Guest blogger: A different teacher, a different lunch

Hi, My name is Ms. Weisberger. I’m a 7th year teacher in NYC, which is somewhat of a veteran in the city. Four years ago I helped start my current school–and this year we have our first graduating class!  I teach Environmental Science to 9th graders–and currently we are learning about “food issues.” 

One day last week I was on “admin” duty because our principal was out.  I had to man the lunch room with the 9th graders.  I was surprised that:

A) All the food was recognizable as food.
B) It smelled good.
C) Kids were eating it!
D) The lunch crew was eating it!
And E) It looked better than the tuna fish sandwich I bought, so I figured…what the heck?!  

I’ve been meaning to get down to the lunch room ever since Mrs. Q started her project.  I’m teaching the kids about food/gardening right now.  Meaning, we are actually doing two different projects simultaneously–we are reading “book club” books about food issues in America and will begin to write persuasive speeches about a topic of the students’ choice.  Then, we are also growing seedlings and learning about plant anatomy for our hopeful…soon to be…school rooftop garden!  
With this garden in mind–I would eventually want to be able to provide fresh vegetables for the lunch room. But, I was skeptical about how easy/feasible this would be.  And how open the school lunch crew would be to this idea.  Also, for a successful garden, we would need to compost.  So, with these issues in mind, I headed to the HOT LUNCH window.  I figured I first needed to build a rapport with the woman (and one man).  “Excuse me…but how would a teacher go about buying school lunch?”  After a sort of dull stare, the lady told me I had to purchase a ticket ($4) in the main office, and then bring the ticket back down. 
When I returned, I gave in my ticket and went to grab a tray (with more food than I needed on it), and heard, “No honey, that’s for the kids,” and she proceeded to pile my plate with food.  “Would you like another piece of chicken?”  Wow.  No thanks (I don’t even eat much meat to begin with).  She gave me a second styrofoam plate for my salad (What! salad!), which I returned and said I would just add it to the side of this plate.  The salad bar had lettuce, SPINACH, cucumbers, onions, and broccoli in small bowls, but it looked fresh.  I got my chocolate milk (fat free–which made me thinking about the great posting on milk a few weeks back) and headed up stairs. 
I went up to the art teacher’s room to begin my feast.  Over the course of the meal, four teachers and one student exclaimed, “Is that school lunch?!?”  

On the menu for tomorrow: Cheeseburgers. I don’t think I’m ready to stomach that.  But I will be back.

***

Ms. Weisberger, thanks so very much for guest blogging! I’m really impressed by the food. Do you know why your school has such terrific food (at least on this day)? If you have any questions for our guest blogger, please comment below.(Edited: she has already commented! yah!)

Chicken on the bone? Bok choy? Corn and black bean salad? YUM!

Thanks! Mrs. Q

***

NOTE: all guest bloggers have contacted me of their own free will, have given consent, and do not know me personally (although I’d love to meet up one day at a secure location).

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39 Responses to Guest blogger: A different teacher, a different lunch

  1. zahirah March 9, 2010 at 11:42 pm #

    Wow! That actually looks like food. I'm impressed.

    I'm also impressed that you're a 9th grade Environmental Science teacher. I'm so happy to hear that students are receiving information like this in high school. I never had anything like that when I was in school, so this is great news!

    I was also wondering…and maybe this isn't the place to ask, but since this blog is food-related…what specific books are you having your students read in class?

    Congrats on your school garden, your class, and your projects! That is spectacular!

    Just out of curiosity…is this a public or private school?

  2. Anonymous March 9, 2010 at 11:47 pm #

    This looks really, really delicious. I wish my lunch were as tasty! To say nothing of my lunch back when I was in school. It's amazing that your school can pull this off, and I truly commend them for it. That's awesome, especially that they manage to keep a salad bar — my high school tried it, and the veggies were all so wilted and gross that people generally just used it to put ranch dressing on their hot lunch. Eventually they closed it down and just put out a ranch pump at the condiments station. Healthy, I know. It's great that your school has gone the extra mile and set lunch up this way — it really does look delicious.

  3. Astrid March 9, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

    That looks yummy!!!!

  4. Lisatella March 10, 2010 at 12:31 am #

    That school lunch looks fantastic! But, at $4 a pop, it seems a little on the expensive side for daily school lunch. (Have prices just gone up since I was in high school a few years ago?)

