Guest blogger: Texan mothers dish it up – Part 1: High School

*** Please welcome our next guest bloggers***

We are a pair of new mothers who teach in an urban district near

Dallas, TX.  School lunch became an obsession of ours one day last
fall, when one of us was handed the menu for our babies’ daycare.  Our
crusade for better food for our toddlers has now grown to include the
high school students where we work.

Think back to your high school years.  Do you remember eating lunch in the cafeteria?  The way it smelled….  The way the food tasted….  And how pleasant it looked there on your tray, all ice-cream-scoop-shaped and congealed….  Mmm.  Dee-lish.

Then there was the alternative “snack line,” with its ubiquitous offerings of French fries (with or without the chili cheese) and gallons of Ranch dressing.  (I’m not going to lie; I scrounged through the seats of my car for enough change to purchase the aforementioned items.  Even now, my mouth waters a little when I think about it.)

Fast-forward 15 years, and you’ll find 30-year-old me at an urban public high school where I teach Social Studies and work with technology integration.  Of our approximately 1,700 students, 72% qualify for free/reduced lunch (this statistic increases to 74% district-wide).  For many of my students, this is the only meal they get each day.

So, what are they eating?

Today’s menu includes two choices: chicken alfredo with a breadstick, or a pizza cheese stick (what?) with spaghetti sauce.  As I walked through the cafeteria a few minutes ago, I didn’t see a single student eating either of these options.  I remarked to a young man that the chicken alfredo sounded good, and he said, “Yeah, until you see it.”

Most students were eating nachos; a couple had some sort of submarine sandwich.  I saw one student with chicken nuggets.  All of them had French fries with large plastic containers of ketchup (someone should really fill them in on the Ranch dressing thing).

When I asked the students for their thoughts regarding school lunches, they said things like:

It’s not good, but I eat it.
It is not very nutritious.
It sucks [expletive]. You cannot hide the truth!
It needs real improvement.
It’s nasty.

I encouraged them to elaborate:

I pay $1.85, and it’s not worth it. [Note: this is the full price, not the reduced price.]
The food tastes old.
We have no willpower.  If they put cookies out, we’re going to eat them.
They serve the same thing all the time. [This is true.  There are four school weeks in the month of March.  The menu for the third and fourth weeks is just a rehash of the first and second weeks.]
We would love to have healthier options.  If they gave us healthier options, we’d eat them.
It’s hard when you’re trying to lose weight.  I wish there was something healthy.

It bothers me to see that nothing has changed in the 15 years since I was eating in the cafeteria.  It kills me to know that this is the only food some of my students will eat today.  It ANGERS me to realize that they’ve reached an age where they KNOW they should be eating better, but their family’s financial situation is such that they’re powerless to change it.

These students, the 74% of children in this city whose families cannot afford to feed them lunch, if anything at all – these students KNOW that they’re getting shafted.  It’s time we speak up.  It’s time we demand change.  It’s time we help those who can’t help themselves.

The ironic twist to this story came in the form of an email that went out to the staff this week about how the food “auditor” is going to be here in the next couple of days and we need to make sure we are adhering to the State guidelines.

sigh.

***

Thanks for your post. Readers, stay tuned next week for more from these particular guest bloggers: Part 2: Daycare food

NOTE: I set up guest blog posts to auto-post during the day the night before

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75 thoughts on “Guest blogger: Texan mothers dish it up – Part 1: High School”

  1. This is horrible. I have always been really into eating healthy and exercising and I am huge on teaching our children at a young age how to make healthy choices for lunch. There is absolutely nothing on that plate that provides any important nutritional value, it's all filler. Where are the fruits and veggies, whole grains, everything that is needed by your body to stay alert and healthy. Maybe this is a part of the problem with the way kids perform in school. If they are eating junk (sugar, too many carbs, sodium) they are going to have a hard time staying awake and focusing in class let alone finding the drive to care about it. On another note look at all the waste that is produced in these meals. They are all packaged! That packaging has to go somewhere.

