Day 68: hamburger

Today’s menu: hamburger, whole wheat buns, fruit bar, and tater tots

I left the lunchroom with my tray and a little girl caught a glimpse of the red packaging of the fruit icee and screamed with delight,
“ice cream!”

I’m not going to comment on the lunch as I have eaten this same kind of thing multiple times. All I’m going to say was that as I was getting ready for work last night, I had a brief thought, “What am I going to pack for lunch?” The thought came in and then went out of my head. I sort of sighed.

But then I indulged my fantasy of packing my own lunch. It would have been a tuna sandwich, apple, yogurt. I would have made the tuna with one can of chunk light, real mayo and thrown in a handful of raisins. I would have also also put a slice of cheese on the whole grain bread, no, it would be sourdough. And as long as I’m fantasizing, I would have found a way to melt the cheese. There is nothing like a midday tuna melt. A girl can dream.


In regards to a reader comment about choice. There is a meatless alternative on the printed menu, but when I go to the lunchroom, it is rarely put out for the kids to grab. The main meal item is laid out. It’s very much an assembly line and from what I have seen of the kitchen and kitchen staff, well, it is run very efficiently. I feel certain that if they had the equipment, those lunch ladies could build a Ford F150 in one afternoon.

So, when I come in, I take what the kids get. That’s part of the thesis of my project. And I don’t want to stop the momentum of the lunch line by piping up and saying, “I saw a bean burrito on the menu and if you don’t mind I’d like one of those.” Um, yeah, I want to blow my cover! When I ate the bean burrito, it was because a lunch lady asked me if I wanted it. As a rule I do whatever they say. Just like when they offered me the cheese lasagna, I accepted it. But, recently I was offered the cheese lasagna again. I declined.

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35 Responses to Day 68: hamburger

  1. Just Another Distributary April 27, 2010 at 10:58 pm #

    This one looks gross 🙁

  2. Krisfromparis! April 27, 2010 at 11:39 pm #

    i felt kinda sad looking at this meal!!! nothing appetizing or too colorful there.. 🙁

  3. April 27, 2010 at 11:44 pm #

    Hey, it's brown, brown, and brown. And fake red!

    You know what tuna salad is also great with? Guacamole. Instead of mayonnaise. It's creamy and yummy.

    I liked your lunch packing fantasy.

  4. Anonymous April 27, 2010 at 11:46 pm #

    I agree with "Just Another…" That meal looks gross. I would need to be very hungry to eat that.

  5. Anonymous April 27, 2010 at 11:52 pm #

    eww. everything is brown. is the icee your 'fruit'?

    I admit a lot of MY school lunches are monotone, and I NEVER get the veggies because they are overcooked and gross (if they were crisp/had a crunch, I would be all over them. I often don't eat the whole oranges because I have nothing to open them with, and a lot of times, they look downright gross, and when I DO eat the orange, it is often dry. I like the apples and fruit cups. they are easier to eat. (this is HS BTW)

  6. Melissa April 28, 2010 at 12:26 am #

    Aw, it's like a hamburger patty angel with a little halo of grease.

  7. Valerie April 28, 2010 at 12:32 am #

    I am so inspired to pack my kids a great lunch tomorrow!

  8. Kitten April 28, 2010 at 12:45 am #

    Okay, that's "meat". Again, such a terrible thing for anyone to eat. It looks greesy and like its bleeding! The "icee" is terrible to give to children. The dyes alone are enough to get anyone hyped up for hours. So sad.

  9. Valentijn April 28, 2010 at 1:36 am #

    No real fruit, no real vegetables. At least there's some mystery protein in the burger somewhere. Probably.

  10. Ashley April 28, 2010 at 1:38 am #

    I like your dream lunch. I like apples especially in tuna, but grapes or cranberries will do in a pinch. Funny enough, I've never tried raisins…

  11. misplaced redneck April 28, 2010 at 1:44 am #

    Yuck, I haven't read any post but this one yet and I have to say you are one daring individual! I tried a school lunch for my daughter's "eat with your kids" day and never again! While she won't completely stop eating school food, my daughter is now up to eating healthier packed lunches at least half of the month.

  12. Kristin April 28, 2010 at 2:06 am #

    Inspired by your blog, I ate at my son's school today (it is his birthday) and I was surprised by the food. I had a decent pasta and sauce meal with an iceberg lettuce salad with carrots and a pear. Of course, he had a "pancake on a stick" – some sort of dough around a sausage, like a corn dog. Served with "maple syrup." Yuck. But the good food is there at his school at least, mixed in with the bad. But they had literally 5 minutes to eat. That was all. So sad.