    I guess the challenge is getting this sort of quality for a reasonable price for all students.

    Great post!

  5. Anonymous March 10, 2010 at 12:31 am #

    Wow. This shows the other end of the spectrum of school lunches: yummy. I'm curious about this school too, public or private?

  6. Anonymous March 10, 2010 at 12:47 am #

    Up here in Alaska, a school lunch goes for $6, and they look nothing like the picture above. I do like to boast however, that sometimes the students get fresh baked Alaska silver salmon! Any thoughts on gardening for schools in less than ideal growing climates?

  7. nameyourdevice March 10, 2010 at 1:04 am #

    A very cool addition to your blog, Mrs Q!

  8. Ms. W March 10, 2010 at 1:07 am #

    HI! So, sorry for the typo that I SENT, and then did not CORRECT when I reviewed the posting…But i teach 9th, not 7th. And we are a public school. Check us out here: http://www.bcamhs.org.

    First–I don't think school lunch usually looks like this! But, I asked some kids, if it's normally "that good." And they were like…yeah, sometimes… Which really wasn't informative–but they weren't like, "No–we've never had food like this!"

    I also did a little research on NYC school lunch–and I found that $4 is the adult price. Students pay $1.50 (unless they have free or reduced lunch, which is 90% of my school). I was thinking $4 was too high, too, considering you can get a bodega sandwich for $3…

    ~Ms. W

  9. Ms. W March 10, 2010 at 1:11 am #

    Also, the books we are reading are:
    Chew on This (the young adult version of Fast Food Nation)
    Omnivore's Dilemma (young adult version)
    Don't Eat this Book (Supersize me guy's book)
    Fatland (too dense with politics for the 9th graders.. I hadn't read it before it got ordered)

    When I do this unit again, I will use just the first two books–they are much better for research with a detailed index, interesting resource lists, etc. Even for young adult books–they are still too hard for our struggling readers, though…So I'd welcome suggestions if people have them!?!

  10. Mrs. Q March 10, 2010 at 1:13 am #

    Hi Ms. W – Thanks so much for the post! I love that you are also passionate about children's food! You rock.

  11. Anonymous March 10, 2010 at 1:41 am #

    Mrs. W., you might like Spoiled by Nicols Fox.

  12. wilde_hare March 10, 2010 at 2:06 am #

    Okay, seeing this lunch is making me feel bad for Mrs. Q!!

    The corn and black bean salad impresses me in particular. And actual chicken on the bone, free of breading!

  13. Kris March 10, 2010 at 2:15 am #

    Wow this looks delicious to me as an adult. And I think most highschoolers (which this school is right?) would eat it. However I doubt it's something you could serve at the elementary level. I probably would have only eaten the peaches and picked at the chicken at that age.

  14. Amy O'Connor March 10, 2010 at 2:48 am #

    I would love to have that for lunch! You could go get the sandwich for $3 but to get a plate like that around here would definitely be more like $8. And you wouldn't get the salad! So $4 sounds like a deal to me from what I see. It's nice to see that there are kids that are taken care of at lunch. It's just too bad all of them can't be.

  15. Lisa R. Suriano March 10, 2010 at 2:49 am #

    Hey Ms. W! I was so excited to see that you were the first guest blogger on here! Great post. I am so pleased to see that this was the lunch provided at your public school. I am curious if the operation is run by the NYC DOE???

    Also, I must say that, knowing the NYC cost of all too well myself, I think $4 for such a meal is rather reasonable. That is real food – colorful and nutritious!

    Best of luck with your garden project – happy to assist in anyway possible 🙂

  16. Erika March 10, 2010 at 2:52 am #

    I bet Mrs. Q is jealous of that lunch! Looks pretty good.

  17. Frances March 10, 2010 at 4:10 am #

    Hi Ms. W,
    I was wondering what your degree(s) other than education are? I'm interested because I"m a student and a former environmental science major, who is now an Education major. Although I switched to EDU, I also feel that I can't ignore the environmental scientist inside of me!! Did you major in Env. Sci for your undergrand and then go onto get your Masters in EDU? If you wish to discuss this through email, feel free to 🙂
    frances.loraine@gmail.com

  18. Stepshep March 10, 2010 at 6:46 am #

    Great post! My only quip is that the broccoli has been steamed to death and lost most of its nutrients. Very intersting to get other perspectives. I also liked the note by Mrs. Q about a "secure location". I saw a burger joint with Secret Service guys standing around outside when I read that.