    I remember serving lunches in the cafeteria in elementry school and I can remember scooping mashed potatoes out with an ice cream scoop, vegue memories of sandwiches, but it seems that the food then was better than it is now (and thats not saying much).

    I think that as a society we should push to have nutrition as a short class that is mandated everyday at school. Even if it is a 15 minute discussion between the students and their teachers about what is on the menu that day and what they get out of it (if anything!). Teach them about making smart choices. This is something that should be done at home, but let's face it… thats a problem all on it's own!

    Sorry to go on and on but this has always been a passionate topic for me and as a fitness professional it is frustrating to talk to people who just have no clue! I love what you guys are doing and I will be following your blog! Hopefully changes can be made!

  2. I would love to be a California correspondent lol. Our elementary school lunches border on refugee rations. I'm scrolling through the pictures on the blog thinking that, although it probably tastes bad, it looks a lot better than what we have going on out here!

  3. Hi Mrs Q,

    I think your project is fantastic and very important. I'm not sure if someone has already shared this "case study" with you, but here in France (I'm an American ex-pat living in Paris), they take school lunches extremely seriously. This is most likely due in large part to the importance of food in French culture.

    What I wanted to draw your attention to is the fact that every arrondissement (neighborhood) in the city has its own website to list the school meals that will be served in public school that week, and believe me, they are mouth-wateringly good descriptions. Here is the main site: http://www.paris.fr/portail/Education/Portal.lut?page_id=1694&document_type_id=5&document_id=26330&portlet_id=4010
    I don't know if you have a French teacher at your school or a French-speaking friend who can sit with you and translate.

    And here's what's for lunch this week in the 7th arrondissemnet: http://www.mairie7.paris.fr/mairie07/document?id=14675&id_attribute=127

    Yesterday, students enjoyed rice salad, turkey, cauliflower in a bechamel sauce, and fresh sliced pineapple for dessert. Parents can download recipe suggestions for dinner that evening to ensure that their child has a nutrtionally balanced day: http://www.mairie7.paris.fr/mairie07/jsp/site/Portal.jsp?page_id=372

    The French school canteen system continues right through University, when students can buy a complete meal for around $6 from a number of "Restaurants Universitaire." I've been told the food is really quite good!

    Just thought you be interested in a case study from this side of the Atlantic. Keep up the excellent work!

    Amy

  4. I can't believe all these packaged meals! I don't understand what the Gov't program is thinking. This is NOT good food. This doesn't show kids where good food comes from. What happened to the days of cooking food in the kitchen and serving it HOT onto a tray (that is washed and re-used) and real silverware? All this plastic – yuck – it's so bad for our environment. This just makes my head spin.

  5. I just stumbled across this blog and will continue to visit. When I was growing up, my mother expected me to make my own lunches – she refused to let me buy lunch every day, as much as I wanted my daily slice of pepperoni pizza. This made for some very sad lunches for a 4th grader. I often had a mangled peanut butter sandwich or leftovers from the night before.

    As I grew up, however, and looked around me at the lunch table, I realized how lucky I was. The high school I attended offered french fries as a "vegetable." This meant that many students had two slices of pizza and a side of fries EVERY DAY for lunch.

    Frankly, I thought it was disgusting.

    I look forward to reading your posts and I hope you achieve your goals of shedding some light on the pathetic efforts of the school food industry.

  6. I just blogged about this sort of thing today, thanks in part, to your blog. Keep up the good fight Mrs. Q!

  7. It just comes back to the almighty dollar. That lunch costs $1.85. My school lunch costs twice that. But today we had a choice of homemade cheese lasagna or 100%beef spaghetti bolognaise with steamed carrtos & broccoli, a salad bar and fresh fruit salad. You get what you pay for…

  8. I just found your blog through a friend on Facebook, and wanted to say thank you for doing it. It's so, so sad that pointing out that students deserve real food could risk your job, but I'm glad someone is brave enough to do it. You make me remember how lucky I am that I can afford the time and money to make sure that my son eats real food.

  9. Oh Lordy I feel sorry for public school students the country over.

    I'm a freshman in college, coming from some of the poorer public schools in my county, so I had a similar experience all through my public school career. In elementary is wasn't as bad, but going into middle and then high school it got worse.

