FAQ

What exactly is your school lunch project?

I’m eating school lunch just like the kids every day in 2010 to raise awareness about what students eat every day. My hope is that the US becomes more reflective about how the food children eat affects their well-being and success in school. I certainly do not speak for all school lunch programs, but from the comments I have been receiving, what I eat is fairly typical of what most students eat in our country.


What inspired you to do this?

I was disheartened by what I saw the kids eating at school. As I continue with the project and physically consume the lunches myself, I get even more upset.

Is this a publicity stunt?

I have nothing to gain from doing this project personally. I am just a regular person and I’m certainly not sophisticated enough to design some kind of “stunt.”

Are you affiliated with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign or did she inspire you?

I came up with this idea on my own in December 2009. I applaud her efforts and support her 100%. She is welcome to contact me.

What are your credentials? How can you judge the food?

I am not a nutritionist. I am just a parent who wants the best for all kids.

Why are you anonymous? Don’t you stand by your ideals?

I am anonymous because I want to protect my job and my identity. I like that I’m “un-googleable.” Although I feel passionate about child nutrition, I believe that being anonymous is the best thing for my professional career. I really want to reveal more, but it’s not safe for me personally.

Why is this important now?

The Child Nutrition Act is being debated in congress. It’s important that people realize that funding for school lunches is vital to children’s success in school and in life.

What’s up with all the packaging?

The meals brought in frozen and heated up in large ovens. The containers are paper with plastic over the top. Microwaving is not allowed for school lunch (from what I understand). There are no real dishes or cutlery. Ninety-five percent of food delivered to schools is frozen.

Where is the food made? Are there microwaves at the school?

I don’t know where the food is made. I’m not going to name the company, but it’s a very common school food vendor. There are no microwaves in the school’s kitchen only large ovens. Microwaves are available to the staff in the teachers’ lunchroom/staff lounge, but students do not have access to that space.

Do the students get free or reduced price lunch?

Many of the students at the school get free and reduced price lunch.

Do the children actually eat this food?

The kids only eat bits and pieces of the food offered to them. Sometimes the kids only eat the fruit or the hot dog or occasionally they don’t eat any of it.

Do the children get a choice?

There is a vegetarian option as an alternative to the main course, which is usually meat-based. Sometimes the vegetarian option is lined up with the main entree, but other times a student has to request that item specifically.

Where is the nutritional information?

I cannot locate nutritional information at the school or on my district’s website for the meals my students eat.

How much time do the kids get for lunch?

Twenty minutes.

How much time do the kids get for recess?

There is no recess at my school. Believe me, this is becoming very common across the US. Even the schools that schedule recess often have to bump it to fit in academics.

Does your school recycle?

No. That’s a whole different issue.

How is your health?

I’m doing just fine. I had bloodwork done (completely coincidentally) in December and I’m normal. Because this is one meal per day and I’m free to eat other food for the rest of my day, my health has not be largely impacted from what I can tell. You can read more about my health if you click on the “health” label.

Why did you put ads on the site?

To help me recoup the lunch costs as well as to compensate me for my work on the blog, which is similar to a part-time job on top of my full-time work. When I did a poll of my readers’ opinions on ads in January, 80% of them thought it was a good idea.

Are you aware of Jamie Oliver and what he is doing?

I became aware of his efforts in the UK and here in the US after I started the project. I watched his TED talk and I’m way excited about Food Revolution. I think he is a compassionate soul who can no longer stand by and watch as children’s health is compromised by crappy food. We follow each other on Twitter!

Ask me other questions and I’ll update the FAQ! Thanks for reading!

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96 thoughts on “FAQ”

  1. What first caught my attention about what you're eating is all the packaging. Does your school recycle? All of the pre-packaged items make it more unappealing. Is the nutritional information for each item available?

  2. It's kind of funny, right after reading your post and thinking "Who the heck is Jamie Oliver?", I just saw a commerical during the Academy Awards for his project. I have a few questions, too:

    Do the students at your school think there needs to be change? Do they think it's disgusting?

    Do alot of students at your school buy lunch?

