Day 108: pizza… and salad (!)

Today’s menu: pizza, orange, salad (!!)

Do you see what I see? Yes, it’s salad. I need a moment.

I saw kids taking the salad in the lunch line. In fact, one of the lunch ladies asked a bunch of kindergartners, “Do you want salad?” and most said, “yes” (out of six kids, one said no). Since they had not seen it before, I think some of the kids stared blankly at the package wondering what was inside. I bet they were a little confused. I made sure to grab a packet of ranch, not all the kids did. I’m not sure they would eat plain lettuce.

I drizzled a little ranch on the salad and it was tasty. I was so glad to have salad today. The pizza was the same as usual (whole wheat crust by the way). And I saved the orange for later. There wasn’t enough time to eat all of the lunch.

Yeah for something green!

I approve of the pairing of pizza and salad. It’s logical and something we do at home when we have pizza (that is not often this year if you know what I mean).

***

Thanks for your comments yesterday. Some of you were surprised by what I wrote yesterday (“there is nothing inherently wrong about a hot dog.” I have since edited that line) I have to say that I censored myself somewhat with that line. I haven’t bought a package of hot dogs since last summer (for a BBQ). This summer we didn’t buy any hot dogs at the grocery store or at any restaurants. But I can see why you might eat one if you were out and about over the summer (barbecues and ball games). That’s like once or twice a summer, right?

Some of you mentioned my dislike of McDonald’s and asked “why is that different than an occasional hot dog?” When I posted that I hate McDonald’s food this summer, many of you jumped on me. One of the many people who commented got it right: food is personal. McDonald’s might mean something to you that it doesn’t for me. For you, it’s more than the food.

Also McDonald’s is a corporation whose motives I distrust. Certainly hot dogs are manufactured by corporations too…but the McDonald’s advertising is relentless and everywhere.  And under the right circumstance I might conceivably buy a hot dog. But if I were to drive by a McDonald’s I wouldn’t stop for food.

So I didn’t strike out at hot dogs in general because I wimped out. Please do keep in mind that I’m a work in progress and I’m not perfect. You guys have taught me so much about food. I really value your input.

***

I love my work. I have a blast with my students and I treasure them. This year there have been some improvements to my room and it has been a real joy to do some new things with the kids.

Right now education is a field in turmoil. No Child Left Behind did some good things, but has placed too much emphasis on testing. What happened to instructional time? Then teachers get blamed for the poor performance of students. Part of why I started the project was that I felt that teachers were getting blamed for poor student performance yet no one had “questioned everything” within the school environment that could be affecting school performance (ahem! school lunch, anyone?). Don’t get me wrong: there are “bad” teachers and they need to be dealt with. That might mean just more supervision and support. It might mean firing them.

At my school I see a lot of talented, hard-working teachers with great credentials. The district offers some amazing professional developments. We have some NBCTs and many teachers have masters degrees. Pretty good considering that the high school from which I graduated (around 1,000 students) only had one teacher with a masters. Yes, there are a couple teachers who I would label as “deadweight.” They need to be retrained or fired, but somehow they are given a pass. It bothers me and it lowers morale of the other teachers in the school. But I can’t tell the principal what to do.

I have found that teachers rarely get the chance to complete surveys about their school and its administration. Why shouldn’t administration elicit the opinions of staff members? If I were to design a survey to be given to the teachers at my school, the first question would be, “What can ABC Elementary School do for the students that its not already doing?” My next question would be, “How can the administration support your teaching more effectively?”

Let’s set up education not under a business model, but a medical model. Medical centers are patient-focused not testing-focused. They use tests as tools, but then they treat the patients. More treatment than tests, no? When a patient fails to get better, does the doctor get blamed? Sometimes they do but not usually. Doctors try other ways to help out the patient. Of course, there are “bad” doctors. But overall doctors’ opinions are valued. The medical profession is not sunk over a few bad apples.

The teaching profession seems to get a bad rap. The teachers that I know are loving, dedicated professionals working their hearts out for their students’ success. It’s not an easy job. Many, many teachers lie awake at night thinking about their students and devising new ways to reach them. I was just telling my husband about this student I’m worried about and who I totally wish I could adopt.

I want school districts to go out of their way to talk about teachers using positive language just like hospitals who appreciate their staff members (doctors, nurses, etc). What is the greatest thing that districts have? Human capital. If we value children, we must appreciate those responsible for educating them.

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44 Responses to Day 108: pizza… and salad (!)

  1. Miho September 18, 2010 at 3:18 am #

    Yeay for a salad!! That's a great improvement, isn't it?

    I have to say, that really sucks how teachers get treated by the outside people. They work so hard, and I think people/students' parents don't know all the hard work their putting. And when their kid gets a bad grade, they blame it on the teacher. I would HATE to deal with that when I become a teacher.

