needs to be done about school food so bravo for making it known!

  35. Ok I dont know where everyone is from and really I dont care. All I care about is those kids. When I was in school and even now the food in the schools where Im from dont even look like that they are good. I would go there now and eat it. from those pictures I would even touch it. I remember wanting to eat the food at school instead of taking a lunch cause the food was so good. That is not right making the kids eat that. I am so glad that someone is doing something for those kids. I thank you alot cause if that was my kid I would be the one doing something about it also.

  36. My school has just offered a whole new food program this year. It may have been upon request, but I'm not sure.
    When I don't pack a lunch, the only thing I can bring myself to eat is the salad bar, which has a wide variety of fresh veggies and toppings. However, the main entrees are disgusting and usually unrecognizable! Most kids will pay an extra dollar to go through the a la carte line and get chicken fingers and fries, sometimes EVERY SINGLE DAY. It is sad 🙁

  37. I just found this blog today and am very interested in changing the lunch offerings.

    My son's grade school lunches look a little better than this. I've eaten there with him a couple times. The one thing that his school is trying this year that I really like is offering a fruit bar. They give the kids choices of a cup of applesauce, fruit cup, fresh fruit slices, carrot/celery sticks, etc. I really like this option, because I know that if he doesn't like the vegetable that day, he can pick carrot sticks. Also, he almost always will eat his fruit when he can have a choice of a couple items. He just told me last week that this option is going away next year because it's not cost effective. That is really sad to me.

    The other thing that really bothers me is that on hamburger day (when I was visiting), all the kids were served individual packs of baked doritos. I watched a good percentage of the kids throw their unopened bags of chips in the garbage. They said they don't have a choice of whether to take the bag, and if they don't eat it, they don't have a choice but to throw it away. I don't understand the need to give everyone a bag of chips if they don't want it. A lot of the kids just don't have the time to even get the bag open, and it's not worth it if they're only going to eat a couple. Why not buy some giant bags of chips and give everyone a handful? It would seem to me that this would be a lot less expensive and less wasteful.

    I will be following this blog and sharing it with friends. It would be great if all school lunch programs could be affected by people speaking up and letting our politicians, school boards, etc. know that it is worth the extra money to feed our children well.

  38. I just found your blog and I applaud you! You are VERY brave =) As a parent of four that relies on school lunches I, too, am concerned about what my kids get served at school. I look forward to reading more about your brave act and pray that you get the chance to continue your quest through the year. Thank you!

  39. Not going to lie, most of the lunches I have seen on here look so much better than the ones I'm served at school. You also get a lot more variety than we have. Really, I can't even look at most of our lunches. The only really edible thing is the fries and that salad bar…and that's pretty much all I will eat there. Not to mention the salad bar line is way shorter, if I were to get in line for the hot lunch, I would probly only have 10minutes to eat. It's sad.

  40. Hi Ms. Q, I read about this on yahoo and I've got to tell you that the lunch pictures you've posted on here(like the above photos) look A LOT better than the stuff I used to have to eat while in elementary school and high school(I'm a freshman in college now. THANK GOD). Most of the stuff that my HS served was disgusting, the everyday menu consisted of pizza,burgers,and chicken sandwiches. The pizza looked like it was covered in thick yellow plastic instead of cheese, the burgers had random bits of what looked like meat covering the patty and the chicken was so bland I'm still not sure it was chicken! That isn't including the daily menu that would constantly change. Or how bad some of the side dishes were. Something needs to be done about this, the food tastes horrible and I'm pretty sure it isn't as "nutritious" as the schools would like us to believe. I appreciate your sacrifice and hope that something gets done to get rid of that evil cafeteria food.

    Also, lunch at hs consisted usually of the main dish, fries, a salad cup or fruit cup and milk. So: Chicken sandwich, fries(incredibly greasy), salad cup(with brown edges on the lettuce) and a small pint of milk(sometimes still frozen).