  3. Mrs. Q, I'm currently in my senior year in high school in Canada. And I'd just like to say that I really enjoy reading your blog. Just last year our provinical government has imposed a junk-food ban in schools and all the sugar-loaded snacks and pop are gone. We get free fruit every two weeks. (last time they were pears) However, we still have diet pop available in the vending machines and things like jumbo cookies are still being served in the cafeteria. The prices of food served in the cafeteria have also jumped. Although I do enjoy the "healthier" chips available in the vending machines every once in a while, I think the junk food ban doesn't really help the students to eat any better. There's a pizza place right across the street, for example. We have approximately 45 minutes for lunch.
    I love reading your blog. I've always been interested in nutrition and from reading your lunch blogs, I didn't realize that the hot lunches being served in elementary schools are that bad. When I was in elementary, we would get 2% milk, a serving of fresh fruit, one serving of starch (rice, potato, bun) and one protein (meatballs, chicken, beef). Everything was made fresh, I think. It's amazing how much can change in so little time.
    – Lilith

  4. I forgot to ask: are there no microwaves available at the school? We have microwaves at our high school, so people can pack their lunch at home and heat it up at school.
    _ Lilith

  5. Im so intrigued now! I wonder if the lunches are different in other regions. I am from NC and I have never in my life seen a school that serves lunches in those packagings! If I was those parents I would never let my kid eat school lunch (even though im aware sometimes thats not an option for people).

    I know for a fact that not all of the meals from our cafeteria came frozen. Even though I was well aware that all of our lunches were not as healthy as they seem there were still some meals that kids in my school looked forward to (lasagna day!).

  6. If you ever want a cross post about culturally appropiate food in school lunch rooms, I have been advocating for our large Hindu population at our midwestern high school for quite some time to offer more vegetarian options.

  7. I have so much respect for what you are doing. I hope the first lady does contact you (or somebody that can do something).

  8. Something I've been wondering about, how much info do parents/students get about the food? I'm assuming there's a published menu schedule, but going beyond that… For instance, do parents have a way of knowing that there's HFCS in the chocolate milk, short of showing up at lunchtime and reading the label? Also, is there any way to find out what the actual whole grain content is in the "wheat" breads and buns? Knowledge is power, as the saying goes– but how much do parents and students actually know about what's in the food?

  9. Are these lunches provided free to students? I read what you said about school lunches costing the government 90 cents to make, but when I was in elementary school in the 90s i remember my mom paying some amount in order for me to have lunch at school. Our hot lunch was much more appealing looking than this… and it wasn't all weirdly packaged and institutionalized. I am just wondering if free vs paid by parents might be the difference.

  10. Hi Ms. Q. I have had the same concerns where I live. Actually the highschool here where I live does not even serve lunch. The kids stop eating there b/c they said the food was nasty so they all starting eating at the food court, McDonalds, pizza place, bowling alley etc. It's disgusting b/c these kids eat this food everyday. It can't be good for them and alot of them are over weight. I really feel bad for the kids because they really do not know any better.

  11. I have a novel idea! Maybe families should take back the responsibility of feeding our own children. The government CANNOT do a better job than MOM!

  12. Mrs.Q you are my hero! My husband and I have taken on a simular project at our son's school. The knowledge of your blog came to me at a time when I was weakening and thinking of giving up! I am encouraged. And, will continue this fight with you here in California. My prayer is that God will intervien and that in His supernatural power this situation will be changed! Keep up your good work!

  13. At my kids school I did a food tasting game. The grades were 3rd and 6th grade. The kids were broken into groups of about 4. I provided them with a tray full of numbered cups. They rolled dice and moved chips on a board that had numbered squares. Wherever they landed matched a food item on the tray. If they tried it they could roll again. The kids loved it. Both classes tried all the foods and each child got a sheet that had all the food items listed and a place to mark if they liked it or not. Only one child in one class opted not to try one item. I did this with forigen foods and drinks from the East. My mom did the same game with healthy foods in an underprivlidged school. Her results were also great. The kids took the sheet home to their parents.
    We learned that kids will try almost anything in the right environment. Mom's kids tried yogurts and unusual fruits and veggies. My classes tried dried cuttle fish, tamarind juice, ginger tea, wasabi peas etc. (yeah I wasn't fooling around I ment to really challange them)
    They learned that they liked many things they had never had before. Each time their first question was "can we try all the rest of the stuff". Kids will try new foods. Their options must be better. For two years my son ate a hotdog every day because it was available option at his school. This needs fixed.