    I've always, ALWAYS wanted to be a math teacher (and that's where I'm going towards right now in life), and I'm looking SUPER FORWARD to achieving my childhood dream. So, as a teacher-to-be, I want to say, you are an awesome, amazing, hardworking teacher who keeps an awesome, detailed blog. I really like this blog, and I love reading what you have to say!!
    Keep up the good work, Mrs. Q!!!!!

  2. Anonymous September 18, 2010 at 3:19 am #

    if you really want to make a difference in something that is not your area of expertise, and I really dont mean to sound harsh, but why dont you quit your job and take one as a lunch lady. Work your way up from the bottom getting overworked and underpaid. Feeding hundreds of kids everyday with the only thought that you care for them and want them to do well. I have read your blog for a long time. I have to say I just dont get it. I was a lunch lady. We cared very much what we in the food. There was ALWAYS a salad and even the kindergartners loved it and would make a salad with ranch. I saw our head cook come in at 5 am to make fresh bread. She also pulled kids aside that only had a bag of m&ms for lunch and gave them lunch – on her dime. Im just wondering how complaining about someone elses job is going to really change anything. You seem to hate most of the lunch food you eat daily – do the kids hate it?

    • Nick October 12, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

      Quit being so damn sour about what SHE does, it’s her life not yours. Plus, this is only an experiment to see EXACTLY what the children get during their lunch time while at school. Half of the food looks like pigs and goats wouldn’t even want to eat any of it, let alone people. I think this was a great idea from her, and I’m glad she stuck through with it for what seemed to be the whole 180 days of school. Good job, people just have to stop being so damn sour about things like this. If they don’t like what you’re doing, they can get off your page and view another. You did a fantastic job!!!

  3. Anonymous September 18, 2010 at 3:49 am #

    Anonymous, the problem is that schools don't hire lunch ladies who cook anymore. Many, many schools including Mrs Q's purchase prepackaged lunches delivered by a centralized service. By making people aware of what kids are eating every day – prepackaged, over processed "food" Mrs Q is doing something to make a difference for many kids, not just those in her lunchroom. The children you served as a lunch lady sound very lucky indeed. Since you say you've read this blog for a long time, I'm not sure why you don't understand this.

  4. Ms.T September 18, 2010 at 3:56 am #

    Hooray for salad! That must have made your day. 🙂 We have salad bars in our schools but about 1/2 of what the kids take gets tossed. It's sad but at least they have the opportunity to make some healthier choices.

    I agree that education is in an extremely difficult state. I'm the parent of a child with special needs AND I work as a substitute para-educator for the district. I could write a book on all that is wrong with the way current education "reform" tries to teach our kids. Teacher's work hard but often have their hands tied by tests and unrealistic regulations.

    Mrs. Q, keep up the great work you do for your students!

  5. Anonymous September 18, 2010 at 4:31 am #

    I have been reading your blog for a while now as well, and I have to say that I REALLY agree with the previous anonymous poster. I think that you are lumping all school lunch programs into one category that you see as being negative. I agree that this country has a problem with childhood (and adult) obesity, but I believe a lot of that has to do with their parents' habits, not the school lunch program. Yes I believe that there may be some lunch programs that are less than ideal, but they are working with what is available to them and I chose to believe that everyone one of the kitchen staff members cares about their students. I applaud you for excersising your right to free speech, but I do not think it is right to make judgements when you are not in that field. Like the previous anonymous poster stated, if you really want to make a difference, why not quit your job as a teacher and really work amongst people in the field that you are talking about.

  6. Autumn September 18, 2010 at 4:32 am #

    I'm so torn as to what will "fix" school lunches. It's been my experience that ranch dressing has THE WORST preservatives and artificial flavorings. Pretty much all commercial dressings are heavily preserved. So, the vegetables are good but…

    And for the Anonymous commenter above me, "lunch ladies" don't decide the menu. I know in our school they aren't allowed to cook anything from scratch. They have to follow the menu given them and it's all just what is sent to them to warm up. Times have changed.

  7. Tacomamama September 18, 2010 at 4:45 am #

    Anonymous former lunch lady: you say you have read Mrs. Q's blog a lot but I have to wonder how that can be?

    – There is not always a salad at her school. (I am glad there is one at yours.) She always takes a fruit or vegetable option if there is one, this is the first salad I remember seeing since I started reading her blog last February.

    – The food is not cooked on site at her school, it is obviously re-heated. It even comes in single serving plastic wrapped portions.

    – Since the food is so obviously just reheated, I don't understand how anyone can take her blog as a slam on the lunch ladies' cooking: they aren't cooking. I'm sure they want to, but that's not what they get to do in her district.

    I don't understand why complaining about the terrible school lunch system in her district is interpreted as some kind of criticism of the people who serve it, who I am sure love what they do and really care about the kids. I bet they are sad about the food they are provided, too.

