Open thread: let’s discuss…. school lunches!

 I enjoy reading everyone’s comments so much. You educate me about school lunches because many of you know much more than I do. You share personal experiences that inspire me to continue. You encourage me. Thank you!

It seems like there needs to be an outlet for you to share your thoughts with the small “community” of blog readers. I’m going to open a thread for you to share something with the readers. If you have a question for me, please continue to email me directly, but if you have a question for the readers, put it here.

I moderate comments older than 3-4 days and I am proud to say I have only had to delete one (it was spam). I’m not afraid of negative commentary, but please don’t be hateful. Great discussions include opinions from all.

If the open thread is popular, in the future I’ll give you a specific topic to discuss. But for the first open thread, you can decide what to chat about. Happy weekend!

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45 Responses to Open thread: let’s discuss…. school lunches!

  1. mxc March 6, 2010 at 2:36 am #

    I've noticed that ever since the economic "depression" hit, school lunches have been quite affected. I'm a high school student, and about a year back the food used to be quite decent. We would have pasts with sauce, vegetables, and chicken, etc. The portions were quite large too, big enough that some of the more petite girls wouldn't be able to finish it all and even a ravenous teen boy like me was able to finish it all and be full.

    This yeah, however, the quality has diminished markedly. The biggest change was portion size, now we might expect to get a cheeseburger with a few (~10) fries and call it a lunch. The price has also remained the same ($2.30).

    This year, I've stopped eating school food. One lunch is never enough, and with the price of two lunches I can go to the local sandwich shop and get something much healthier with higher quality.

  2. Mrs. Q March 6, 2010 at 2:52 am #

    That's really interesting that the portion size has decreased. Luckily you are able to compensate and buy healthier food. Are there children who get lunch for free who now have less to eat?

  3. Chris March 6, 2010 at 2:59 am #

    I almost wish I could show you our school lunches each day. I teach at a middle school in the southeast US and I think our cafeteria does a fantastic job. We have a delightful salad bar each day with fresh fruits and veggies that students can choose, and even the main meals (what the free/reduced kids get) are typically very good. This year in particular our school has been (as mandated) working hard to offer healthier choices. I've seen yogurt offered lots, and bought it myself.

    I eat in the cafeteria each day and am thrilled to get good food so cheap. The salad bar usually has heart of romaine lettuce!

    So I look at your pictures and cringe.

    Hope the tummy improves..

    Chris

  4. Lisa March 6, 2010 at 3:42 am #

    Chris, that is great! Do you know is it your specific school or is it from the state or school district?

  5. Anonymous March 6, 2010 at 3:57 am #

    Chris brings up a question I have for readers -if your school has a salad bar, taco bar and other "extras," how do kids pay for it? Is there one price and kids can pick a certain number of items, or is there a main meal, like at Chris's school, that kids buy at a subsidized price, and every thing else is a la carte? I ask because I'm trying to figure out how a salad bar would work in our school district. At my daughter's middle school, most of the kids (about 80%, I believe) are eligible for free lunch, so offering these extras a la carte wouldn't really work.

    I do know that our District contracted with a new food service vendor in January that the kids and teachers are much happier with because there is more choice, but I haven't been in the school to see what it's actually like. A sample menu is here: http://tiny.cc/DaLcj It looks like there is a choice of an entree, pizza, sandwich or burger every day. They claim whole wheat products an no high fructose corn syrup. Not quite as good as a salad bar and local produce, but, on paper anyway, it appears that there are some companies offering semi-decent school lunches to students who get free lunch.

  6. Beth Gallaway March 6, 2010 at 4:04 am #

    I'm really excited about your blog Mrs. Q – and the potential for awareness, and change, it brings.

    Luckily for me, school lunch is a thing of my distant past. All the schools I attended had a hot lunch program and food was cooked on site. In jr. high, there was a salad bar option about 3 times a week – $1.25 bought a bowl of fresh veggies, cold tuna, hard boiled egg, and a hot roll. On days when there wasn't salad bar, I'd eat either pizza, a hot dog, or a bacon burger. Everything else was deemed crappy by my standards. In high school, I'd rather have the money my parents left for me than eat school lunch, so most days, I had an apple and a giant cookie or soft pretzel. We had 20 minutes to eat and first lunch began at 11:20am.