  14. Hi Mrs Q,
    I too am a public school teacher but haven't eaten a school lunch since 1984. I recently wrote a letter to Mrs. Obama about her new plan to keep kids thin and healthy. I thought it might be a nice addition to your blog. Of course I didn't receive a response. Let me know how to get it to you.
    Grey green beans on a white styrofoam tray….who would ever eat that.
    Teresa

  15. Hmm…. I'd love to know at least what state you are in. I am from CA and currently teaching in HI and the food here looks about the same as it did when I was a kid- which is nothing like the food you are eating. Our food is not bad- like a regular cafeteria, but it is more recognizable as food than yours. Sporks and paper trays, but no prepackaged meals/ Why are they trucking your stuff in frozen? I've never seen a school without kitchens and I've worked in schools in 4 states.

  16. I really do not know how you manage to choke that food down. I am in the mid-west and though we have some days of bad lunch food it still looks better than that. One day I had breakfast with my son and the literally had green eggs. Not just the shells the eggs looked green then I found out that it was an egg subsitute. It tasted like nothing. What I can't quite understand is how where you are it is "cheaper" to purchase pre-packaged food rather than make it there and put it on re-usable/ washable trays. All that plastic and heating in plastic concerns me. I do agree that here they do not have enough time to eat all of their lunch either. We have 20 min that includes waiting in line and cleaning up. My son is also on reduced lunches here however if that is what he was eating everyday I would reather him take PB&J everyday to school rather than eat that. Good luck with your mission.

  17. Doesn't look like school lunches have changed much since I was a kid (I'm in my late 20s), though the food looks more recognizable and of course, sealed in more individual wrappings.

    Very interested to see the progress of the blog over the next year – echoes a lot of points Morgan Spurlock made in Super Size Me.

  18. I use to work for a major bulk food company. All the local schools bought their school lunches their. To save on pay for their kitchen help they bought mostly pre packages stuff that they didn't have to cook. Just heat and serve.Some of the schools didn't even have a working kitchen. These items are loaded with fat and sodium. Our shcools herealso don'thave recess or gym on a regular basis. These things are considered a privelege not a necessity. You take 30 to 40 kids and feed them junk food and see what you get. Not only are they obese but they are hyper and unruly too. No wonder that alot of teachers don't want to stay in that kind of enviroment. The kids can't learn and you can't teach properly,

  19. Have you come across a soft pretzel as your main dish yet? My daughter's school has this about every 2 weeks, soft pretzel with cheese.

  20. Approximately how large is your district in terms of the number of schools and the number of students housed? Are you upstate, central, or southern Illinois?
    I'm the admin secretary for a central IL school district with 4 elem/1 jr. high/1 sr. high and about 2,600 students. Our low income rate for 08-09 was 43% and is probably a little higher this year. We contract our food service, with the jr. high and high school cooking, and the meals are satellited from the high school to the elementary schools. Does your district have the facilities to cook onsite as opposed to using the packaged meals?
    It was my responsibility to prepare the bid packet last time we had to go out for bid. After a full day's training and a lot of guidance from ISBE's nutrition division, it was quite an eye-opener to see what goes into menu planning alone.
    Does your district have a committee of faculty, parents, and students who review and give input regarding your school foodservice?

  21. The contract management companies that provide school lunches are very wealthy. They receive huge rebates from there providers and hide them in sister companies. Many times these contracts will be for sub-standard products, an example would be processed chicken nuggets. The workers in the school are unable to choose better quality because of these contracts. I worked for one of these large companines and my hands were tied when it came to to what I could purchase. I eventually persuaded the business to go to self-operation and loose the contract management company. Ten years later we still are happy with that decision and eating healthy!

  22. School lunch hasn't gotten any better since I graduated in 95. We also had soft drink machines, snack machines, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut available during lunch. I remember those square pieces of school pizza that dripped a puddle of orange grease when you folded them in half! I usually brown bagged it because the food was disgusting. It's too bad because I know it wasn't always like this. My grandmother was an elementary school cook in the 50's and 60's. She handled most of the baking (breads, cakes, etc) and went to work at 6am. Produce was delivered fresh daily from local sources and meat came from a local butcher. Now it's just reheating some garbage on a plastic tray in an industrial size microwave! I think it would be interesting to find out how much the government is paying to have this low quality crap pre-packaged and shipped across the country to your local school district.