    Our menus in high school didn't change much through the year. Every day there as the inevitable mountain of fries and stacks of pizzas. I avoided the pizzas, because just patting them with a napkin would pull up horrifying amounts of grease. The fries were the same way. The cheeseburgers we had had been frozen, as had been most everything else. Most of the food in the main lines was fried and the rest was rather sad.

    We had two other lines, but those had chips and Little Debbies and other such junk. No soda was served in the cafeteria, and the vending machines were turned off until after the last lunch period (we only had twenty minutes as well and the lines were often absurdly long, so we had to inhale our food)

    And since that high school was one of the poor ones, many of the students got free or reduced price lunch and really had little other choice of they wanted food (oh, did I mention that the lunches could be up to three dollars just for the flavored grease in the main lines?). We all knew the food was disgusting – the teachers all knew it, too – but many ate it anyway. In all honesty, I skipped lunch most days back then because I did not trust the food. It has been a long-held joke with my friends and I that the mystery meat that put in the hotdogs is carcinogenic.

    But in all seriousness, I think you are very brave for doing this. I commend you. More attention needs to be paid to issues like this – to public schools in general. As much as I think that going to public school is something every child should experience if only for learning how to deal with people, the whole system is just so pathetic in this country. It makes me so sad. But reading this and knowing that there are some teachers out there with the guts to do this at the risk of their jobs, it gives me hope. Thank you.

  10. My children's school has one healthy choice like vegatable soup or chef salad each day, and my oldest (9) would love to eat it, but they're always out. They just have to have healthier options listed, but I guess they don't actually have to be available. They only serve a couple of the good lunches and everyone else gets chicken and fries, corn dogs or hamburgers. Not to mention occasionally running into cartons of spoiled milk for sale. This is how the government runs things, and we're asking them to be more involved in our health. We are just north of Dallas, TX.

  11. Growing up, I didn't get free lunch at school and had to pack my own. Of course, I thought it was a travesty and wanted to eat the same pizza, fries, and nachos as everyone else — but now I'm very grateful that I was "forced" to eat that way. I went to high school from 98-01 and the food hasn't changed one bit in an entire decade! I don't think students at my school would have eaten healthy food even if it was offered. I still remember how long the line was to buy chips and cookies…

  12. first of all THANK YOU for doing this! like you said, once you're a parent everything changes for you. my oldest daughter will be starting kindergarden in sep and i'm scared! i also read that your school doesn't have recess!! what??? that is sooo bad for those kids! thankfully i've asked people in my area and their schools do have recess **phew**
    growing up the school lunches i ate were worse than the ones at your school, i don't remember eating fruit or veggies for lunch. we did qualify for free lunch, but once i got to highschool i would rather save some change and buy junk food than to keep eating the "mystery food". thank goodness we do make enough $$ that once my daughters go to school i will send them lunches, time to get creative! 😀
    it's really sad to see obese CHILDREN and we wonder why?? with those bad lunches and no recess! something has to be done! thank you thank you for doing this! ok, not time for me to pust your blog on my facebook and another blog that i am a member of 😀

  13. Great blog. I have been reading it for a few months now. I have a question either you or anyone else who comments could anwer for me.

    I have 4 kids. Two are in school. Ages 9 and 7. We do get reduced lunch. (40 cents) I hate their school menu. My 7 year old will pack her lunch on days she won't eat school lunch. My 9 year old eats school lunch everyday. My problem- his lunch isnt until 12:30 (which seems like a long time to wait for lunch when school starts at 8:20) and by lunch time his lunch would be cold if we packed a hot lunch etc. What to do?

    Also, we are a one-income family with 4 kids. (my other 2 kids are young) so with the reduced lunch it helps our budget(as my hubby says) I would be broke packing lunches for 4 kids once they are all in school. You know, buying lots of healthy food items….What to do??? Just curious.

  14. Maybe it's your state or school district. I graduated 2 years ago from high school in TN (one of the most unhealthy states). I LOVED school lunches. When I graduated, I missed them!