    I worry a lot about the food my niece & nephew eat, for lunch and at home. Their diets are high in sugar and low in fiber, and while they are very willing to try new things and like fruit, I'm concerned about the long term effects of white bread, white flour, white sugar, and convenience food over fresh food.

  7. Maddison March 6, 2010 at 4:36 am #

    I go to a community college, and our lunches are cooked by the students in the culinary arts program. We get tons of options, from freshly made soups and salads to meat carving stations, pasta, and they always something vegetarian. I know that my high school also had a culinary arts class, and up until my sophomore year, they were allowed to sell their food to students. Unfortunately after that, Aramark got involved and said that they were breaking contract by selling non Aramark food. It was lame. Point being, community college food is awesome, while being fine restaurant quality, nothing is over six dollars so it's affordable too.

  8. maddlibbs March 6, 2010 at 5:02 am #

    I am a vegetarian in high school and find it very difficult to eat school lunch, because there is rarely a vegetarian option. My cafeteria usually has two choices of entrée, but often neither of them are vegetarian or that edible. We do have a salad bar, but it is more expensive, less accessible and less appetizing than junk food. For example, poptarts from the vending machine are a dollar, but hummus and pita bread are almost two dollars. I think Mrs. Q. is very brave to attempt to eat school lunch for a year. I have long since resorted to brining my own food to school with me.

  9. Anonymous March 6, 2010 at 5:15 am #

    maddlibbs, I feel for you. We tried for years to get the food service department to introduce beans, lentils, and other legumes into the menu without success. To them those foods are still not mainstream and they worried the children would not eat them. Tofu? Never even tried to suggest it. Funny how the USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans has a whole category for these foods but NSLP isn't required to include them.

  10. Anonymous March 6, 2010 at 6:03 am #

    You are lucky you get anything. At my local community collage, the cafeteria has been reduced to a poorly stocked gas station food. Fast food is a block away or a 16 minute walk (one way) depending on you class location. We get 20 minutes for lunch. You do the math.

    Bringing your own lunch is hard as backpacks are full of books and papers (mine weights 70 pounds), and lockers are none existent.

    In short, I skip lunch and due to my early classes, I skip breakfast too. Yep, I eat once every 24 hours. It's not as hard as you think. It takes the first 2 weeks for the body to get used to the new eating plan, but once that is over, it's no big deal. I don't get hungry until 7-8pm. My energy level is the same as before. I even lost a few pounds.

    It's sad the collages poor money management has brought me to this, but I am saving a boat load of cash and get more time to do stuff.

  11. nancy March 6, 2010 at 7:06 am #

    My local high school has a large vegetable garden which was started as part of a 'green initiative' about 7 years ago. planning and maintaining the garden is part of the life science program. The veggies are used for school lunch as well as the usual stuff provided by the lunch contractor. the kids love it — there is a complete salad bar and the garden is beautiful and plentiful, most years. the kids pay a certain price for salad bar and the lunch ladies fill the bowl with the kids choices so that is how they get a certain amount. unfortunately there isn't enough for everybody so it rotates for the three lunch periods. it works well, and this is a huge (4000 kids) public school in a major urban center.

  12. Johanna March 6, 2010 at 9:51 am #

    We live in Spain where my son attends the local public school- one of the first things I noticed was the excellent quality of the school lunches as compared to what I remember from school in the U.S. Now that I'm reading your blog I'm even more shocked at the difference. Every month they send home the menu for that month's lunches. Here are two of the lunches from this month:
    -Chickpea stew, ham omelette, green salad, yogurt, bread, water.
    -Beef ragout with green vegetables, chicken and egg soup with diced potatoes, fresh fruit, milk, water, bread.

    The menu lists the health properties of each meal and also gives recommendations on what to prepare for dinner to make up a balanced diet.

    It costs about $8/day which I know is expensive but there are stipends for lower income families. Spain is in the midst of an even greater economic crisis than the USA (20% unemployment rate right now!) but the importance of providing children with healthy food has still remained a priority.

  13. frogfarm March 6, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

    The USDA Food Pyramid is arse-backwards and makes us fat and sick:

    http://www.nourishdc.com/?p=357

  14. Kameshwari March 6, 2010 at 1:54 pm #

    I like the idea of having an open forum.