  23. Mrs. Q.,

    I'm also a teacher, a parent, and a recent organic shopper. I've used the junk food ban for debates in my former classes. I was appalled that some students thought sugar was good because it gave one energy (I explained the sugar crash but…). The American society is going to explode if something isn't done. Everything is connected. More people are developing poor eating habits and are (unknowingly) choosing/making unhealthy meals. This causes obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and some say, Alzheimer's, dementia, cancer, and ADHD. All this causes people to be more sick which demands more doctors, hospitals, medical services, medications, educational specialists, etc. All which, as you know, cost money.
    I, as well, worked in a school with mostly free and reduced lunch. If they can't pay for lunch, can they pay for proper health care?
    I applaud you in your efforts. I believe that some research has stated it really wouldn't cost any more to change the school lunches to something healthy. In my own household, I know that changing to organic foods costs a bit more. But we all feel better. And isn't that priceless?
    Again, congratulations and good luck. If they fire you over this then they, once again, missed a great opportunity to take advantage of your passion.

  24. I'm from So. Calif. and have worked in the food service dept. of my city school district for 15 years. I have seen a very big change in the last 5 years of the food we serve. There are only whole wheat bread products served. The majority of fruits and vegetables that we serve are fresh. The cheese is all low fat and the milk offered is 1%, 2%, or non-fat. We do serve low fat pizza, chicken hotdogs, hamburgers on whole wheat buns, bean and cheese burritos, and baked chicken nuggets on a weekly rotation and the children eat it all up. We do fruit and vegetable taste testing once a month to introduce new foods to the children. So it's not all bad out there.

  25. I applaud what you are doing Mrs. Q!
    When I was a kid (I'm 31) the school lunches were hot, although not sure about fresh. But I do remember sliding my tray along the counter and going down the line and someone behind the counter served each thing we had to eat; it was always hot; never ever packaged. Well now my daughter is in school; she's in 2nd grade. Occasionally I will have her eat school lunch so I send money with her. Well if I don't send money with her and her account becomes $5 past due she doesn't get the regular school lunches anymore, they give her a cheese sandwich…literally 2 pieces of bread and one slice of cheese (no condiments)and some milk. Needless to say I try not to let that happen or I make her lunches. School lunches obviously aren't very nutritious to begin with so why would they make it even less nutritional and serve a cheese sandwhich. Very sad and disappointing.

  26. We had the same food supplier in the elementary school I went to. I remember feeling sorry for the kids who had to buy it. Half the time they hardly ate anything. It was absolutely disgusting. We used to throw the hot dogs at the ground. Disgustingly, they bounced (way more than can be considered remotely normal). Have you noticed this?

  27. LOVE what you are doing!!!! Good for you!
    I am a teacher in Massachusetts and share your sentiments. Keep up the great work! GOOD LUCK and THANK YOU!!

  28. I saw your blog on Yahoo! I found it very interesting and look forward to following it. I am also a school teacher. Our food doesn't come prepackaged, but is individually packaged by the cafeteria staff. Our servings are about the same as what I see in your pictures (6 tater tots, 5 chicken nuggets). Our children do have a choice as to what they get. We have 2 choices of meat, 2 or 3 choices of vegetables (which are very small servings), and 2 choices of fruit. It is usually a fairly healthy lunch, but the portions are so small, and for many kids this is the only decent meal they get. They are supposed to get 1 meat and 1 or all of the vegetables and 1 fruit, but many times are told that they have to choose a vegetable. I have many kids in my room that would eat each vegetable that they have, but are not allowed to get them. I sneak them on their plates when no one is looking! 🙂
    I have kids that when they sit down they start wondering if their friend beside them is going to eat all of their food, and if not if they can have it.
    Today we had chicken sandwiches which come with lettuce and pickles, if the children want it. I can't tell you how many children went through the line and wanted the lettuce and pickle, but had chosen a hot dog instead of the chicken sandwich. So they were told that they could not have the lettuce and pickle because it comes with the sandwich. Of course, I did sneak it on the plates of some of the children, but couldn't for all of them. I mean really, why wouldn't you give a child lettuce and pickles if they really wanted it. It's sad when you have to tell a child that they can't have something that is good for them just because it isn't supposed to come with what they chose.
    Our student lunches are $1.35 and we have many students on free and reduced lunch. The adults and teachers can also buy a school lunch. They have changed it now to where the adult lunches are charged a la cart. A meat is $1.00, and vegetables and fruits are 50 cents. So, if you wanted the meat, 2 vegetables and 1 fruit you would be charged $2.50 plus your drink. Which is still a good price for a meal, but it is the exact same portions as what the kids get.