    They were cheap, $1.75. They weren't healthy and didn't contain anything fresh (I take that back, usually they had a bowl of apples if you didn't want the cup of canned pears, peaches, or pineapple).
    I loved the main line. I didn't look good but most of the time. It met expectation but it was no Marie Callendar's tasty TV dinner. The cheap hot lunch never had anything packaged as you are displaying. Of course, you could pay for the pop tarts or cookies, or fruit and grain bar if you wanted that.

    We always got our main course, 2 hot sides and a fruit or dessert plus a milk. Fries are considered veggies. It was always filling and I didn't have to eat until late at night.

    It wasn't too healhy but not too not healthy either. The hot lunch "main line" was the healthiest available, though- healtheir than the burger or pizza w/ fries special or the taco with fries special.
    Our cafeteria ladies had pride in their work. One day someone came in and announced profanities about what the lunch looked like. That student got set straight by the cafeteria lady.

    Big picture: we had 30 minutes to eat, about 10 or so was spent waiting in the line bc so many ppl bought from the pizza/ burger/ taco/ main lines. Hardly anyone took the milk but usually spent the extra $1 for a sugar drink. Those of us who bought the main line knew when to switch over to the taco line. Sometimes, hardly ever, they would have leftover or mystery dishes. Those days we would just switch over to the taco line- no hard feelings.

    I come from a privilaged home where my parents have an education in the medical field. Sometimes we they would cook for us but sometimes not. When they stopped, I particularly enjoyed the hot part of the school lunch. I did enjoy the sweet strawberry milk, fries, pizza, bc, admit it, this is AMERICA!

  15. I just stumbled across this blog and I am with you on this! School lunches SUCK…for lack of a better word. With the obesity rate at an all time high you would think there would be some interest in making REAL changes. (I know I know…money talks) but it is horrible that these kids have no other options. It makes me feel so helpless…

  16. you are hitting the big time Mrs Q. I have been reading for months, and just saw you on my yahoo! home page today and heard a local radio station talking about your blog too. (Minneapolis!)
    I love that you are doing this, wish you the best and you've made me think harder about what my daughter will be served when she starts school this fall.

  17. High Point Academy is a public tuition free charter school in Aurora, Colorado. They offer a wellness program, and one of their main goals was to offer healthy lunches. They use a company called Revolution foods, I thought you may be interested in checking our their site:
    http://www.revfoods.com/

  18. I remember when was a teenager and I was forced for the most part to eat a reduced price lunch. (I am from a small town called Bastrop) I was so jealous of the people who got to eat in the Snack Food line. All that glorious goodness of fried fattening food. I was a larger kid then and never cook afford to eat in the cool snack line. It's peer pressure as well.

    What are we teaching our kids? It's disgusting how it seems most schools just give up. No effort in meal planning and it's even worse now. Love this blog and what it stands for.Prehaps one day people will get a clue.

  19. Thank you for sharing this information with the worl. I live in MO, a former teacher (now stay-at-home mother) and have always been horrified by the food being served to children in school. I don't recall the school lunches being that bad when I was a youngster. We were always provided a veggie and fruit. Also we had no option for lunch. The choice was to buy or bring. I do understand as times have changed schools must provide alternatives with dietary restrictions. However is it really okay to provide elementary students with the choice of a peanut butter and jelly sandwhich every day?!! I'm not 100% healthy and don't object to an ocoasional pbj. But when you allow 6 yr olds to choose this option every day…what is wrong with that picture? I don't understand why schools have 'snack bars' and fast food type lunches. It's not okay. Hope to read more on your research? Thanks Again!

  20. Whatever happened to home economics? Hubby keeps coming home telling me his students were jealous of his lunch of rewarmed leftovers, and it's not like I send him to work with anything fancy.