    I am not sure why you choose to be hurt by Mrs. Q's honest photos and descriptions of the food at her school, I have never read one negative word about lunch ladies on her blog.

  8. Melanie September 18, 2010 at 5:15 am #

    Yay! It looks yummy!
    My kids school (I have 2 in school 2 out) They have a Healthy Food menu daily, I was so, so very happy as when I grew up you'd grab just about whatever and I do remember eating nachos and that was it.
    The kids school makes it known what's good and bad choices, they have a bullentin board up with wrappers of bad choices, verses good choices. The first year my son came home from school and pointed at a wrapper in teh freezer. My stash of york peppermint patties and blamed me for just about everything from tooth decay to brain stupidity (drama from a K students!) The thing was, they are enforcing healthy choices and making them understand why it is good for them. My husband has diabeties, so it's not as if we even eat junk food or eat unhealthy (so I have a Mommy stash, sue me!)
    I Love that out small school is going to such far lenghts to teach the kids, I wish it was happening at every school. My Neice when she came to stay with us for 2 weeks had NO idea what a carrot was. I about flipped over, seriously, flipped over in shock. It's sad, but alot of kids at such young ages have no idea what is good to eat. They eat like their parents, so their eating habits are already starting off wrong.
    Don't force a child, give them choices, explain and teach. They will amaze us all! Eating habits are hard to change, start them off right, they have a great chance later in life!
    Sorry I rambled 🙂
    ~Melanie @ My Side of Life
    http://itsmysideoflife.com/

  9. Rainbow Warrior September 18, 2010 at 5:38 am #

    @anonymous: there is no such thing as fresh-cooked food in mrs. q's school. if it doesn't come wrapped in plastic, it doesn't happen. you must be new here.

  10. undercover caterer September 18, 2010 at 7:25 am #

    What is wrong with a hot dog? Do you eat other kinds of sausage? Hot dogs are just a sausage. If you have taste buds you'll buy hot dogs of a better quality. Try Nathan's. Or Hebrew National.

    I'm all for bringing fresh food into schools but the strict ideologies of some writers are quite narrow. Lighten up people!

  11. Claudine September 18, 2010 at 8:55 am #

    To Anonymous, you are completely missing the point. This is a blog not about how badly lunch ladies do but at how bad the lunches are that are served, mostly of the crappy heat and eat variety.

  12. Anonymous September 18, 2010 at 1:04 pm #

    To Mrs Q. I've been reading the blog since last school year and I have personally taken on the challenge of packing my son's lunch for school. He's in 5th grade this year and I have worked with our school districts lunch program temporarily. (I was a monitor for a elementary school, but then was offered a better job), none the less I was able to learn a little about our schools lunch protocol.

    Our northern Ohio school has many processed foods but nothing is fried and everything is baked…and our lunches are served up cafateria style on real lunch trays. But many things are canned or frozen. Our district only has 2 kitchens for the entire district. One at a kindergarden only school where it is "cooked" and then sent out in mobile hot boxes and each school has it's own hot wells to keep the food warm while serving. But the one good side of our districts lunches is that we do have many fresh option on the menu dialy..such as apples, carrots, broccoli, orange (which are cut up) and sometimes even a chef type salad as an option for lunch…and honestly i just noticed on the menu, which I keep because I will allow my son to buy twice a month…there was an option for a side of vegetarian beans which was served with a chicken fajita that day (interesting). So some schools may be better than others, but i still remember when schools cooked. I feel bad that is no longer that way due to budget cuts and the like, but anyone even children can only take so much of something for such a long period of time.

    But I have noticed that schools are soo forced on the testing that many things have gone by the wayside…Shoveling math, and reading down the childrens throats. That music, science, art, and social studies/history are an afterthought and mostly a joke. I remember learning all of these things to be well rounded in school…to learn about organisms and where things came from. The history of Native Americans and Ohio, learning how to read music and play an instrument. All of these things made me a better person, not just the score for reading and math on a standardized test.

    I have to give great credit to all the good teachers out there because I know for me that is a job I wouldn't be able to handle to a degree that many teachers do. So I do thank teachers for teaching my son what he does know, but I do wish it was more well rounded, instead of some guy sitting in an office, in a different building, pushing at the principals and teachers under him, to push better scores for the schools that the students need to accomplish. I guess the saying is true…Sh*t rolls down hill.

  13. Paula Adams Perez September 18, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    I applaud your effort to bring to light the type of food that our kids are being served at school!

    I homeschooled my 2 sons for 9 years. Last year, they both started public school, in high school and middle school. My older son was able to come home for lunch so he had no real change in eating. My younger son wanted to eat school lunch with his friends plus my husband was out of work so we qualified for reduced price lunch, so my son ended up eating school lunch (and breakfast) most every day. I saw quite a change in him, which was especially evident when he started bringing home-food during wrestling season to watch his weight. The contrast between his clarity and energy on and off school food was startling!