  29. I stopped having my kids eat at school for a long while (until I couldn't afford to send them lunch anymore) and even now, they don't eat breakfast there. The food is horrible! Their first day of school and their breakfast was half a blueberry bagel with some sort of orange colored cream cheese, and a milk, or they could have chosen a small prepackaged bowl of cereal. This was it? I asked, thats all they get, what happened to the hot breakfasts we used to get as kids? Needless to say, they do not eat breakfast there anymore and if they come home from school and say their lunch was too gross to eat, i feed them at home. I wish I could afford to send them lunches again every day, hopefully soon I can because it is a disgrace what they feed them most of the time.

  30. You are a hero to public schools! Thank you for putting your own personal needs aside to raise awareness for the "nutrition" being served in Illinois public schools! I teach in IL, too, and I recognize all of the pics and the dishes. Our kids deserve better. PERIOD.

  31. Wow, those meals look pretty bad! The pre-packaging makes me nervous no wonder it doesn't taste all that great! It also makes me appreciate the school lunches we have here. The school lunch menu has nutrition information on it, it is also available on the school district website along with allergen information. the meals are also at least mainly cooked at the school and we even sometimes have local specialities on the menu like chicken riggis.
    My husband teaches in a different school district and he eats from the cafeteria almost every day, not always the hot lunch he usually gets a freshly made tuna sandwich.
    It is sad that some kids have to eat the food in the pictures on this blog!

  32. I am appalled at the lack of recess. I thought the school I teach was bad with only 15 minutes of recess for kindergarten through 3rd grade. That is just not enough time for that age group and yours have none at all! This is crazy. People complain that kids are overweight but then they don't give them a chance to run around. I don't know what grade you teach but you must have some crazy days when the kids get stir crazy. I hate it when it rains and my class can't get outside.

  33. As a college junior studying to be an elementary school teacher, I find your blog inspiring. It takes a lot of courage to stand up for what's right at the risk of your livelihood. Not only do I really respect you for doing this, but I'm going to try and think up a project as well to allow for the improvement of our schools. These children are our future and if we take away from them, then what will we have left? Thank you Mrs. Q for standing up and making a stand on a less than popular topic.

  34. How can I become a guest blogger for this project. I am currently working as a Regional Cafeteria Manager for a large school district.

  35. Mrs. Q, i sit here, reading your blog, and feeling guiltier, for not sending in more home made lunches. i think schools can do without the fancy wrapping, and shell out for healthier, yummier servings. We're such a Beautiful Country! makes me mad, we're lacking in the smarts department.

  36. I have some questions.

    1.) Is your child healthy?
    2.) How often is your child sick?
    3.) What do you pack in the lunches you send?
    4.) Do you work at the school your child attends?
    5.) Does your child eat what you send?

    Now, I feel the need to explain, why I asked these, I hope not too nosey, questions. I work in a hospital, and know how important nutrition is to everyone. Particularly to young children, it helps with building a healthy immune system, growth, and so many other things. I'm wondering if what we are feeding these children is helping or hindering them?

  37. From the pictures, your school's food looks a lot more like food than mine. Although I refuse to buy it our school's food since the last time I had it I got food poisoning, I have friends who endure it daily. Quite often the options include a mashed potato corn and (apparently) chicken mush mess in a paper bowl, or a boxed fruit salad. The only food anyone wants to eat are the Joe Joes, which I can't say are good for you. Recently our district decided to make things more "healthy" by switching out all of their bread products to whole wheat instead of white. Everything else has stayed the same, indistinguishable.

    My school doesn't have a kitchen or an oven so all the food is brought over from another local high school, and is kept warm via heat lamp in our cafeteria/gym/theater. This has lead to most students bringing their lunch, buy over priced junk food from the student store, or the pizza sold by a local company though our NHS.

  38. Hi I'm a student at a high school. I would like to applaud your work, Mrs. Q. My mom is an elementary school teacher at a low-income school so I know how important this is to many children. What I can tell you is that there is some hope. My high school (a secondary of 4,000 students) has had many reforms. A former teacher of mine started a paper recycling club, which evolved into a paper, plastic, and aluminum recycling program. My county provides relatively healthy choices, although not very appetizing. The problem in high schools is that many kids will just eat a cookie for lunch because they're "not hungry" or want to lose weight or their parents never gave them money. I wish that we could have options like a salad bar or fresh food. The food is very expensive for very little quality and I would pay even more for fresh, healthier food. (The cookies aren't even good.)
    I also wanted to address the problem of time to eat. When you mentioned this in elementary schools I was really worried because I remember it getting worse when I went to high school, I never knew it was a problem there too. My teachers often let us out late, many of us have to buy lunch in huge lines, we have to find a table, and the administrators often dismiss us early in order to get the next lunch worth of students out of the hallways.
    Thank you so much for what you do! I hope you know that a student appreciates your actions. (And that she finds it wrong that you even have to do this in the richest country in the world.)