    He works for a teeny private school, one so small they don't have the room for a food program. They have two microwaves and a small room with three tables and a drink machine for thirty students and a handful of teachers. From what he says, the jealousy factor comes down to the fact his food is home cooked usually instead of either being a sandwich and chips or prepackaged frozen meals. The students say their parents just don't cook, not because they don't have the time or money for ingredients, but because, in most cases, they don't know how. If the parents don't know how to do something, and we don't take the time to teach the children, we can't be surprised if they don't learn.

  21. I have never seen school lunches that looked like this before in my LIFE. Wow. Our lunches here in Tennessee, at least where I grew up, were actually pretty tasty and fairly nutritious, at least until you got to high school and could choose to have a burger or chicken patty sandwich every day. We always got a protein and two real veggies or a veggie and a fruit every day. We even had a fresh salad bar or baked potato bar in the upper grade levels. These lunches from other states just look pathetic.

  22. Hi, I'm a french exchange student this year in Ohio. And for what I see of the school lunch here it is really unhealthy. Most of the food is fried and doesn't really make you want to eat it. And when there are vegetables it taste so bad that i don't really want to eat them.
    In France we pay a lot more for our lunch it is about 4€ so about 5.50$. But we have an appetizer ( tou can choose between three as pate, salad, warm appetizer, or some vegetables. Then we have the main course where we can choose between, meat or fish and between a vegetables or things like frech fries … And then we have a desert that we can choose from a fruit/yogourt and another desert. We don't have soda, we just have water but water is really good there. No taste of chlorine .. We also have as much bread as we want.
    When I was in France I used to think that what we were eating sucks. But now I would beg for this food again.

    So my point is maybe we should pay a little bit more for food or at least having more options to choose from.
    Really good blog!

  23. oh my word! Me and some parents in our own town have decided to get the word out about this very problem in our town! Your comments are to the tee! It is discusting what they are feeding our kids! We had a meeting with our superintendant and he yelled at me when I told him I myself could think up better menus than what is offered our kids! He told me "How do you know that, I'd like to see you feed 1500 children in one afternoon!" Ticked me off! How do we fix this..we got shoved out the door on the topic. We were also addressing how long our kids get to eat. They have to wolf it down. 5 mins to eat lunch isn't fair! I personally brown bag lunch my kids daily. I feel so bad for all those low income kids whos parents depend on the school food program to feed their kids.

  24. Mrs. Q, thanks for doing this. I take my lunch to school everyday so I'm not getting as fat as some of the kids in my school. I wish they could just offer a salad for pete's sakes. Keep at it!!

  25. Ah, school lunches. I've seen those plastic wrappers (only when teaching at inner city schools, however). It's so, so sad that this is even considered food. Ever heard of the "Renegade Lunch Lady," Ann Cooper? We're fortunate to have our son in Boulder Valley Schools in Colorado. Parents were sent surveys, asked for opinions (ours being a request for more vegetarian options, which did happen). So, a link that might give you hope: School Food Project at http://bvsd.org/schoolfoodproject/Pages/default.aspx

  26. I was a lunch lady for 11 years. The problems I heard when trying to get the district to change the menu to something healthier were based on the all mighty dollar. Fresh food costs more money both in the product & paying for the extra labor time to prepare it. Plus most school districts food service has to make a profit for their district or they risk being taken over by a sub-contracted company that serves worse food than we did. The kids would almost always go for the less healthy pizza, burgers & fries over the fresh made soups & salads we offered. Change is takes time. If we were made to only offer healthy choices the kids would have to eat healthier whether eating lunch room choices or bagging it. We should not be poisoning our children with overly refined, preservative ridden, sorry excuses for food. How do we expect them to be able to think clearly when their minds & bodies are gunked up. I think Jamie Oliver had the right idea.
    http://www.jamieoliver.com/school-dinners
    Keep up the good work Mrs. Q, our future is totally worth it.
    Linda, Erie, PA

  27. I live in Northern Minnesota, and my 8 year old daughter has been attending her public school for about a year. We had moved from a wonderful charter school in another town to public school hell. I had seen the lunches at her previous school,and while they weren't gourmet, they were healthy and looked good. All the food groups were hit, and many of the teachers ate the lunches. The school she attends now, while being one of the better ones in the district, still has a horrible lunch menu. On the March menu I saw chicken nuggets and chicken patty sandwichs 5 times. The alternative is called a "bag lunch", it's a wilted sandwich and some fruit. At least during the Lenten season they get some variety of shrimp and fish patties on Fridays.
    At this point, as our personal economic situation has improved, I think I'll be sending her cold lunch from now on.