    To comment on Johanna's post about Spain's local public school lunches: Someone just forwarded a copy of an article from the 15 March, 2010 Time magazine's section called, "Postcard:Paris." The short article discusses the high quality and importance of school lunches. As Johanna mentions, the school not only provides a readable menu that is sent to the family, it offers at-home, evening meal suggestions to give optimal nutrition to the children.

    Here, in Central Wisconsin, there is an active farm to school program. It is a successful growing effort to get as many small local farmers involved with selling their food items to the school lunch program. With the help of two Americorps workers, the program not only educates the children about eating locally, it is an effort to involve the local growers to create another customer for their smaller farm operations.

    There is also a rising popularity of school gardening operations. Some schools are growing vegetables for the experience of being involved in having an ecological awareness. Other schools are growing crops that are directly used within the school lunch system. Where I was living in Santa Fe, NM, The Waldorf School had a green house where tasty varieties of mizulin and other greens were grown. They sold greens and farm fresh eggs all winter long; I bought their products, including soaps and knitted items at the Santa Fe Farmer's Market.

    I know that urban area schools are moving in the direction of school gardens and having an awareness of good nutrition. With schools having less funding for education and nutrition, it leaves a vacuum for big corporations to take over and assist our public school system. Or, as some communities are doing, parents and neighbors are involved in actively creating a movement that is nurturing our children to be compassionate living beings.

    I believe that people grow from the inside. Feed someone corporate and boxed food, and they will usually fit right into the box. Sometimes that box might be a cell in a jail or prison. Sometimes the box could be limited and non-creative thinking.

    But when people are fed living and loving foods, transformation happens. The esoteric qualities of vibrant nutrition can grow a human to expand to all areas of the universe.

  15. Renee Fontes March 6, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

    I love what everyone is doing here. We care about our children, and other children too! It's sad that over the years the importance of food as an essential element for education has been set aside.

    Two things seem to be the biggest threat to healthy eating. "Un-healthy" convenience foods and lack of time to consume even a bite or two!

    Let's hope by great projects like this blog by "Mrs.Q"will help fuel reform for the American lunch plate offerings. Important too is raising awareness that proper time needs to be given for eating or children will skip lunch altogether.

  16. Kristen March 6, 2010 at 4:20 pm #

    I've started taking a closer look at the lunches my students are "served". I can't really say served because they choose their lunches. Each day, there is a main dishe item to choose from that is on the menu. Then, they ahve the other choices (somedays) to eat the leftovers from the week. Somedays there is lots of leftovers that go on all week long. How long can you serve fried chicken before it's been reheated too many times? When the students get their trays, it has the entree item only. There is also PB&J and yogurt to choose from as the entree. Then they get their milk and can go to the salad bar. At the salad bar, there is always salad (the cheap kind that is almost always a bit brown!) and fruit choice or 2, a veggie choice (always cold)and some crackers. Most students simply bypass the salad bar and take their milk and entree only. Most are on free lunch (about 80%) and do not eat their $2.68 worth of food a day!

    Students who actually buy lunch pay $2. Those who pay for lunch are fairly picky about their food. Some will take the bare minimum while others will take a bit of everything. Our kids have about 20 minutes to eat and then they get recess after.

    The quality of the food has gone down in the last few years. Before, I would eat school lunch several times a month. It wasn't that it was good for me, but it tasted good and made it easy in the morning to get to work. I would normally eat the pizza, breadsticks (which were so good, but so horrible for you!), chili and taco nachos. But now, even those look like crap when they offer them! Most weeks, the kids get the same things – pizza, burgers, chicken of some sort, breakfast for lunch and the one other entree that varies each week. They all look gross! 2 years ago, they started serving breakfast for lunch and the kids would get sausage links. They were so tasty and looked like real sausage. Now, it is a greasy patty that doesn't even smell like sausage.

    I stopped even thinking about school lunch when I got sick earlier this year from a pizza day. I had forgotten my lunch at hime, so I was left with no other option. I am not a fan of leaning my first graders alone in class, but they had no choice that day! And I decided then that I would go hungry before I ate school lunch!

    I don't know how anyone eats school lunches. We have several teachers who eat it quite often and sit and complain about it. But for me, I will take my time in the morning to pack a lunch, even if it's just PB&J!

