Day 97: chicken teriyaki

Today’s menu: chicken teriyaki, rice (with peas and egg), bread, carrots, fruit cup, milk

Yeah for rice! I’m shocked at how infrequently it appears in school lunches considering it’s a staple for billions of people every day. I guess that there isn’t much of a “rice lobby” in Washington. This serving of rice wasn’t enough to qualify as a grain so bread is offered. I’m telling you right now that rice is not a “second class” grain and it should not be served with bread. I know there are people who take issue with “white” rice instead of brown rice (I personally like brown rice more than white rice). Hey, I’m just pleased about a little variety… not wheat, wheat, wheat, corn, wheat…. day after day.
So I liked this meal. I ate it up even the fruit cup and I drank the fruit cup juice.

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Trash is a big concern. I believe that the reason single use items are cheap is because the true cost of burying garbage is hidden. Where does your garbage go? Do you recycle? Does your workplace? Thinking about landfills is no fun, but I think if we want to be good citizens, we have to worry about this stuff. Illinois Landfill Capacity Reports (more info from IL state government).

Some states do great, but others don’t even try. For example, from what I know about Wisconsin, recycling is practically part of the culture. Illinois? Not so much. Should there be national recycling standards? Maybe there should be some kind of regional recycling contest to get residents excited about competing state by state?! Personally I’d love to see the state-by-state breakdown in recycling statistics, but I couldn’t find it online. But I found this though: EPA (search EPA databases to get more info about your community).

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I’m going to have to do more fun stories about processed foods…thanks for your feedback!
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28 Responses to Day 97: chicken teriyaki

  1. frogfarm June 11, 2010 at 2:09 am #

    White rice is the least bad grain, certainly healthier than brown. Calorically dense and nutritionally meager, but at least it doesn't have the plethora of nasties in wheat, corn and soy (the other three most heavily federally subsidized "edible" crops). Grains are literally the first "processed food" (i.e., that require processing to become edible). And most Americans today don't even bother to treat them in ways that make them less harmful.

  2. Shannon June 11, 2010 at 2:20 am #

    In the title it sounds like a lovely lunch, I do love chicken teriyaki. While the picture didn't meet the one in my head, it definitely looks better than most of the meals you posted.

    Take out the bread completely, add some fresh fruit and it might not be half bad! At least it's not fried. Or beige.

  3. Stepshep June 11, 2010 at 2:30 am #

    Should there be national recycling standards? No. I think in many of the more rural states recycling would be difficult given that some areas don't even have trash service and they already have to burn their own garbage. But I think state or city-wide recycling standards or quotas would be a good idea. I know our trash service guys offer recycling, but since we live in a township it's an extra cost so we don't do it. However, within city limits the city offers recycling for free per <a href="http://www.cityhall.lima.oh.us/dept/utilities/2009GarbageBrochure.pdf>Eso</a&gt;

    A side note: A poll of TeaBaggers attributed "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" more often to George Washington than Karl Marx, saying they support the sentiment. Following up those same people say they oppose socialism of any form. Geniuses.

  4. d12brown June 11, 2010 at 2:39 am #

    We reuse (including rinsing out and reusing plastic storage bags, we reduce (rarely use paper towels, switched to wash cloths and rags to clean), we recycle (usually 3 tubs filled for the once a week pick up), we even compost! With a family of five, we rarely fill 2 bags a week with "trash." We donate all old clothes (even holey and stained ones) to our local assistance ministry because they resell the sellable (or give it to those in need) and sell the rest by the pound to a company willing to pay for it. Old toys are handed down or donated. While I would love to stand on my soap box and preach, I understand that it will not work for those who do not truly believe they are doing something good for the world. Like most things, it is education that is required. And it has to start early. My kids (12, 9 and 6) know what is recyclable, compostable or resuable and they make the effort to do the right thing. My son (6) is fascinated with how the compost takes scraps and makes dirt for the vegetable garden!

    We live in Cypress, Texas (just outside of Houston). Recycling is relatively common. I would say 65% of the houses in our neighborhood recycle on a regular basis (based on the number of recycling bins on the curbs on Fridays).

  5. Mrs. Q June 11, 2010 at 2:57 am #

    Thanks guys! I'm so tired I'm going to hit the sack. Just a few more days until I get my summer break from school food. Freedom!

  6. Anonymous June 11, 2010 at 3:00 am #

    I can't believe that there isn't that much rice in your school lunches. When I was in school we'd have "rice pilaf" (which usually went with the chicken nuggets, and we'd put sweet and sour sauce on it). The chicken nuggets were heinous.. I think that's the reason I went through a period in seventh grade when I'd just eat a bagel at school and chicken breast with white rice at home.