    Starting this summer, our family has really stepped up our nutrition. We have converted to mostly all whole grains, much more fruit and veggies (including green smoothies once a day or more), much less cow milk, and no more nitrates or MSG. Since school started here 2 weeks ago, we have also been packing lunches every day. I asked my son for a list of his favorite fruits, veggies, meats, breads and try to keep some available. I bought a cool bento box and chopstick set he likes (he's very into Asian culture items).

    He told me this week, "Mom, everything just seems to click for me this year. I remember things so much better." He is even, ON HIS OWN, getting up early most days to go for a jog before school (his school starts late 'cause it's an alternative non-graded program). His energy and attitude has changed RADICALLY! Most importantly, my son is recognizing himself that his choices of food have immediate as well as long-term consequences.

  14. Viki September 18, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

    Yay a Salad. sorry about the ranch. Funny thing, my youngest will eat the salad but will not eat any salad dressing, never has, doesn't like the way it tastes.
    I like that they used some whole wheat flour in the pizza crust. We had pizza fairly often this Summer. Homemade, Whole Wheat crust, home grown tomatoes, pesto. Yum.

    I am confused as to WHY some people who are commenting think you are blaming the lunch ladies for these lunches. We know and You know the wonderful people who reheat and serve these meals have nothing to do with the creation of these lunches. Some big company and the School district does. In fact I'm curious, have you figured out which big business is in charge of your shipping your little boxes of faux food?

  15. Woolridge ES Green Club September 18, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

    I think it's possible (and sometimes easier/more successful) to try and fix things from the *outside* than on the *inside*. People from the outside often see things from a different perspective, and with a "little bonk on the head" can "knock some sense into some people". The notion of Mrs. Q quitting her job to change the lunch program at her school is ridiculous.

  16. Mary Zawadzki September 18, 2010 at 1:41 pm #

    Anon: How is being concerned for growing, thriving, learning children being negative? I think what has happened here is the disgruntled lunch ladies have found this blog and will do anything to discredit Mrs. Q's efforts … and worst of all, make her question herself and her project. I think what everyone is forgetting is that Mrs. Q started this project out of an immense love for the kids she teaches everyday and the passion that she brings to the classrooms. Why the lunch ladies are getting their panties in a knot over this is beyond me … maybe it means that you will actually have to prepare food again like they did when I was a kid, or maybe you just prefer to leave this whole mess alone (the head in the sand syndrome). The system is broken and needs to be fixed.

    Let me tell you a quick story. One day my husband and I went to the Bronx Zoo and had to walk to the back entrance from the train. Along the way we saw a mini-mart/bodaga that sold groceries. For those of you that don't know, the Zoo is right near a very, VERY economically challenged area. Needless to say, the sign outside the bodaga said, "Chef Boyardee: Canned Raviolis, Spaghetti, and Spaghette-Ohs! 10 cans for $2.00." Nowhere in the area was there a green market that accepted food stamps. No where did the ads outside the bodaga say, "Broccoli, 10 for $1.00." There was no sign of fresh food anywhere. What does this say? That economically challenged people should not have access to fresh foods? That they should be "lucky" to get canned, processed foods?

    Anon (Ms. Lunch Lady who wants to discredit Mrs. Q): What this little story shows is that kids absolutely MUST have access to fresh foods, and that school lunches are little more than canned Chef Boyardee poop. I'm sure you do a wonderful job slopping prepackaged, over-processed goop onto the lunch plates of thousands of kids … but wouldn't you feel better about giving them a nice FRESH vegetable or maybe even mac and cheese made from scratch or pasta topped with yummy sauce? This process that Mrs. Q and Jamie Oliver have been exploring is no reflection on the lunch ladies (why they've decided to voice their opinion FOR the status quo is beyond my comprehension), but rather on the things you knowingly give those kids everyday. Poor or not, underfunded or not, kids deserve better … and in the long run, this country's FUTURE deserves better.

    Mrs. Q, I've seen this type of behavior before. Do me a favor Mrs. Softy … IGNORE them and keep on keeping on. They are going to do ANYTHING to make you doubt or fear. ANYTHING. Including trying to make you look stupid, as if that's possible. They're afraid to death that their union-protected jobs are going to be questioned and changed … and *gasp* that they might actually have to COOK again. No more comfy job of opening frozen packages and zapping them. I think you are doing something really special here.

    Mary from NYC

  17. d12brown September 18, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

    My kids love salad and my son does NOT like any kind of dip or dressing for any food. The only day he eats school lunch is Big Daddy Pizza day and he gets a salad, fruit and a roll with his pizza. BTW, I also eat my salad practically dry. I prefer the taste of the ingrdients to the taste of the dressings.