  28. I (expletive) agree! ><
    I eat at my school and let me tell you, it's gross. We have the SAME things every day! Fries. Nasty mystery lunch. Salads that are a day old and have more cheese on them than lettuce. I feel like my school just doesn't care if I'm healthy or not! I have a family history of heart problems and diabetes! I don't want this kind of food! And I have free lunch so it's easier to eat than prepared food from my house that just gets soggy/warm/soft/gross before I get to lunch. Plus, my family buys dinner food. There really isn't anything to bring in any case.

  29. The thing about school lunch is that it is cheap. With the poverty level in the US being so high, the economy, and mounting of credit card debt, most people can't afford to eat meals with more nutrition. You speak of organics. Well unfortunately the truth is that organic/healther versions of food cost more. While I was examining the differences in cost, I did notice a correlation between better health wise, and cost.

  30. continued….
    Could the menu change, probably. However, you can't expect the freshest ingredients, or foods that don't contain preservatives to end up on these trays without a significant increase in the cost of lunch.

    Some might say you can give a more expensive, healthier option. Well, the families that cannot afford these meals will not buy them, while some of the more wealthy students may.

    This may make others look at a student as cheap, or unwealthy. This may be a bit extreme, but when you are attending public school and in your teenage years, what your peers think of you is very important. That is why some schools make kids wear uniforms. I make the analogy, but I think uniforms are a dumb idea.

    Just throwing my two cents in. You make school lunch sound so bad. Personally, I really liked school lunches. The cheeseburgers weren't bad, the nachos I'd had since I was in 2nd grade were okay, steak subs okay, and I absolutely loved the chicken wings.

    I think public schools do a decent job of offering a nutritious enough school lunch. You have milk, an option of fruit, and an entree that usually satisfied my hunger in one serving. All this at a price of $1.75? In the real world, a steak sandwich would cost you a minimum of $5 alone, no drink, no fruit, no side.

    Just throwing in my two cents, but I find it fascinating the concept behind your blog.

  31. Dear Teachers,
    THANK YOU so much for doing this. I go to school in a fairly low-income school in rural Ohio, and our school food is so disgusting many people refuse to touch it. Even some of the kids who qualify for free lunch won't eat it, because when we do, many students become physically ill (i.e. throw up and have to go home). I hope that this will bring the need for better school food to the fore of attention for more educators. I hope they will see that this is more than a sitcom joke. It is an honest health issue, and I wish you lots of luck!
    PS–I hope you keep the Pepto handy 😛

  32. The only way this project will work is if schools ONLY offered healthy choices.
    My high school offered healthy alternatives but none of the students bothered that line. The snack line with candy and cookies was always the longest line.
    The biggest problem is how children are raised. If they were not taught to eat healthy, of course they are going to eat french fries, snickers, and coke at lunch. Well, actually I believe soda machines have been taken out of lunch rooms in Texas.
    Regardless, the majority of kids are not going to eat healthy if they if they have other options.

  33. make sure to check the expiration dates!! one time i had a yogurt cup that was expired for a month,yuck :(.. but this was during my summer school program and lunches were free. but still…. ive had a lot of experiences where my ham and cheese subs were still frozen 🙁

    everyone loves the icees .. especially since my school is in southern cali where its always hot. i just couldnt stand certain flavors. i love that fruit cups are frozen.. if theyre not the fruit tastes sour.

    the alhambra unified school district has a really really good selection of food.. they had some program in 2004 where they were motivated to improve the taste of our food.. they even invited students to taste test ( i was one of them )! we have orange chicken, hot wings, tuna (canned tuna) sushi, turkey and gravy.. we even had a salad and nachos bar. which was delish. i graduated highschool two years ago and i miss it!!