  19. Mrs. C March 10, 2010 at 12:09 pm #

    Hey, Ms. W–As a high school English teacher, I am as impressed by your lesson plans as I am by your school's lunch. Here at my rural district, we have been working for YEARS to get teachers in math, science, social studies, etc., to recognize that our youths' literacy, functionality, personal power and ability to negotiate their own citizenship really demands that we all participate in their acquisition of TEXT! Book clubbing in a science classroom? You go! Writing and delivering of persuasive discourse? I swoon! Bless you.

  20. Mrs. C March 10, 2010 at 12:15 pm #

    For general information here–federal food subsidies CANNOT be applied to food purchased by or for the consumption of adults in public schools; ergo, students–ALL students!–pay a reduced-from-cost-of-production price and teacher/staff prices are set to the production cost. From the reduced price all kids pay, kids on "reduced lunch" programs pay a portion of the already reduced price–or as little as nothing at all ("free lunch"). In my school, that means kids pay $0 to $1.50 and adults pay $3.75. That also means that when I order a tray of veggies and fruit from the cafe for a class–to be consumed exclusively by my students!–I have to pay full price (and that bothers me economically…).

  21. Ticodillo March 10, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

    I am impressed by that meal for some reason it reminds me of something i would see at a school cafeteria in my home country of Costa Rica. Real food, recently cooked with real ingredients.

  22. Lisa March 10, 2010 at 3:37 pm #

    wow. I have to say, that lunch looks delicious. Wish they'd watch the portion control though and reduce the amount of plates, but the food quality is definitely a good start!

  23. Judy Thomas March 10, 2010 at 3:50 pm #

    I hear of all sorts of projects in the school to improve lunches- wonder how many there really are? The lunch posted here does look pretty darn good.
    Also, to get a graphic idea of why "real" versus "processed" foods have different costs(and this greatly affects the economics of every school lunchroom) go to:

    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/

    and scroll down to look at the chart of the day on food subsidies vs. the nutritional pyramid.

  24. Devika March 10, 2010 at 3:51 pm #

    NYC has a great program called SchoolFood whose mission statement is: "SchoolFood is committed to promoting healthy food choices among our students and maintaining high nutritional standards while offering delicious, healthy, and satisfying menu choices."

    (Here's the link to the School Meals site: http://www.opt-osfns.org/osfns/)

    It's unfortunate that smaller school districts (i.e., not in the biggest city in the country) don't get the same attention or opportunities as kids in NYC. But as a New Yorker, it is reassuring to know that my kids will get these great lunches when they're in school.

  25. Feeder of the Hungry Beans March 10, 2010 at 5:05 pm #

    That's an impressive lunch! And I'm impressed that you're taking an interest and bringing the topic of food into the classroom.

    What struck me is this, though: You worked in a school for four years before you found out what school lunch is like? And you work with teachers who still have no idea? I know teachers are busy, busy folk, but that kind of distance from vital parts of your students' lives outside the classroom sounds like part of the problem.

  26. Anonymous March 10, 2010 at 5:54 pm #

    Feeder of the Hungry Beans, I'm with you. The teachers don't know what the kids eat or the "lunch ladies?" Aren't there any adults/teachers present when the kids eat lunch?

  27. meganthevegan March 10, 2010 at 7:57 pm #

    This lunch looks absolutely amazing. I'm a vegan but can still look at the entire lunch for what it is. This looks like great diversity, nicely prepared, vibrant and satiating!!

    I am very impressed. This makes me happy 🙂 I feel like there really is hope!!!

  28. 25dancer March 10, 2010 at 10:19 pm #

    Now that's a lunch! Sign me up too.

  29. Anonymous March 10, 2010 at 11:34 pm #

    $4 for a lunch like that seems very reasonable to me. My son would have to pay $3 for a lunch that is similar to Mrs. Q's (although not prepackaged, and only slightly healthier). Then again, we are in the San Fransisco area, and it's expensive to live here anyway…

  30. Mama Teaching 2 March 10, 2010 at 11:44 pm #

    Wow! Now that is what the food looked like at my schools! Awesome! Blesses my heart to know that some schools are really working on this!