  17. Jessica March 6, 2010 at 5:53 pm #

    I am a teacher in a high school in North Carolina. I would love to offer my help, if you wish. I could send in pictures occasionally, because I eat school lunch quite often.
    My grandmother, my great uncle, and my aunt both worked in and retired from school lunchrooms here in small town North Carolina.
    I teach in a local high school and I am appalled at what the students eat. Many (except the ones on free or reduced lunch who aren't allowed) eat pizza from a local $5 pizza place and they pay $2 a slice! The markup is a ripoff. With this pizza, they eat french fries, every day. Some buy four and five slices. The other daily choice is a chicken sandwich with a frozen and processed patty. There is sweet tea to drink (lightly sweetened), and juice to buy for $1.50 extra (rarely bought). There is a veggie choice for each meal, which I love, but more than often the veggie is past its prime, such as a mealy apple or bad orange. Every Friday is either a veggie soup, chicken soup, or chili day, which is okay, but not the best. We are a very small system, so they split the cooking between schools and bus it back and forth, so no school does everything. Most of the food is frozen or canned before, although we don't have the small individually wrapped portions. Back when lunch had more freedom, there were a ton of great home-cooked items, mixed with the frozen stuff, but now they don't make anything from scratch, which is very sad. When my grandma worked in the lunchroom, everything was fresh and made from scratch. We need to go back to this! Also, there is no variety in school lunch anymore, at least where we are! There are about 10 items they fix over and over and over again, and we are all sick of it!

  18. Stepshep March 6, 2010 at 6:02 pm #

    I'm still sort of shocked that the students only get a single choice. When I was in elementary there were 3 different options, because little kids are picky eaters. Isn't that one of their duties? I like to see that Congress has students coming in to show them cheap and healthy meals. I think the point would get better across if normal school food was brought in. Their grandkids most likely go private prep and have never run into this issue.

    I also remember an interesting program we had, where the students "designed" a meal (about 200 kids) and the "top" 30 were picked and the whole month was whatever the students thought up. Got some odd combinations, but they all seemed to like it.

  19. Anonymous March 6, 2010 at 6:31 pm #

    What strikes me as sad is that American children aren't for the most part taught Home Economics in primary school. From the age of 8 in my country, Iceland, children have one hour of Home Economics a week in which they learn how to bake bread (nothing fancy, the budget is very tight), cook fish, boil an egg and even some basics such as how to wash dishes or clean your hands before cooking.
    Needless to say, this was our favourite class of the week, hands-on learning and warm whole-wheat buns to bring home to mama will always have a special place in my heart.

    It is too late to cover a well after someone has fallen into it, so why not think ahead and start early? Who knows, it might even save money!

  20. Melissa March 6, 2010 at 9:58 pm #

    I am so disheartened by the amount of trash that is generated with the lunches you picture. Plastic cups of fruit, plastic cutlery, plastic coated paper trays with plastic covers… so much waste. At our local elementary school the children are served the food on styrofoam divider trays/plates. Again, so much waste. It really makes me feel ill thinking of the environmental implications. 🙁

  21. Anonymous March 6, 2010 at 10:31 pm #

    Your pictures make me feel so sad for your kids at your school. I am a teacher in the South and our lunches are actually quite good and a nice variety with a few kid favorites as a staple (Chicken nuggets). I wish your children could have our lunches with recess right after it, k-5 get recess.
    Best of luck

  22. syeda lamisa March 6, 2010 at 11:28 pm #

    hi ,i am a 6th grader of the young womens leadership school of astoria in new york.Me and my fellow classmates have also put together a website like this one. We are tired of eating gross school lunches and we decided to make a website so other people can see how horrible our school lunches are. Please check out our website at schoollunchfoundguilty.wordpress.com

  23. Anonymous March 7, 2010 at 12:53 am #

    My stepsons high school offered Burger King, Pizza Hut, and Church's Chicken. We didn't allow 'junk' in our home so we pre-purchased a meal card that – we thought- would allow him to get the standard tray lunch from the school cafeteria. Fairly healthy-ish food, made on site, and always offered with a salad bar and fresh fruit. We discovered that the school allowed the kids to purchase ANYTHING they wanted with the meal card. This revelation came when his pre-purchased month long meal card had expired within a week. He was buying only from the fast food options. Why are schools allowed to offer junky fast food?

  24. pyrostylez March 7, 2010 at 3:12 am #

    i'm really shocked that there's no recess and only one PE class a week.. and America wonders why the younger generations are getting fatter and fatter… c'mon guy.