  13. Mrs. Q April 28, 2010 at 2:22 am #

    Thanks for all your comments!

    @Kristin — you had a good meal, while he got a strange one. How did you eat different things? 5 minutes to eat. It's crazy!

  14. Kristin April 28, 2010 at 2:45 am #

    They offer about 3 or 4 "main" courses, with up to 4 different "sides" – the main courses are usually junk (very similar to what you've been eating) with one healthy alternative thrown in. The sides vary – but include a few choices that are healthy. But really, I timed the lunch process – we stood in line for 10 minutes, had just 5 minutes to eat, and then they had 20 minutes for recess. But 5 minutes! No one was done, I ate my pear while standing at the garbage can!! There is something really wrong with that. (ps – this is just a reply to you, no need to post it)

  15. Type 1 Mom April 28, 2010 at 3:00 am #

    The only appetizing part of this post if throwing some raisins in with the tuna! I do that all the time and love it.

  16. MJS April 28, 2010 at 3:36 am #

    Our kids have choice of 2 entrees. Apparently the last class (4th grade, I think) has the worst slot because the "good" entree will often be gone even if the kids "ordered" it in the morning – the teachers turn in how many hot/cold lunches and how many of each entree every morning. Not sure why since it obviously doesn't matter how many of each entree if one can be "sold out" but that is what they have always done as far as I can tell from kid lore.

    Anyhoo, apparently if you are really lucky in 4th grade, they will sell out of both entrees and you will get PBJ for lunch. But no PBJ unless the "yucky" entree is all gone. Having choices is good and all but we don't wanna get crazy here.

  17. Anne April 28, 2010 at 4:20 am #

    I ate at my sons' school once and was so disgusted that when i go in to eat with them I get food from Taco Bell. You can eat healthy from there. And I pack their lunch quite a bit, I always include a fruit and/or vegetable, protein, low sugar colorless drink. Today I was out of the drinks and asked them to consider getting the white milk instead of the chocolate milk. They both said "OK mom." They will eat better if you ask them-sometimes. But you can never quit asking them and giving them new foods. Oh,and tomorrow's choices, fish nuggets or nachos supreme

  18. Vanessa April 28, 2010 at 5:13 am #

    I happened to be at my daughter's school during lunch today, and the kids were also having hamburgers and that red icee thing. They got lettuce and tomato to put on their burgers, though.

  19. Sana Hurzuk April 28, 2010 at 5:24 am #

    the food really looks bad, I wonder how you are eating it. Great effort and best of luck for the rest of the year. In India (from where I am), we do not have public schools (only government school where poor people go) and there we have a mid day meal programme introduced by the government to encourage poor families to send their kids to school. The food is cooked in the school and is usually rice, Curry, a vegetable and a boiled egg (Sometimes). Private schools give a 30 – 40 minute break and there is no lunch or cafeteria system. All students bring lunch from home (rice, curry, sandwhiches etc) or parents come and drop off the lunches at break time. Some students go home if they live nearby. In all my years of school I never had outside food.

  20. nelslind April 28, 2010 at 6:53 am #

    First time writing, fan since January. Ewww, looks gross!! Have not been on for a while, saw your post about the "spork". Anyway, was in Bed Bath and Beyond today and saw this eating spork, knife thing, made out of plastic. Made me think of you…. A plastic thing with a spoon on one side and a fork/knife on the other. Just something to think about if you want a reuseable spork option, which you can buy at a local store and carry on the down low. I love what you are doing!!! Thank you so much. I love u!!!

  21. Lisa R. Suriano April 28, 2010 at 11:53 am #

    I am confused. There has been a good deal of discussion regarding the what qualifies as 1 serving of vegetable under the USDA requirements. Many people have refuted the fact that tater tots and ketchup are considered veggies. But if they aren't then where is the vegetable in this lunch? Are the requirements allowed to be interpreted differently by state or by school district? If anyone out there knows, please explain.

  22. Alyse April 28, 2010 at 2:17 pm #

    I think those grill marks are painted on. 😉

  23. Heather April 28, 2010 at 3:02 pm #

    Wow, a whole 7 tater tots today! They are stepping it up. (I hope you can "hear" the sarcasm in my "voice".

  24. Anonymous April 28, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

    Skip the bun and tot's. Replace with a baked potato and some sour creme. Some A-1 sauce, and a nice salad with blue cheese dressing. 🙂

  25. Brian, Mason and Cortni April 28, 2010 at 3:54 pm #

    I am not only disturbed by some of the food that you're eating, but by the packaging everything is in. Imagine the impact all of that packaging is having on our environment! Imagine if every school served their lunches in plastic packaging instead of on a reusable tray. Excuse me while I go pass out.