  7. Anonymous June 11, 2010 at 3:40 am #

    I live in a smallish town in Alaska and recycling is virtually unheard of; not to discourage you, though the school system does serve on plastic trays and uses silverware versus all the plastic in your photos.

  8. Anonymous June 11, 2010 at 4:07 am #

    From your lunches, I think we are in the same district. You're lucky – Today, our students were given a fruit, a juice box, milk, 2 cheese sticks and 4 crackers for lunch. As many students told me "That's a snack, not lunch!" I asked the lunch lady and she said the cheese sticks are protein and the crackers are the grain.

  9. Anonymous June 11, 2010 at 5:58 am #

    There is a competitive recycling program between the national colleges that gives each school a rating of how green it is. I don't know the name of the program, but I know that my school participates. In each and every dorm room there are three recycling bins: cans and bottles, office paper, and newspaper plus. You can also taken broken down boxes to the trash room where they will be recycled. The dining halls and school sponsored restaurants have all of the recycling bins as well as composting bins. We mostly use washable dining ware, but anything that isn't reusable is made of corn and goes in the compost bins. At the end of a meal there is very little that goes in the trash.
    My school is big, we're talking 80,000 plus people on campus a day. If we can implement such a good and successful recycling program I think towns and villages should be able to accomplish the same thing. Perhaps some kind of governmental award/rating/reward thing would create incentive. I know that a good part of my school striving to be so green and have a high rating from the recycling competition is about attracting new students, I would think that towns could attract new residents in the same way.

  10. Anonymous June 11, 2010 at 6:04 am #

    So from reading in the day to day, it seems like you have gone from hating lunch and trying to eat PB&J to supplement being unable to stomach it, to enjoying most days and clearing your plate. Has there been a change in you, because the pictures still look like the same type of stuff?

  11. Lisa R. Suriano June 11, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

    "Why bread?" Was my first thought when I saw this. Then it was "Oooh there's rice!" Then it was "Why bread AND rice?"

    This grain requirement is sooo ridiculous! And brown rice in not an expensive ingredient. You are spot on with your analysis of the situation – agriculture has GOT to change in this country and schools need to stop being its dumping grounds!

    So glad you are about to get a reprieve from these meals!

  12. Kathy June 11, 2010 at 12:26 pm #

    Recycling doesn't happen consistently among all Wisconsin communities, though, undoubtedly, it's an everyday part of life in cities like Madison. I presume the range of experiences is similar in Illinois.

  13. meierrain June 11, 2010 at 1:32 pm #

    My area in New York just recently added recycling for plastics #3-7, so I'm pleased about that. Part of the impetus, though, is that the local landfill – which takes trash from multiple counties in order to make money – will be full in the next 18 months. This landfill is adjacent to a park and land preserve (don't know whose bright idea that was) and they may not be able to expand it. I'd like to see a composting program, but from what I understand they are rarely cost-effective to operate.

  14. Amanda June 11, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    As a native Staten Islander, I have a weird relationship with waste and recycling. For 50 years, we were the recipients to NYC's garbage. When it closed in 2000, the Freshkills Landfill was the largest landfill in the US. The oppressive odor is gone, but the mounds still remain (they site is being turned into a park – it will be three times the size of Central Park when completed in 2030).
    I think the city started a recycling program in the 90s. There's pickup at households once a week. Paper, plastic, metal, and glass are all picked up.
    But, our waste is still being produced and still has to go somewhere.
    Recently, Co-op City in The Bronx has a sanitation strike. There was no trash collection for four days. When the garbage was finally collected, there was 100 tons of waste. Which seems terrifying, until you realize that on a normal day the 60,000 residents of Co-op City produce 125 tons of trash. So 100 tons over 4 days is actually not a lot of trash at all. And that's just scary.
    I'm moving to a house soon, where we will be composting. I try to do what I can to avoid creating trash. I've seen what it has done to my home; I wouldn't wish it on anyone else.
    On that note, I love the blog! It's been incredibly eye-opening! Thanks for your hard work Mrs. Q!

  15. leofsige June 11, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    Recycling is an amazing process that declutters your life as much as it helps the planet. At work I went nearly paperless almost 8 years ago. I insist that people send me electronic copies instead of hard copies whenever possible (nearly always now). Once the office put in scanner/copiers that emailed documents that became a bit easier for the die-hard paper users who are further constrained to comply with paperless by working in a different building than my office. I haven't needed a filing cabinet for work in 6 years and everything fits on a single shelf now of software and books.

    A couple of years ago I began recycling as much as possible at home. I don't cook and live on take-out or packaged products. Despite this, I take more to the recycling centers than I put on the curb. One tall kitchen bag of waste every 2-3 weeks goes to landfills with non-recyclable items. I've been using recycled bags at the stores so the number of paper and plastic bags awaiting another use has gone down significantly and they now fit in the organizer. I love being able to give back and avoid the waste. The added benefit to keeping my life a lot less cluttered is simply gravy.