  39. I am 18 and have a two year old and find that when I was in elementry school they had some alright choose but now as I am looking around I find that there is not anything worth keep at the school except white milk which would help if it was low fat and wheat bread. I am still in school and I try my hards to make sure that my son, myself, husband, and three siblings eat as health as possible and I think that was a great thing to announce that the schools can have health cassorolls we do and are family loves them and parent for you who dis agree think what would happen if you lost your child and how guilty you would feel if it was from not standing up and saying that children need to eat healther I know families who have lot children to diabets and the heart break there going through. So stand up and speak out your child and other children need your help so speak up!

  40. I lived in CO and are lunch looks way way better than what your eatting no wonder you get sick.

  41. Dear Mrs. Q, You've taken on such important issue, bringing to light the truth about the food being served to our children in schools. Your work is commendable! I support you 100%, thank you for taking the risk… I have three children, for a long time I've thought of doing something similar, but life moves quite quickly when you're a single mom and working full time. I've had lunch with my children at school, it's beyond me what is being served and considered nutritional, that's why I have my kids pack a lunch. Not all parents can afford to, I'm well aware of that fact, and some who can have very little understanding about nutrition to begin with. It seems that America in general does not understand good nutrition… You've inspired me to take a stand for our children, I will do my part also. Thank you again!

  42. Hi, I'm a senior in high school who just stumbled onto your blog from Yahoo. First of all: good on ya for doing this. I only have less than half a year left of this food, but my little brother is still well into it.

    I don't know if this has been mentioned before on the site, or if it is even the same for other states as here, but I thought I should say something about it:

    I live in Charleston, West Virgina, and the entire county public schools get the same meal plan. And I mean the exact same. My complaint is that not only is the food bad–the portions are terrible! Today for lunch, we had three chicken fingers and a bread roll. Three chicken fingers apportioned to each student. Mm MM, full stomachs all around! Not. My little brother (who is in kindergarten) had the exact same thing. Tell me: does it make sense for high school students to have the same portions as kindergarteners? Ridiculous.

    Anyway, good luck!

  43. I heartily support your efforts. I have been out of school for 15 years, but I still remember getting a Coke and a candy bar or chips from the lunchroom vending machines instead of eating what was being served that day. There was a salad bar, but not much healthier than what was being offered as there were no low or fat free dressings or cheeses. And you got a heavily buttered piece of bread to go with it. I remember the little pools of oil on the surface of the green beans, or how the grease from the burgers would make the bun soggy, or picking off the fat "globs" from the pepperoni pizza if it got cold before we had a chance to eat it. We were allowed 30 minutes for lunch, but unless you brought your own or hit the vending machines, you waited in line for about ten minutes before you were served.

    Even for school celebrations we were served junk food. When we finished state standardized testing (CAT or MEAP), we had a school wide ice cream party. Some classes and/or clubs would have pizza parties after other events. After sporting events held at other schools, we would stop at McDonald's. Health class had no focus on diet or nutrition, just STDs, drug and alcohol abuse, and entering puberty.

    I remember coming home from school and playing outside until it was dark. I remember spending entire summer days outside playing on my grandparents farm (no longer in use). My siblings and I would roam the woods, play in the pond or streams on the property, climb trees, you name it. Even in the winter we rarely stayed inside. Snow days from school were filled with sledding. We built snow forts, ice-fished, and made snowmen and snow angels.

    I followed the same pattern with raising my nephew. He generally spent more time outside than in. He shopped with me for what he wanted to take for lunch. He didn't want the Chic-fil-a or McDonald's that were available in the cafeteria at lunch time. He did drink soda, but only on occasion. I also taught him how to cook from scratch. My mother and grandmother were very active in ensuring that I ate good food, even when times were incredibly tough. I felt that it would be an insult to their effort to do anything less for him.