  31. Anonymous March 10, 2010 at 11:57 pm #

    Whoa! I pulled up this blog today and I was like "What the heck happened to Mrs. Q's usually craptastically bad lunch?"

    $4 seems reasonable to me. The couple of times I've purchased school lunch for my kid it has been $3.25 and it wasn't nearly as good as that plate. If his school served food like that, I'd buy it for him much more often.

  32. Amanda March 11, 2010 at 2:33 pm #

    The cafeteria at the office I work at sells lunches that don't look quite as good as this for $5, so this lunch seems reasonable for a teacher.

    And the students only pay $1.50? When I was a kid our lunches were $1.85 and were not this good (though not as bad as Mrs. Q's). And that was in the 80's. I figure prices would be higher now.

    Maybe it's because I live in Texas. Very different political climate than New York. It's nice to see what COULD be done with public school lunches if people just decided to do it. I wouldn't be surprised if the quality of the instruction is correlated with the quality of the lunches.

    It's too bad things are so uneven across the country. Those kids in poorer areas don't have a chance.

  33. 0wens March 11, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    That food looks great. The only thing prohibiting schools everywhere from serving healthy menus is cost. The government allows $2 and change for use towards food. Most schools don't have the budget to add in to that. I know from experience. My company caters to schools that don't do their own lunches. We cook everthing fresh from scratch and even use free range poultry which makes it hard to compete with our boil in a bag competitors.

  34. wunshypinoy March 17, 2010 at 9:20 pm #

    I graduated high school in 2007 in Stockton, CA. As a low-income student I've had the pleasure of receiving free lunches my whole life and I must say I've never been disappointed.

    As a child I attended elementary school in Portland, Oregon and they served the best breakfasts. I remember that breakfast became such an important meal that it was required for breakfast to be delivered in the first hour of the day to each classroom and the breakfast was free for each child and teacher. My favorite was the ham and cheese sandwich with orange juice. Lunches were served with pizzas, sandwiches, and, one of my favorites, roast beef sandwiches with french dip.

    In high school I moved to Stockton, CA and it was a different experience. The ability to choose what you wanted for lunch rather than just a preplanned lunch was awesome. We had the best Red Baron pizza, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and fries offered for lunch everyday. Fruits and vegetables were always offered and they varied daily: grapes and oranges were always offered. The salads were amazing with fresh whole cherry tomatoes and breaded chicken pieces. On special days teriyaki chicken with rice was offered as a lunch choice. And on fridays we got to choose from burritos or taco shell salads.

    I ate a lot better when i was in school. Now that I'm out I'm always at fast food restaurants because I'm too busy to cook.

  35. vampluvr25 March 18, 2010 at 5:09 am #

    I'm so jealous.
    Just looing at that picture makes me hungry LOL

  36. Anonymous March 18, 2010 at 9:19 am #

    Wow! I go to school in NYC and our school lunches look nothing like that. theyre all gross. but the teacher's hot lunch looks really good almost like restaurant food. us kids get the crappy stuff and the milk is spoiled half the time. make sure you read the dates on your milk. nothing tastes as bad as chunky sour milk XP

  37. Anonymous March 19, 2010 at 4:19 am #

    I don't agree with Amanda's comment about poor kids not having a chance. I don't know about the lunches served, but as far as what some Houston, TX schools look like, the less expensive areas I have seen have nicer looking schools and better outdoor play equipment than the schools do where the houses cost more. The YMCAs are also nicer in the area(s) too.
    I AM SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO SICK OF CERTAIN GROUPS GETTING ALL PISSED OFF "CLAIMING" THEIR AREAS ARE IGNORED! I HAPPEN TO LIVE IN SUCH AN AREA AND BUSINESSES COME IN AND BUILD BRAND NEW BUILDINGS AND THERE ARE SO MANY TRASHY PEOPLE HERE THAT JUST BRING IT DOWN. CERTAIN PEOPLE BRING DOWN THEIR OWN COMMUNITY AFTER TAKING IT OVER FROM PEOPLE THAT DID KEEP IT UP!

  38. renaeprice March 19, 2010 at 6:19 pm #

    Now this looks like real food and not only that it looks yummy!

  39. Lots in Costa Rica May 26, 2010 at 5:06 pm #

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I think I will leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

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