  25. Mallory March 7, 2010 at 6:19 am #

    I teach at a junior high (7-9) on block scheduling (80 minute classes) and I swear the 7th and 8th graders need a recess. I am a first year teacher so I am a rookie to the school lunch thing, but I am SHOCKED that you teach in an elementary school with no recess. THAT IS A TRAVESTY! Keep up the awesome work. You are facilitating the means for a discussion on childhood obesity/food/nutrition that this country needs! I get really nervous when I many, many of my students (I teach at a low socio-economic level school) who are already overweight or obese. I have been thinking this the whole year!

  26. Kathryn Grace March 7, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    Did I miss it? Where is the link to the discussion forum ("open thread"), please?

  27. mxc March 7, 2010 at 9:36 pm #

    @Mrs. Q

    Yes, the free and reduced price lunch students recieve the same hot lunch with the same food/portions as everybody else.

    I do want to mention that we have prepackaged boxed salads. The issue with that is thay they almost always are not fresh (I've had to pick mushy lettuce leaves and broccoli out several times).

    There is a lot of variety at our school though, but I would gladly sacrifice that for healthier, higher quality options.

  28. Anonymous March 9, 2010 at 3:02 pm #

    I work for a non-profit that houses Head Start. The nutrionalist who plans the meals for all of the centers works right next door to me. I know for a fact that he's incorporated tofu, beans, brown rice, and whole wheat items into the menus. Since the children are so young, they really don't have a choice to eat it or not but I know he goes the extra mile to get these food items into their diets as early an age as possible.
    I was lucky and went to a private high school and college and I always ate the meals. We had a salad bar, pasta bar and two soup selections a day. The food was hot and healthy. I can't say the same for my public grade school experience. I have always been lactose intolerant and back then your ONLY option for a beverage was milk and every meal consisted of a meat and a starch usually with dry milk as a filler. After about third grade my mom started packing my lunch because it made me so sick.

  29. justjenny March 11, 2010 at 7:46 am #

    I taught in a middle school in the Hampton Roads area of VA. The lunch ladies were the absolute best! All the food was well prepared and most of it was delicious. I miss the pulled pork barbeque sandwiches (made there, not frozen)very much. The students were always offered the main dish, ready made sandwiches with baked chips or nachos. Usually there were ready made fresh salads too. Students had the opportunity to eat breakfast as well but that was all packaged stuff. Teachers could get a hot cooked breakfast!!! My daughters loved school lunches in their school as well-different district, but still cooked fresh on site. The school lunches here in our new state ate absolutely horrible. They ship it over from the central kitchen and it's usually cold or still partially frozen when the kids get it. They have the same choices every other week, most of it kid "friendly" food like pizza, corn dogs or chicken sandwiches. But they don't ship enough to the schools some days so kids may only get the emergency lunch-peanut butter, six crackers and whatever they might have laying around. That happened to both my daughters last year. They are taking their lunches this year. I can pack a good balanced lunch for less than the 2.00 and 2.50 a day the school charges.

  30. Anonymous March 15, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    My young son ate school lunch daily beginning in first grade. In a matter of two years, he was considered obese by the doctor, though his diet outside of school that I monitored was appropriate. It was then I began to investigate WHAT he was eating for lunch at school. The school district made a point of changing the lunch menu to a healthier choice after parents banded together to complain. By that time my son was taking his own lunch to school with fruits, vegetables, sandwich wraps and even soups in a thermos. Today his weight has evened out, he looks better, feels better, and whether it's a conincidence or not, has fewer colds and illnesses. I will not allow my kids to eat school food every again after this experience. Thank you for bringing this huge problem to everyone's attention!!

  31. Luv2bma96 March 15, 2010 at 5:46 pm #

    Let me start off by saying I think what your doing is much needed… I have a 13 yr old autisic child. He has been eating the school lunches and getting healthy foods here at home. He started to gain weight over the years and We thought it was due to medication… I decided after going to work in the school Kitchen myself that the calorie count and other things was way to high… I starting giving him home lunches everyday at in 6 months he lost 30lbs.. I do believe that the school lunches has something to do with some of the obese issues here. It's not just a home thing.