  16. Justin June 11, 2010 at 3:10 pm #

    It's funny you should mention recycling efforts by locale. Here in Rhode Island, we basically have one company that manages a central landfill and recycling operation. Most of the town and city-based "dumps" closed down years ago and all trash haulers, city-owned or private, have to dump in one place.

    As you can imagine, this creates a nice central point for initiating change. Unfortunately, it's a little more political than that. First of all, there's no state law requiring recycling. The way it's handled is the hauler pays higher "tipping fees" at the landfill when the ratio of recyclables to trash is too heavy on the trash end. This encourages cities and towns to be aggressive in their recycling campaigns for budgetary reasons. However, it makes pretty much no incentive for businesses, who usually hire private haulers and just pay the cost of it.

    The other frustrating thing is the pure lack of competition because of the central landfill. It's my understanding that it takes a considerable amount of effort to find someone to purchase recyclable materials (plastics, etc.) from the processor and most facilities won't accept products that there is no market for. Combine that with the fact that the central landfill and recycling center is a quasi-state agency, and you get no motivation to do better than the status quo.

    What does this mean? It means that while other communities are going to high-tech single-stream systems and collecting all kinds of new items, RI is only recycling #1 and #2 plastics, paper, and aluminum. We have no kitchen compost program. We have no way to recycle #3 and higher plastic (most of the containers in your fridge). And we have a recycling program for plastic bags, but the collection points are at the grocery store instead of via street-side pickup.

    I have to commend communities like San Francisco and Toronto that are on the ball with all of this. I envy them and wish my state would step-up the efforts to force businesses to recycle (even if only soda cans, boxes, and office paper) and start accepting #3 and higher plastics.

  17. Maggie June 11, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    Found out not long ago that only 3% of the waste from the school district I work in ends up in the landfill. I don't know what kind of items comprise the 3% that do end up in the landfill. We do use foam meal trays and plastic flatware. They are not landfilled.

    To be honest, I am surprised to learn that recycling is not more common. At home, we have curbside pickup for recycling weekly. For those in rural areas (and for types of items that are not picked up curbside) there's a central drop off, open to any county resident, open every day.

  18. Angry Beaver June 11, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    Anonymous 12:58 – Colleges and universities do a much better job recycling because they have the money to do so. It's much more difficult for primary schools because they are funded through school taxes which many people claim are too high already. At least the tax dollars that fund public universities are buried someone where the JQ Public never notices. JQ Public *WILL* notice when his school taxes go up. The public already thinks that too much money is being spent on schools, that they're wasteful and inefficient. It will be an uphill battle to get increased funding for improving cafeteria services and providing recycling programs. The way to make this happen (to use recycling as an example) is to show them how it actually *saves* money in the long term. Schools boards are myopic and focus on the upfront costs. They're too worried about getting re-elected to the school board to do what is "right".

  19. Krystal Meyer June 11, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    I studied abroad in Germany for a semester and recycling is the norm there. They get charged by the kilogram for how much trash they have so it's expensive NOT to recycle. You have to pay a deposit for most plastic bottles, and when you return the bottles to the store you get a refund. When I would take out my trash and recyclables, there were several dumpsters. One for paper/cardboard, one for items with a yellow dot on them, one for compostable items (that one always was the smelliest), and one for everything else. Then there were bins for glass, which had to be separated by color (white, green, brown). At first it was confusing, and kind of a pain to keep everything separate in my little dorm room, but I got used to it. My actual trash can was the size of a bathroom trash can, maybe smaller. I couldn't even find a bigger one to buy. When I got back to the States I went through a little bit of culture shock throwing away everything in the same trash can.
    I don't know much about school lunches there. I don't think they're really served since the kids go home for lunch every day. Lunch is their biggest meal instead of dinner. I do remember when I did an exchange there in high school that there was a small concession stand that kids could get a snack at during break but that was about it. The toasted cheese sandwiches seemed to be homemade and they were yummy!

  20. Alicia June 11, 2010 at 5:40 pm #

    Schools really should try to recycle. When I was in college we had a guest speaker who had been to Antarctica. They recycle there, if you are caught not recycling you are fined. Everyone should at least TRY. If Antarctica can recycle, the majority of America should be able to.

  21. Angry Beaver June 11, 2010 at 6:24 pm #

    meierrain – Programs that accept all of the different plastic types don't necessarily mean those items are recycled. Some programs do this because more people tend to participate (because it's "easier"). They do all of the separating at the recycling plant and some of those items you thought were getting recycled are tossed into the landfill. Some items (like polystyrene) are very energy intensive to recycle and therefore not worth it.