  34. Thank you for opening my eyes to what my child will probably soon be eating as she starts school (here in south Texas). I thought, naively, that she'd be eating lunch off of a tray with little plates and bowls and silverware like I did in elementary school. I'm saddened things have changed so much for the worse. With this knowledge it really is no wonder that children can't focus in the classroom. I won't be letting my child that junk at school and contribute to unrecycled and unnecessary waste – not sure how I'll do it, but my child's health is too important (as are the bulging landfills).

  35. Bravo!!! Thank you for caring enough to risk your paycheck for the sake of our children!!!

    I'm a high school teacher on a break after moving to another county & deciding my 2 daughters (4th & 6th grade)needed me at home for a while.

    I live in Florida and the menu you're suffering through is much like what my high school kids gagged through. Many would actually eat 3 servings of curly fries because they could not eat the other food. Even though soda is not allowed in the county, the sugar in one of those 'doughnut balls' is the equivalent of 2 cans of soda!

    I ate lunch with my students once & I had to throw up from the rotten tomato I bit into and cringed from the belly aches.

    I hope you not only keep your job but someone intelligent recognizes what you're doing and offers you some amazing opportunity somewhere – maybe Washington to help design proper school menus!!!

    Thank you and know we support you!!!

  36. I empathize… we actually had to change daycares when my daughter turned one because her old one wouldn't allow us to bring her lunch every day. They just kept telling me, "We meet the state and federal guidelines." Thanks, but that's far from good enough for my beautiful princess, and the same should hold for all other kids as well.

  37. My god. Mrs. Q, you are amazing for going through with this, and the guest bloggers are amazing. I can't believe that you sit through those meals, when other schools get to eat like they do. Why is yours so different?
    I'm only 15, I'm homeschooled now. But back in 6th grade (the last year I was in public school) the food wasn't like this! I should say it probably isn't either. I live in Arizona, and our food never came in packages. I mean, the pizza was at least cooked on big pan things, though it was square and funny like that. Everything was served on trays and we had an hour for lunch. Now that I'm homeschooled, I eat whatever I want because everything around the house is healthy and there is a lot of it. But I honestly can't believe that there are schools out there that don't have recess and serve food like this!
    I applaud you for suffering through eating these meager offerings from a stingy school every day. If I was served that stuff, no matter how hungry I was, I wouldn't eat it. I'd bring food from home.

  38. eww. glad i'm schooled at home….especially since i'm trying to lose weight. sucks for the public school kids.

  39. I only vaguely remember most of the food that was served to us when I was in elementary school, but I will NEVER forget the horror that came one day in 3rd grade when the cafeteria served corn dogs FOR BREAKFAST. With a side of maple syrup. The cafeteria ladies insisted that it was breakfast sausage and pancake on a stick, but we could not be deceived. Taking our food back to the table, my friends and I picked it all apart and found was was distinctly a hot dog dipped in corn batter. Peer pressure's collective screams of "eeeeew!" and "gross! Hot dogs for BREAKFAST?!" Got the better of us.

    We had milk for breakfast that day. So did the majority of the students. The most important meal of the day wound up in the trash bins for most of the school's kids. Looking back as an adult, that fact makes me furious.

  40. My husband and I send our kids to school with sack lunch everyday, not just because it's healthier, but also cheaper. Here in Southern California, our school lunches range $3.50 to $5.00, and trust me, that premium price is NOT reflected in higher quality meals. Everything is starchy, fatty, salty, and microwaved.

    Thank you for pointing out another example of how our country's children are being robbed through the education system.

  41. My school always offered the variety of fatty, nutritionally empty junk, but at least they also offered a sub and salad line. Still not too healthy if you're loading your sandwich or greens down with meat and cheese and dressing, but at least it was a better choice than chili cheese nachos! However, these options were obviously more expensive than the chicken patty with fries. I always bought from the sub line if I did buy lunch; most of the time I packed a lunch from home. I didn't think much of it then, but I am grateful now that we always had the money to keep our refrigerator well stocked with lunch items so we could have a decent meal at school!