  32. Jocelyn March 15, 2010 at 6:38 pm #

    I'm a mom now, but I went to a career center/vocational school for my last two years of high school. I have to say that the food we had in the cafeteria there was THE BEST. The reason being that our culinary arts students worked in the kitchen every day as part of their curriculum requirement. The students built each day's menu based on the mandated nutritional requirements, planned a month in advance, and had to keep in mind things like cooking time, transportation, ease of service, etc. They also ran a restaurant that was open to the public and served more upscale food (much like cosmetology schools with student hairstylists). We had a horticulture program, complete with a large greenhouse, and they supplied some (but not all) of the produce.

    Now thinking back to the elementary school I went to, it was no secret that our food was leftovers from the high school's kitchen, packed in foil, and trucked over to our school. I know it would be a huge operation, but I still am holding out hope that either a.) schools with culinary arts programs could work something out where their food is sent to elementaries or b.) that students could work part time in other schools' cafeterias as part of their curriculum.

  33. Brittany March 17, 2010 at 9:38 pm #

    I'm a high school student in a fairly new school, one with nice facilities and a decent amount of funding (not enough, but it never is in rural towns), and I pack my lunch every day. The reason for this is the quality of the food.
    Our school offers a traditional hot lunch, but the food is almost always of the frozen-and-then-heated variety. We do have pizza of a slightly better quality (taste, not health) but the price is more than a traditional school lunch. There are also salads that can be gotten, but the cheese is pretty disgusting and it's shredded over the salad, so you can't opt out. The 'fresh' carrots that come with it are more often than not dry or incredibly slimy as well.
    There had been talk of putting a salad bar in the cafeteria (as I said, it's a new school) but it was cut for budget reasons.

  34. Dissatisfied Customer March 17, 2010 at 9:57 pm #

    I think what you are doing is great!
    I have horrible memories of the school lunches I had as a child.

    The blog about School lunch in Japan was very interesting. Now that looked like a lunch I would even enjoy!

    I don't know how you are able to choke down that food. =(

  35. Anonymous March 17, 2010 at 10:03 pm #

    I'm a student in Philadelphia and your lunches actually look a little BETTER than ours, Mrs. Q (even though some of the items are the same). For one, you actually have whole wheat bread occasionally (whilst we have hardened white bread). You actually have fruit and vegetarian options.

  36. Anonymous March 18, 2010 at 1:50 am #

    Wow! I am so surprised at how everything is pre-packaged. I am a teacher also, and cringe when I forget my lunch at home. However, we have the luxury of a salad bar with some veggies and cottage cheese. I am shocked thought that about 90% of the things on your tray pictures are prepackaged and cooked separately, I would imagine that it is more expensive (ignoring the nutritional implications) to serve the lunches this way. I am also trying really hard to ignore the styrofoam trays and disposable silver ware! Yikes, talk about a throw-away society! Keep us posted, it is very interesting to see what your school serves and compare to the things that are served at mine!

  37. Jennifer March 18, 2010 at 2:10 am #

    I commend you! We live in Texas (moved from Oregon 3 year ago) and am appalled by the food served at the schools here. I hadn't heard of these items until we moved here: Frito pie, steak fingers, corn dogs, gravy over mashed potatoes, popcorn chicken you get the idea. If there is fruit served, it is ensconced in a blue jello mold or sprinkled with weird colored flakes of some sort.

    There is no water unless they pay extra for it. Only milk, chocolate milk or juice.

    Needless to say, my children pack a lunch.
    I spoke with a woman who is in charge of the lunch system. She said that the government gives the schools more money if their meals meet a certain calorie mark. It is more economically convenient for them to serve calorie dense foods so they can receive the state funds. Rather than serve lower calorie-higher nutrient content foods.

    Please keep up the good work and hopefully there will be chance soon!

  38. Misty March 18, 2010 at 2:51 am #

    While my district I'm sure could still do better, I thought you might be interested in seeing a menu from it: http://www.jefferson.k12.ky.us/Departments/NutritionServices/menus/lunchel.pdf

    I live in a large city (Louisville) with a large ethnic population so they always have vegetarian entrees for those who can't eat meat, they label their pork entrees for those who can't eat pork, they offer at least one whole grain a meal, and they list the amount of carbs in each meal. Oh and they use biodegradeable products instead of styrofoam. Now, on the flip side, I've worked in the schools and eaten their foods, they aren't the best, but they definitely are better than some districts. They could do a better job with listing nutritional info, not just carbs.

    And to comment on your school's lunches, I'm surprised there are no meatless entrees or fish products with it being lent. I know not everyone observes it with no meat eating, but a lot of people do. (Or did I miss something and there are meatless entrees)?