    Unfortunately, crappy food is much cheaper and easier to access than what is considered "good" food. When I was growing up, family gardens were common. I have only seen one or two in our large neighborhood (100+ houses). Prepackaged snacks/food is much easier than tending a garden. I understand that not every family or person has the time, space, means or ability to grow some or all of their produce and I respect that. This should not, however, be an excuse to not teach children that a banana is much healthier for them than a Twinkie.

  44. Im not sure if I am buying the no money excuse. My son attends a Head start program which feeds all the children of the school on a tiny budget that is provided to them via a federal grant. The food is cooked fresh and delivered daily. The vegetables steamed or raw, and the teachers report that most of the kids eat EVERYTHING. My 4 year old LOVES brussles sprouts,spinach,plums and beets! The school also serves a wide variety of fuits and vegetables not just your standard apple,orange, green beans etc.ALL grains are whole, all dairy is low fat. NO DESSERTS. NO CHOCOLATE OR STRAWBERRY MILK! No drowning things in catsup! An example meal is vegetable lasagna made with whole grain noodles and low fat cheese with steamed broccoli and fresh plums…. I have asked and asked my older childrens school officials how much they would save if they cut the flavored milk and desserts out of their program… and I always get the excuses.. "Well we can't cut those out! Thats the only milk some kids will drink!" and "Its better than nothing!" "If you cut out dessert, it makes the kids more prone to overindulge because they are "forbidden", besides our desserts are healthy" (a "fruit" icee??? how about just a piece of fruit, its LUNCH for petes sake, they don't need dessert!!) My answer is if it is ALL you have to chose from, eventually you will eat it. I am tired of schools thinking that all kids will eat is chicken nuggets, hot dogs and the like! I can't say it enough times… If you serve healthy food, eventually even the "picky" eaters will come around. Hunger can be a great motivator! A staffer is actually working on figuring out the budget per kid for a days meals (Head Start serves breakfast, lunch and two snacks for their full day kids, and the same with one snack for half day), and comparing it with the elementary schools budget, it should be interesting! I am really terrified about how my sons growth and health will be affected by the change in diet. I hope that this is something the First lady can get some attention paid to since her focus is Childhood Obesity.

  45. Three words:

    PACK YOUR LUNCH.

    I would never subject my kids to the school lunch! We have fresh fruit, vegetables and healthier choices from home. Even our pediatrician said NO to buying lunch at school.

  46. FYI — I am a teacher and I have several diabetic students (type II due to weight). The school nurse has all of the nutrition facts for each meal. This allows the nurse to help the diabetic students plan their meal and any insulin/exercise necessary to manage their health.

  47. I applaud your initiative on undertaking such a project. This was such a unique way to bring this issue to the public's attention. I remember school lunches fondly (for the most part) and I grew up in Illinois. It's amazing how much it has changed based on your photos and descriptions. Of course, I remember the soy burgers and I was never very fond of those.

    I currently live in Cullman County, Alabama. There are two different school districts in this area: the City and the County. For some reason, the food is different between the two. My child currently attends elementary school in the City School District. The breakfast is pretty good, but the lunch is HORRIBLE! They also have the children recycle any unopened juice, milk, etc back to the lunchroom. I understand in these tough economic times to cut corners where they can. But, for those parents that are paying for these meals, they should be getting partial refunds or credits for "returns" that the school is "reselling". I worry about how sanitary that is and how long is the product left out before it is being returned to refrigeration, etc.

    As for the County School District, it is a mess. Their food is SO bad that the students AND teachers have started petitions protesting the food. One of my friend's children opened a pint of milk to find it curdled. She checked the date and it was two weeks past the 'use by' date. Her children come home starving every day because they refuse to eat at school. They are sending mixed messages at the school. They are serving wheat bread, rolls/buns, and even wheat biscuits yet you can buy a can of soda in the lunch room. Worried about obesity, but if you have extra money, you can buy some empty calories.

    Anyway, thank you so much for daring to speak up and being the voice for change! Someone needed to speak for the children and you found a way to do it that will actually get positive attention! Now that I have heard of your blog, I will tell my friends follow it!

  48. Wow, so, so sad. Unhealthy sodium and fat-filled foods, no recess, class sizes that are too large…in California where I'm from, we used to be one of the top states in the nation with regards to public education. Now we're one of the lowest and we just laid-off 23,000 teachers this week. I think that focusing on healthy lunches to give these kids a better future is a huge step in the right direction, but there just seems to be soooo much wrong with the system! How did we let ourselves fail our children so badly?!

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