  22. JGold June 11, 2010 at 10:06 pm #

    Albany NY has the dual problems (among others) of on the one hand, having hundreds of vacant/abandoned/disintegrating buildings and lots, and on the other hand, having a landfill that is rapidly filling up. The landfill just recently expanded (into a pine barrens) so that buys some time. Now you look over in Europe and see that there are companies that turn waste into energy. A little controversial when you look into it, though.

    Why couldn't a company like that open up shop in Albany, on the vacant/abandoned/disintegrating buildings and lots, and make energy out of the trash instead of filling up the landfill? New York is heavily regulated, including power authorities, that I wouldn't be surprised if no company wanted the challenge.

  23. La Rêveuse June 12, 2010 at 1:33 am #

    I used to live in Madison, and I was told recycling became the law in 1978. Don't know if that's true, but my husband and I would produce about 1-2 grocery bags of trash per week max, between the great (and required) recycling and our compost bin. They recycled everything. Here in PA, it's much more limited, unfortunately.

  24. Anonymous June 12, 2010 at 2:44 am #

    I'm one of the billions of people who eat rice as a staple. I eat it almost everyday. I would like to say that I prefer brown rice but I actually don't – my favourite rice is Indian basmati (white) rice. I allow myself to eat it by consoling myself that all the other grains I eat are almost all whole grain, e.g. I buy whole grain bread, use mostly whole grain flour for baking.

    I'm happy to see rice in your school cafeteria for a change. OK, it may not be the healthiest meal but at least it is better than tater tots, deep-fried and full of suspect ingredients, or pizza shiny and full of suspect ingredients! I wonder whether the chicken teriyaki is actually chicken, though.

  25. Mendy June 12, 2010 at 4:06 am #

    I live in Colorado (not far from Denver) and it is quite difficult to recycle here. I had to really search to find someplace to take my recyclables. I moved here from Illinois where recycling was easy – all I had to do was sort it and it was picked up with my trash each week. I was very surprised and disappointed when I moved here and found things so different.
    I think kids need to be taught about recycling and nutrition at school. Schools have to be creative and weave it into the curriculum. Language arts is reading, writing and research. I think there is plenty of interesting reading, writing and research that can be done using both these topics. Social studies, science and math could all create units based on these topics as well. They also interest kids and get them thinking about and involved in their future.

  26. Anonymous June 12, 2010 at 7:08 am #

    I am from a small town in WI. 7500 people. We DID have a recycling program. I lived in larger cities in WI. Again, recycling program. My 93yr old grandmother lives in a TINY town in northern WI. She recycles.

    When I moved to California, home of treehuggers and 'sprouts', it abso-freakin'-lutely SHOCKED me how terribly inconsistant the recycling was. Vacaville CA does a good job with the city recycling program. Bakersfield CA(WORST air in the country, large oil and farming city) had a disgusting lack of comprehensive recycling. You actually had to PAY for a recycling can. Needless to say, one family on our block had one.

    Now I live in SoCal again and our city has a so-so recycling program. The city runs it, but they disclude a lot. That said, being from a state like WI where we 'just do it', my family recycles more than anyone else we know.

    I agree with the blogger; it's ridiculous to teach the children about reducing and recycling when they go to the cafeteria and get 'milk pillows', styrofoam, and plastic. Just think how many millions of gallons of oil we WOULDN'T have to buy from BP or the Middle East if our kids ate off real plates with real spoons?

  27. Anonymous June 14, 2010 at 11:22 pm #

    If you looked further into the question of rice in school lunches, I bet you'd find rice is served infrequently at the request of the custodians. It's impossible for young children (or evan a lot of adults) to eat rice without spilling some. And rice is very difficult to get off a polished floor.

    Years ago, my mother discovered her class's late lunch period meant eating lunch 5 hours after school started meant kids from outlying farms were eating lunch 6 and 7 hours after they got up. She instituted a "snack time" for her sixth grade and told them they could bring a snack to eat as long as it was quiet–dried fruit, cheese sticks, etc. Nothing crunchy or wrapped in crinkly cellophane. After one month their weekly grades had visibly increased. Then the principal told her she would have to stop the snacking; the custodian had complained it made too much work for him to clean up when they had dropped crumbs or raisins. (She was, however, welcome to pass out hard bite-sized candies if she wanted.)

  28. Monica June 15, 2010 at 6:11 am #

    I'm all for recycling and reducing waste, but I wonder if at least sometimes sanitation is part of the reason for all the packaging. I don't mean the post-lunch clean-up: I mean getting food to kids that's not contaminated by food-borne illness, or the flu from the kid who sneezed in the lunch line right before you. When I was in high school, baby carrots were a highly coveted item for just this reason: the school sold fresh fruit, but we wouldn't buy it because we had no way of knowing when it had last been washed, and we could see that it was stored on an open shelf along the lunch line, right at nose/mouth height. The baby carrots were the only fresh produce they sold that came in a little package.

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