  41. I'm a senior in high school, and I'm sad to say that my school lunches don't even look (or taste) as good as yours. When I started high school I began eating hot lunch a lot more because it was so much better than the lunches from middle school. As the food as gotten progressively worse (believe me, it wasn't that great to start with) I have begun to bring lunches from home. Thank God I have a mom willing to get up in the morning to make them, cuz I could never get up in time to do it.

  42. It always amazes me how parents and teachers like to blame school lunch for all the ills of the world when I have yet to see a parent who serves their children food that's any different from the food their kids are served in school lunch. I am by no means saying that school lunch is perfect — it has a long way to go. But I work in the schools and see school food service offering fruit/veggie bars with beautiful choices but many of the kids won't touch it. Parents: if your kids aren't exposed to healthy foods at home they won't want to eat them at school and you cannot blame the school for that. I have yet to meet a parent who will admit that they frequently serve packaged/processed foods at home. It's interesting that every parent is serving their kids the healthiest options and obesity is all the school's fault but when I'm at the grocery store and see parents' carts they are full of boxed/packaged/processed foods and the parent is fat. But, you're right, school lunch must be to blame.

    I have also visited many schools where teachers were working as cafeteria aids and standing there holding their can of soda and commenting (in front of the students) how the "green benas on the menu are disgusting, etc" …excellent example you are setting. Are teachers not role models?

    Face it! We ALL have a social responsibility to give our kids good food choices and to teach healthy lifestyle habits. You parents and teachers are not without blame here so stop vilainizing school lunch.

  43. I just heard about your blog on Yahoo & haven't had a chance to read much yet. All I can say at this point is that I'm glad that it's not this way at my kids' school!! We actually have them eat breakfast & lunch at school, not so much for cost but more for convenience. I've had breakfast w/ them some days when I've volunteered at the school & it's actually good food – at least what I've had so far. What I seen on the menu seems good too. Our schools have really improved a lot in the past 5 years or so & are continuing to improve their meals. Maybe in junior high or high school I'll make their food, but I believe those schools have good food as well. I know the elementary does & it's just very convenient for us right now to do it this way.

  44. I've looked through your photos and the like, and (I'm sad to admit) that your school lunches look way more appetizing than mine do. At least you can recognize what you're eating, lol.

  45. I just read about your school lunch project on my Yahoo home page and immediately wanted to make a visit.
    I am a former "Lunch Lady" that recently lost my job at the end of the last school year due to outsourcing. The lunch program that I was a part of for 22 years was considered one of the best in our state.I was one of 3 bakers that did all the baked goods from scratch every day. I was responsible for baking all food items for 2 elementary and 1 middle schools. I made french bread,rolls, pizza shells etc..fresh each day. In recent years, my receipes were exchanged for lower fat receipes that fit the new wellness program that our city adopted. All the meals were homemade as much as possible. In fact, our lasagna was made just like at home. We even shredded our cheeses and made the sauce from scratch. Our students loved the lunches and everyone enjoyed the lunchroom experience. Unfortunately, the city did away with us and the program due to health insurance costs.
    Our former food service director had 30 years of experience and did an exceptional job bringing in fresh local fruits & vegetables. In fact, our city owns it's own apple orchard and the apples were delivered the morning after they were picked. The cooks made soup with tons of yummy vegetables and was a hit with the students. The middles schools & high school all had a salad bar loaded with a variety of fresh food items. I always looked forward to working at the middle school to have a salad bar lunch. The lettuce was so crisp & green with so many items to top it off with, such as quarter pieces of tomatoes, cottage cheese, mushrooms, cukes..etc. My favorites were the buffalo chicken pieces, pineapple tidbits and olives (not all together thou). The students & teachers would lines up a mile back for the fresh offerings.
    But now that we are gone, so is the salad bar, fresh baked goods and homemade food.
    The new company serves food like you pictured and I am hearing that the students & parents are not happy.
    In conclusion, I miss my job just as much as the kids are missing their homemade school lunches. 🙁

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