    Even now that I'm in college, I pack Japanese-style bento lunches for myself which include lots of fruits and veggies. My college's cafeteria actually has decent tasting food (we have a fairly exclusive and successful culinary program, which runs the cafeteria), but it's still expensive and many of the options are fried or high in sodium.

  42. Hi, I am an exchange student from Spain doing my senior highschool year in The United States in a public school in Pittsburgh, and far away from the mediterranean style food that I rase with, the food in the highschool is far away from healthy, and the searving sizes are ridicolously small, forcing almost all the students to buy 2 lunches every day (if not more) expending $2 in each one.

    I am concern about the kids in my school, because I eat that all the days, but at least outside the school, I avoid the fast food of any kind and I eat as "good" as I can, doing excercise and stuff, but… Im one in a million where I leave and even doing what I do, sometimes I feel like I have stomach problems after school lunch.

    I think your work is a great idea and people should look forward and start changing some things.

  43. This is the result of the mixed up priorities this country has. We would rather be bribing people to go and die in Iraq and Afghanistan than educating and feeding the future of America. The state of our education system is something we should be ashamed of.

  44. Just wanted to say I found this blog through Yahoo news headlines and I'm freakin' addicted, including going back reading every back post. I grew up in San Francisco on these horrible school lunches (though I was lucky enough to get recess) and these lunches haven't changed much since I was an elementary kid in the 90's (I'm 24 now). Then once getting to high school, the first break would serve things like giant chocolate chip cookies and for lunch Carl's Jr. and Domino's Pizza would bring trucks to our high school everyday, 5 days a week, and unpack giant burgers and personal pizzas to all the kids who would grab them up, including me. Even though they were even overpriced…and way unhealthy. Anyway, awesome blog! I'm a new fan.

  45. my school is in pittsburgh. We have to pay 2.00 everyday and our food is nasty, worse than what ms.Q has to eat if we had what she had to eat in our school i think we would eat better. Mostly what everyone eats in my school is hot cheetos and cookies. Mostly NOBODY eats lunch and some people dont even eat breakfast at home like me. I usally dont have enough time so, i dont really eat until dinner time when i get home. The school only does what they are suppose to when people from the district come to evaluate them. I am sick to my stomach thinking about school lunches. The pittsburgh public schools need to do better!!!!!!

  46. Hi, I'm a high school student in Texas, and having been to three different school districts all across Texas, I can say that school lunches vary pretty widely. My elementary school in Spring, Texas, was by far the best, if it never changed week to week. They would serve baked potatos, massive chef salads, fresh-baked yeast rolls, and although they weren't healthy, wonderful cheese-stuffed breadsticks. So lots of carbs and starches, but honestly pretty good food. In fact, the only nasty food the cafeteria served was the pizza!

    Van Junior High was the first school I went to that was at all bad. The only truly edible lunches came from the snack food line, which consisted entirely of cheese sticks, french fries, candy, and cokes, all of which were made outside of the school. Cafeteria food itself was awful.

    I'm up in Arlington now, and I have to say that the cafeteria food is absolutely disgusting up here. Even the healthy options-the only ones not slathered in grease or coated in cheese-are awful; the salads the school serves usually consist of soggy lettuce and a few croutons, and the one time I bought one myself it was actually still frozen solid. The best food at lunch is actually the cookies Orchestra sells as a fundraiser. Because of state laws the school cannot sell cokes, but they can for some reason install two ice-cream vending machines in the student lounge, which they promptly did. There is certainly no emphasis on healthy eating.

    There's a vast difference between these three districts. To be honest, the only real reason I can see for this change has been money. Spring was at the time at least a very wealthy district, while Van used to be, and Arlington struggles with money problems. It seems strange to me, however, that food quality would vary that much, since the school that made the most off its lunches were, logically, the ones that actually were good to eat. How can it cost less to serve awful food no one will pay for than to serve good food the whole school will want?

  47. I've said this before and I say it again. If you can't afford kids, don't have them because this is the stuff they'll be fed. Then they'll become obese, made fun of and possibly die. Ask yourself if you really need that kid.

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