  18. Paula Adams Perez September 18, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

    I am an assistant preschool teacher at a church's half-day M-F program. The daily snacks are supplied by the students, who take turns bringing food for the class. I started in the early winter last year, and over the course of the year I was appalled at the type of snacks that the kids brought for the class when it was their turn. It even seemed to degenerate more, until by the end of the year, snack might be: a chocolate-coated granola bar, a pack of gummy candy, and a drink (not juice) box. I asked the teacher if the parents were given any instruction as to the type of snacks to bring, and I was told that they were given some guidelines verbally at the beginning of the year parent meeting, but that was all.

    Over the summer, I created a small flipbook to attach to each class's snack basket that the kids bring home to fill (there are 7 classrooms at our preschool). The flipbook was just colored circles laminated and bound with a key ring to the snack basket. Each page of the flipbook has a list of snack suggestions for each food group (fruits, veggies, grains, dairy) as well as "don't sends": chocolate milk, gummy "fruit", HFCS drinks. I also explained that sugary treats are only welcome for birthday celebrations and will be only given out at the END of the class day, right before the kids go home!

    Wow! It has really worked! The parents are thankful for suggestions and have been bringing beautiful, large snacks like whole wheat crackers, sliced cheese and grapes. The teachers and the preschool director are thrilled! Making the 7 flipbooks took me about 6 hours total to design, type and create, and they are going to impact how our preschoolers eat all year!

  19. Kate Rowan September 18, 2010 at 1:53 pm #

    My husband is a teacher, and he saw his students eating a pizza similar to the one you ate here…only they got soggy fries and no fruit. If they want a salad, they are charged more, and no one can afford it.
    We both read you. Thanks for what you are doing!
    Kate
    http://www.idreamloudly.com

  20. Anonymous September 18, 2010 at 2:02 pm #

    I'm a teacher and I really agree with your idea of the teaching feild being treated more like the medical field. I think it would also make sense for new teachers to be more like residents, so that they're doing a lot of things on their own, but they're also getting constant feedback. I think it would help everyone improve.
    I really enjoy your blog!

    I

  21. *jean* September 18, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    i love this blog…i have always been very concerned with the food choices i make for my family…it's one of the fights i choose…and it does make a difference, especially for boys…

    there are many improvements to public education i would like to see (longer recess time with more activity, middle school recess, etc) but it seems that everything is laid upon the teachers and that just isn't fair…even in our huge school district you can see the differences in the schools where parents (mostly moms) are available to volunteer and pick up the "extras" for the already overburdened teachers…

    i was able to volunteer at my elementary school and the vast differences in children is astounding…you can have almost a 2 year difference in ages in one classroom as well…then you have all these family differences…i just don't know how they do it every day…children that come to school without any warm clothing in the dead of winter, no supplies, no one to read with them, no one to help them with math…it's a sad commentary on our society that we then want them to be thin and fit with the plastic food we send their way…

  22. *jean* September 18, 2010 at 2:30 pm #

    and what ever happened to trays & silver that could be washed and re-used? monumentally the wrong message to send…everything gets thrown away…

  23. witchywoman September 18, 2010 at 3:07 pm #

    I do believe that Anonymous is missing the point of your blog. I wonder why Anonymous doesn't quit her job and take one in the science field and actually do some research as to what this kind of diet does to a human body! There's a thought. I do not see your blog as negative, I see it as a realistic view of someone who's been there and done that. I think Anonymous should try a steady diet of microwaved foods for months on in and then come back and see if they have the same opinion. Keep doing what you're doing, Mrs. Q and bravo for shedding some light on a subject that has been in the dark for way too long. Anonymous…please watch Food, Inc., maybe you'll have some of the enlightenment that you so deparately need.
    witchywoman
    http://lifeinanarv.blogspot.com

  24. Maggie September 18, 2010 at 3:12 pm #

    I’m a lunch lady.

    I would love it too if school meals in every school were perfect in every way (of course, what equals perfection does vary from person to person).

    For my part, the frustration is that in some cases (not saying it’s true of Mrs. Q), the individuals looking for change do not have knowledge of the system they are looking to change. I know, that sounds like hiding behind rules and regulations, doesn’t it? Yet, I’d say that most of us, in our jobs, do have some rules and regulations to follow. Sure, if we are fortunate, we can make suggestions and work to change those rules. Changing rules and regulations governing school food service is a very valid avenue for activists.

    Along with knowing the current regulations and such, I think experience working on the job would be an valuable experience. But, for most people, it probably isn’t going to be a possibility.

    Somehow, it seems that it has become popular to assume the way to change school meals is to get angry, demand change, don’t quit until you get your way; because you know you are right and know what is best. (I am not pinpointing Mrs. Q, her blog, or this particular post, but the overall tone of school food activism) If an individual approaches me with a proposal, I would only hope that they would be willing to discuss the issue, not demand. I would also hope that they would be willing to work with and assist with any roadblocks that there might be to the changes they would propose.