  26. lucy April 28, 2010 at 4:02 pm #

    Lisa, my understanding from the discussions (correct me if I'm wrong, those who know) is that tater tots, fries and all those potato-related products count as vegetables (but ketchup does not). So in this meal that would be the veggie and of course the icee thing would be the fruit!

  27. JaniceNJ April 28, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    The image of our school lunch ladies building a Ford F150 is making me laugh…although some days I think they would rather be doing that than dealing with 700+ kids.

  28. food fan April 28, 2010 at 6:16 pm #

    Thanks for commenting on the options! I must have misunderstood when you brought it up before, and thought that there were two options readily available, not that you had to ask for the second option specifically. I can see why you're choosing the same thing most of the students get. Makes perfect sense! Thank you for explaining. 🙂

    And yes, to add on to Lucy's response to Lisa, from what I've read on here and saw on Jamie Oliver's show, according to the government, potatoes (which would include tater tots and fries) are considered a vegetable. I suppose that's technically correct, but in my house potatoes have always been a side item, in addition to another vegetable like beans, corn, broccoli, salad, etc. Potatoes may be good for you, but there's a big difference between tater tots and a baked potato!

    This just doesn't look like a complete meal to me. I grew up in a home where meals consisted of: main course (something with meat, usually), vegetable, a starchy side (which could be potatoes, rice, pasta, etc.), and maybe some kind of roll for grains. The idea being, try to get all of the food groups in one meal that will keep your stomach satisfied until breakfast the next morning (or at least until dessert time :). I don't see how even a small child can get full off a burger with no toppings and a few tater tots.

  29. Nena April 28, 2010 at 7:01 pm #

    I remember many a lunch like that 🙁

    I've never been a fan of school hamburgers, they don't taste like any kinda of meat I'm familiar with. and those tater-tots look burned *thumbs down*

    I feel for you on your lunch fantasy…

  30. HenrysMom A2MI April 28, 2010 at 8:00 pm #

    Oh, the stain around the patty is frightening. I'd rather eat a tater tot sandwich than that patty. Sorry about this one, Mrs. Q.

  31. Maggie April 28, 2010 at 8:36 pm #

    Ketchup is not considered a vegetable. Never was.

    Under current regulations, potatoes are considered a vegetable. That does include items such as tater tots and fries. Yes, juice (meeting certain specifications) would be considered as a fruit. The icee, if it contains the correct amount of juice, would count.

    The specifics as to the quantity of fruits and vegetables can vary based on the meal planning pattern used by a specific district and the grade/age of students.

    At the district and grade level that I work at – each day requires a total of 3/4 cup of at least two diffrent fruits and/or vegetables. Could be 2 fruits, could be 2 vegetables. Could be one of each. Could be 1/4 cup of one, 1/2 cup of the other. Could be 1/4 cup of 3 different fruits and/or vegetables. Could be 3/8 cup each of 2 different fruits and/or vegetables.

    And…over the course of one week, an additional 1/2 cup of fruit/vegetable must be offered.

    Please keep in mind these amounts are for the grades I work with, and the meal planning pattern used by the district I work in.

    All info about the meal regulations, what "counts" and all meal planning pattern options is available on-line for those interested.

  32. Theron April 29, 2010 at 1:16 am #

    I don't know how you managed to get that thing down. It looks awful.

  33. Anonymous April 29, 2010 at 8:32 pm #

    I feel lucky that my dsughter's school uses hard plastic trays to serve the kids (no waste) and they usually have 15 minutes to eat. I have to say that I do not care for most of her lunches ( I am picky!) but when they serve chili and peanut butter sandwiches, I am the first one in line!!! BTW: Love this blog, keep up the good work!

  34. Susan June 11, 2010 at 9:20 pm #

    I just came across this blog today, and I am horrified at what is passing for lunch in schools.

    I know when I was in school, we always complained, but it was REAL food. Even if some of it, (like the ham and lima beans) was not very good…there were really good things. Peach cobbler was wonderful…spaghetti with meat sauce wasn't bad if the spaghetti was separated when cooked, and not just a clump of uncooked, stuck together noodles…banana pudding I loved, except for the times it turned out to be pineapple pudding…homemade soup and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, yum. The peanut butter and jelly were mixed together before the sandwich was made, I still do that.

    All of this processed, pre-packaged food just amazes me.

    I'm sure there's no recess any more because there just isn't time. All class time is needed to prepare for standardized tests.

    (And I was going to comment on that bonus tater tot as well!)


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