    Sorry about grammar and spelling, NAK.

    Misty

  39. Anonymous March 18, 2010 at 4:29 am #

    I am a public high school student who has a school that used to have wonderful, nutritious, organic, vegetarian and vegan food for only 2.50 that we completely made with our own resources, including some veggies we grew, and kids on free lunch still got it for free, until the school district cracked down on us and wouldn't tell us why. We had a certified cafeteria worker and everything. Then we started serving these horrible little "salads" that cost the same as our old lunches and were mostly meat and way too small.. and that is the only choice.
    recently kids tried to start a similar thing by selling food in the halls, but I guess that is illegal because it threatens the position of the union workers (the one we had was fired)

    oh, and the vegetarian option is now yogurt with NOTHING else, and there is usually no option for those who can't eat dairy

    there is nothing individual schools can even do about the situation because the schools have contracts with the people who make the food…

  40. Anonymous March 18, 2010 at 5:19 am #

    when i was in high school 3 years ago the food you picture here is all better than the grease pizzas and charcoal grilled cheese and looks like healthier too. i noticed the time to eat mentioned was 5-13 minutes i am guessing you have 40 minute lunches because we had 20 minute lunches and grabbed the food and ate while waiting to pay. this is all considering that we had the best lunches in the district to other schools

  41. Anonymous March 18, 2010 at 5:20 am #

    I graduated in 2007 from a high school in south-western Ohio. The packaging in all of your pictures is strange to me. I remember throughout elementary/middle/high school there was NEVER vegetarian options, and no second options. The only times they offered a second option was on days that they were serving a popular item that would probably run out.

    I remember I always felt drowsy after eating lunch, and at one point experimented to see how I would feel if I didn't eat lunch (I felt great those days, just hungry). Every meal was carb-loaded to the extreme (at least once a month there was a cheese-stick meal: two 8-10 inch breadsticks covered with melted cheese). My senior year, they implemented the "healthy lifestyles" plan, where the portions got smaller and the lunch room no longer served fries, cookies, or had sugary snacks on an a-la cart station. They did, however, offer a single slice of the disgusting rectangle pizza you have on your blog; a soggy chicken sandwich; or a soggy cheeseburger in place of an entire $2.00 meal. Salad? Oh sure, you can get a salad… for an extra dollar of course.

    School lunches in Ohio were not very memorable, I never ate packed lunches because my parents didn't have time. I hated school lunch though, even the occasional sugary snack didn't change that. I plan on packing my child's lunches once I become a parent, because it wasn't that long ago that I was choking down the unidentifiable cafeteria food.

  42. Anonymous March 18, 2010 at 6:02 am #

    We now have a "satellite kitchen". Our "foods" are prepared at a central facility and shipped to us to be heated in the package. In theory they are nutritionally sound, but they are so tasteless and gloppy that the students (elementary) rarely eat much. The fresh fruit is often not ripe. They are served raw broccoli with applesauce "dip". (Who came up with THAT winning combination?) It's such a waste. If the fruits and vegetables were well thought out it would be a wonderful opportunity to give students experience with tasty nutrition.

  43. Anonymous March 18, 2010 at 10:53 pm #

    In elementary school, and Jr High in California (about 8 years ago) there was the standard hot (corn dogs, pizza, chicken nuggets etc)lunch which was pretty good, but there was also the salad bar option available almost every day. Salad bar would have lettuce, carrots, maybe broccoli, and cottage cheese or canned fruit. You had a choice of one, no extra cost. by the time i got to High School, (different district) the cafeteria food was just bad, barely palatable, and at almost $3 (only a couple years earlier lunch was $1) didn't seem worth it. They had snack bars available tho, microwave burritos, pizza pockets, chicken strips, soda candy etc. Snack bars would sell out everyday. If i understand it, schools in CA can no longer have sugary snacks and soda.

  44. Anonymous March 20, 2010 at 2:05 pm #

    Find out who is responsible for the food at the school and FIRE them. What kind of crap is this? Hire some cooks from the military to take over. Operation Good Food.

  45. Jill March 26, 2010 at 5:36 pm #

    My kids go to the french school in London. Would love to hear your comments on their menu:
    http://lyceefrancais.org.uk/~lyceecdg/docs/Fulham/Menu_Fulham_EN.pdf

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