    I do honestly believe, by working a day with me, taking time to understand current rules and regulations, perhaps it would be possible to understand why even some seemingly simple requests might be more complex than one would think. If I can't fulfill a demand, it is likely not out of any personal desire to do less, make my job easy, or be to be defiant or srgumentative.

    It's interesting that Mrs. Q has commented about teachers and how they want to do the best for students, but may feel they don't have support. Believe it or not, as a food service worker, I feel the same lack of support.

  25. Jeff Gauch September 18, 2010 at 3:54 pm #

    You don't have to feel bad Mrs. Q. There's nothing wrong with the occasional hot dog. There's also nothing wrong with the occasional McDonalds. I don't go there anymore, just thinking about eating there makes my liver hurt.

    I don't think your analogy between the teaching and medical fields works. For one thing the medical field does have results-based metrics. They're judged on how many patients leave under their own power vice the alternative. There are also such things as untreatable diseases. I don't think you believe in unteachable children.

    The biggest, number one, most important factor in the success of a child's education is the parents. I'm sure that's why there's so much hate aimed at teachers, by blaming them the parents don't have to face up to their own failings.

  26. Karol September 18, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

    You are doing an awesome job of educating blogland of the lunches being fed to students. I was completely unaware of this situation, as my child attends a private school and usually takes her lunch. Which at times have been Lunchables (cringe in shame) and I have been known to eat the occasional hot dog. And the sad truth is I enjoyed the heck out of it. Smeared with mustard and pickle relish. MMM. May have to have another one soon. Anywho, when I realized that lunches were not prepared on site, I was horrified. When I was a student in the 70's, the anticipation of lunch was a daily ritual. The aromas coming from the cafeteria of bread baking or spaghetti sauce simmering just seemed to make that clock tick slower. Did we enjoy each and every lunch? Absolutely not, we were children. However, we were never served pizza in a cardboard box. We were served on a tray with real cutlery. We had plenty of time to eat our meal and then had extra time to go outdoors for fresh air until the bell rang for classes to resume. And it did not occur to me that this might be the only meal some of my classmates got that day. Now it makes me wonder. In saying all of that, I wanted to make this point, YOU ARE DOING US A GREAT SERVICE by bringing this to our attention. I, for one, have not perceived your blog as mean spirited towards any group. Not food care workers, not the hot dog industry, not the students, no one. Again, I thank you for the information. You have opened my eyes to a problem of which I was completely unaware. Please, proceed!!

  27. Woolridge ES Green Club September 18, 2010 at 4:55 pm #

    Maggie the lunch lady – That was one of the best comments I've read in a long time.

  28. Mrs. H September 18, 2010 at 5:50 pm #

    Mrs. Q – I really like your idea about changing teaching from a business model to a medical model – more student focused. With classes of 30 or more kids it's hard to do more than just use the test results I get to group kids. I sure would like to use it more individually.
    And…I sympathize with school food service workers – I really do. But I think those of us trying to change things who are not directly involved with food services see them as not taking advantage of the position they have. They are on the front lines. They know things need to be changed. TELL US WHAT TO DO! Maybe it's a lack of communication that is holding things back. How can we support kitchen ladies and support change?

  29. Renee September 18, 2010 at 6:08 pm #

    I think Maggie makes a very good point –that the people who serve meals at school, and even those who are in charge of lunches for a district, are not able to simply make changes they'd like to see. There are many complex factors involved, and lots of history. The changes from relatively healthy lunches cooked on site to pre-packaged, re-heated lunches shipped out to schools did not happen overnight. Even if a district suddenly wanted every school to cook and serve lunches, it wouldn't be possible without significant infrastructure changes. I think these changes will have to come from without, and from above, and bringing scrutiny to the issue as this blog does is one way to effect that change.

    Coming from a family of teachers (although mostly college), I love your idea of a medical model, although I don't suppose it's an exact fit. I think that measuring success in the teaching field requires more complex measurements that are taken over longer time spans –formative assessment, basically. I send my daughter to a small private school with multi-age classrooms and no grades. Assessment is basically all formative, and when we look to see if she (or her classmates) are learning, it's through the work she's done, not a test grade.

    But this kind of assessment requires smaller class sizes, and the public in general would like to make education as cheap as possible. We're happy to pay more to see a sports game than for our community's education. Although I support the idea of public education (and am happy to pay taxes for that, even though my daughter isn't in the public school) I think the system is broken. I admire people who still become public school teachers –a job where you get almost no respect, and a small paycheck given your education and the hours you put in outside the classroom. I wonder, though, whether the job will become so intolerable eventually that no one will want it? Maybe when no one goes into teaching anymore, the public might start to value it again.

  30. Dawn September 19, 2010 at 12:35 am #

    Though I am usually a fan of this blog, I must agree with some of the anonymous commentors. There are so many people here who want to diss lunch ladies and the food served and not try to change it themselves. You can't expect to just sit and whine and actually get something done. I do think Mrs Q should either shush on the whining at the lunch system (instead of going to the school board) or just stop posting…some posts on here have been so biased she should be embarrassed if anyone she knew happened to read it. Plus the thing of being scared and not using her real name is crap – Mrs Q, if you honestly care and want to make a change, stop hiding behind a "mask" and come out as yourself and your real name. Until then, this blog is starting to become a joke.

  31. Mrs. Q September 19, 2010 at 2:18 am #

    Dawn — Please email me directly so that I can tell you more about myself and my story privately. Please do remember that A REAL PERSON writes this blog and works her tush off to do share this info with you.

    I stand behind the content of this blog and I am proud of what I have done here. I will come out when the time is right. So you will get to see my face and real name one day.

    Have a terrific Saturday night!

  32. unclechin September 19, 2010 at 4:12 am #

    Please keep doing the awesome things you are. It must be hard, having to be under-cover and needing to respond to people's negativity and threats to expose you [I'm assuming].

    If hotdogs are fine to you, then they are, to you. We ought to know better than to jump on personal preferences.

    You are providing an education via your blog, and I'm very inspired.

    Thank you.

  33. K. September 19, 2010 at 8:44 am #

    I've recently started eating in a school. The food at my school is much like Mrs. Q's. The children are provided breakfast, which, more often than not is some sugary cereal, a pack of animal crackers, juice, and milk. Lunch is brought to the school cooked and only reheated. As such, we never have things like French fries, because the facilities to reheat are limited. We get a lot of vegetables. Fruit, however, can be one of those fried fruit pies.

    The lunch lady at our school is awesome. But she can only do with what she's given. So yes, I complain about school lunches to anyone who will listen, but I am happy to explain that it's not our lunch lady's fault. The change isn't going to come from inside; it will come from parents and caregivers who are angry enough to demand a change.

  34. Just a girl September 19, 2010 at 8:05 pm #

    The pizza actually looks edible. On some of the other days it looked burnt and gross. I'd rather see some other form of fruit…or at least wedges already for the orange. I'm 25 and don't like to have to peel an orange when I'm at home, I can't imagine having to try to peel it during lunch.

  35. Anonymous September 20, 2010 at 2:49 am #

    SALAD! OH MY GOSH SALAD! I am shocked and pleased and overjoyed! I also remember that you made a salad with your class last year, right? So THAT MEANS when those kids went to grab their lunches this year, they were like
    "oh salad! I remember salad! Salad was good!" *nomnomnom*

    I consider this to be the greatest achievement your school has made since you started this project (my second favorite is the switch to more whole grains, which is also too awesome for words). Hallelujah! Salad!

    Ignore the Negative Nancies Mrs Q. I get what you're doing. Many of us get what you're doing. That's why we check in every single day to see what was cooking. We sob when you have to eat another. chicken. nugget. We laugh when you get a piece of real fruit. Those who don't get it… well… they just don't get it, and it's their loss. In your own small way, whether they know it's you writing this blog or not, you're getting wheels turning in your community and things like SALAD are now on your school's menu. Clearly, you're doing something right.

  36. Shannon September 20, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

    Pretty 😉 Such a difference from the brown meal the other day. Now did the kids actually eat it? I know you've mentioned before that oranges are hard for little kids to eat in the time given at your school.

  37. Anonymous September 20, 2010 at 2:23 pm #

    Yea for salad! Wish it had a few nutritious toppings in there-tomatoes, cucumbers etc, but hey much better than fries. Baby steps in the right direction!

    I love your comments on teaching as being like a medical profession. I have always hated schools being expected to run like a business. Little kids cannot be sent back to manufacturers if they don't perform like we ordered

    (although I think hospitals are starting to be shoved into the business model now as well)

    I am fortunate to be at a high performing school, but the way NCLB organizes things we are hit with our own set of crazy demands in testing. Even though 98% of our students meet or exceed state standards, we must continue to "make progress". It is extremely hard to go from 98% to 99%, and then do we have to be perfect the year after that? Honestly when our administrators broke down the our test scores, or goal was for every single kid to Exceed standards! I think I'm a decent teacher, but every student, ELL, Special Ed, etc each and every one is supposed to exceed standards this year according to our district administrators and the teachers will be blamed for not meeting that preposterous goal.

    I do not know the solution, but I wish I'd at least be asked to give some input on what needs to be fixed.

  38. the milliner September 20, 2010 at 2:40 pm #

    Another Yay! for salad.

    And, Mrs.Q, I don't think you 'wimped out' regarding hot dogs. As another commenter pointed out, hot dogs are, after all, sausages. And even if you're referring to the 'big company, processed' type hot dogs, I honestly don't feel that eating one now and then totally eradicates a year of eating good, whole foods. The same could be said for eating at McDonald's now and then. (And I totally get that one person's hot dog is another's McDonald's – it IS a personal choice.)

    The problem starts when someone is eating these kinds of things on a regular basis, or worse, instead of whole foods.

    So, anyhow, a long way of saying – No need to apologize!

  39. Anonymous September 20, 2010 at 3:01 pm #

    so great to see a salad – it does go well with Pizza. My son has started taking little salads with him in his lunch. I also pack an apple and tell him that he doesn't have to finish it just eat what he can. (way too short lunch times!)

    I remember when I grew up our lunch ladies worked very hard because everything was prepared/cooked in the cafeteria. The only day us children dreaded was pizza day – because that was the only meal they didn't make from scratch. It was cardboard and tasted awful!!

    My how times have changed. And yes, it will take a lot of work to change school districts minds that they need to improve as well as the USDA requirements! too many special interests involved.
    And I want to thank you for you being a teacher. Our teachers in this country do get blamed many times when they should not. Your students are lucky to have you. 🙂

  40. Anonymous September 20, 2010 at 4:52 pm #

    This isn't directly relevant to this post, but to the blog in general! I hope you'll appreciate it – This is an interesting article about water with school lunches in the LA Unified school system – the comments are shocking 🙁

    http://www.latimes.com/la-me-water-schools-20100920,0,5033379.story

  41. Kim September 20, 2010 at 8:57 pm #

    If you were one of the people put off by my comment about hot dogs being a mystery meat festival on a bun, fasten your seat belt because I'm about to malign the salad in Mrs. Q's lunch and then suggest some better alternatives. The salad strikes me a little like a back-handed compliment. I know the food service people meant well, but what came out was a not-so-healthy salad which really was the opposite of what probably was intended.

    I'm saying that the salad is unhealthy for two reasons. First, it appears to be virtually 100% iceberg lettuce which, nutritionally speaking, is little more than a vehicle for salad dressing. Second, as Autumn commented, the preservatives and chemicals in the prepackaged ranch dressing don't exactly give me the nutritional "warm & fuzzies."

    I would much rather see some colorful leaf lettuce and some type of homemade dressing. Packaged natural-ingredient dressings such as Newman's Own may also be a good option here. If that's not feasible, then I'd like to see raw vegetables with or without something to dip them in. For example, the "baby" carrots Mrs. Q had the other day or celery or snap peas or grape tomatoes might be more practical than leaf lettuce. Peanut butter could be a dipper for celery and carrots, and hummus is a great dipper for just about any vegetable. Peanut butter or hummus would also be provide a nutritional boost that most salad dressings would not.

    I really wish Mrs. Q's school would find a way to cut up the fresh fruit it serves so that it can be eaten more quickly and easily within the lunch period. If it can't or won't do that, the school needs to change its policy and let kids take their leftover whole fruit out of the cafeteria and allow them to eat it during the afternoon.

    @undercover caterer, funny you should suggest Nathan's and Hebrew National hot dogs because, for me, beef hot dogs are worst of all. I've eaten both of those brands and that is my opinion. My comment about hot dogs being a mystery meat festival refers to them having things like cartilage, tendons, and connective tissue included as "meat." Do you like to eat stuff like cartilage when you eat meat? You probably don't and neither do I, even if it's ground into a paste, and I don't like to see it as part of a child's regular diet. I also don't like to see kids being served nitrites, nitrates, and crazy high amounts of sodium and fat. Mrs. Q's school doesn't serve hot dogs very often, maybe once a month at most. I'm reluctantly OK with that but some high schools offer hot dogs as a daily choice. I'm not OK with that. That is my strict, ever-narrowing view.

    The notion that this blog blames lunch ladies for what's wrong with school lunch is preposterous. I've read this entire blog start to finish including all of Mrs. Q's entries and all comments. No way has anyone been less than supportive of lunch ladies up to and including this entry. No possible way. Unfortunately, a couple of comments on this particular entry have now changed this.

    UP WITH TEACHERS, MRS. Q!

  42. Daniel September 20, 2010 at 9:09 pm #

    I'm totally jealous of this lunch…

  43. Anonymous September 22, 2010 at 1:05 am #

    The reason McDonalds is so insidious to me is that, while I don't think the food alone is enough to really get kids hooked, their marketing machine and the way they brand themselves in the minds of Americans as some kind of great nostalgic treat is really unfair and evil, especially when you consider how much money McDs spends to do this, how readily kids lap up that message, and how unhealthy the food is.

    I am always mildly grossed out by the bathrooms. We limit McD's visits to long distance travel stops, and if you visit the bathroom BEFORE you order and eat, it doesn't matter how much you might have been craving a burger or nuggets–after you've seen flies landing on dirty diapers, and there's no soap left in the dispensers, you come out and notice the whole place sorta smells like little kids' accidents. Ewwwww.

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