Day 128: pizza and produce flash mobs

Today’s menu: pizza, salad, popcorn chips, apple.
Yeah for salad and a real apple (love that the apple had a longer stem — evidence of the tree!)…. Also notice that the popcorn chips are clearly marked “gluten free.” Great information on ingredients for me!
Confession: I didn’t eat the pizza. For the first time since January, I didn’t at least take a bite of the main entree. I feel bad about it, but I really don’t want to eat that much gluten and dairy (I really do sleep worse after eating gluten during the day). How weird this project has been…. I was just your normal person with an average “food IQ” when I started out. I didn’t like the pizza at first, then I went through a phase where I enjoyed it, and now I’ve come full circle: I just don’t want to eat it. So I left it in one of the teacher areas. (That’s also what I do when I’m mistakenly given a pint of milk). Someone would have come along and eaten it… things always get eaten up quickly by teachers passing through.
(Side note: Years ago a teacher’s sandwich left in the fridge in the teacher’s lunchroom was eaten. That’s bold — most teachers’ stuff in the fridge is left alone. Usually the culprits don’t leave any evidence, but this sandwich eater had come in and eaten the middle of the teacher’s sandwich, leaving the crusts! That still makes me smile…)

My body feels better since basically abandoning gluten and dairy at home. I have lost two pounds, which has to be in “bloat.” My tummy feels “looser” (no way to really describe it the feeling) and my pants fit a little better.

***

Last night this article was published: Most school garden produce is forbidden fruit in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) lunchrooms. Basically the Chicago Public Schools who are lucky enough to have school gardens can’t even use the food they grow inside the school. They have to take the produce home or sell it. The district and the school food company have an agreement by which no other produce is in the cafeteria unless this other produce meets oddly stringent requirements (basically truly organic) to which the school food company isn’t held.

Who would do this? Is it because the school food company doesn’t want the competition from the school garden? It seems like puny competition in scale. I have to say I don’t understand why a rule like that would be in place…. Those in power cite “safety” but wouldn’t a bigger safety concern be when the kids are actively working in the garden (e.g. they are working with large tools and could fall down) versus eating something they grew themselves?

The idea of taking home a tomato you grew at school is a nice thought. But I think it would be a powerful education tool if it could be sliced up and pieces could be given to each child. We grow it together, we harvest it together, and then we eat it together. (Note: when I volunteered at Common Threads this summer, the kids worked in the garden, then cooked up the food and ate it. I won’t forget one of the chefs holding this massive bunch of Swiss Chard with a huge smile on her face. It’s pretty miraculous to grow something and then eat it with deserving children.)

The Chicago Tribune article above deeply disturbs me. But I have to tell you that this is not new information. I had heard about this already, but I didn’t have a reliable source to quote. In fact, I had heard that at one CPS school in particular which has a nice garden, the kids can’t even walk through the cafeteria holding produce from the school garden. My head is spinning!

But that gives me a great idea for a protest. Let’s walk around carrying produce to unlikely places! Let’s do a “flash mob” where everyone carries produce and then does a little dance number! If they can make ridiculous, arbitrary rules, then we can organize whimsical produce flash mobs…

***

Loyal readers, I just wanted to thank you for checking in and also for forgiving me when I don’t get a chance to tack on a comment after one of your insightful ones. I was checking the google analytics (a hit counter basically), which I look at for a couple minutes every two months and I wanted to share with you that 50% of my daily hits come from returning users (20% are new visitors). Just wanted to thank my “base” (now I sound like a politician on one of those terrible negative ads I keep seeing on the TV…when will it stop!?) for being committed to reading my content every day.

So those of you who are coming back frequently, what other topics do you want me to touch on that I haven’t mentioned? Do you have any other suggestions? I have a corporations post written up for Friday, which I think you will enjoy quite a bit!

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40 Responses to Day 128: pizza and produce flash mobs

  1. Vanessa October 21, 2010 at 2:57 am #

    What a weird rule! I just asked my daughter what happens to the produce from her school's garden, and she said that after it's harvested, it's set out on a special table at lunch for the kids to eat. The lunch ladies steam the vegetables in the kitchen first, and the fruit is raw.

  2. Mallory October 21, 2010 at 3:28 am #

    I LOVE the idea of a produce flash mob. I'm a returning user–I read every post. Like you, I've made quite a journey in my food IQ this year, no doubt thanks in part to you, Mrs. Q.
    I'm glad you posted pizza today! I suddenly remembered the pizza from my high school yesterday: they ordered from a pizza place just up the street. It was called "Custom Pizza" and was no better than most cafeteria pizza. Most days I had a slice accompanied by some soggy french fries and a fruit drink no doubt full of sugar. I could never figure out why people would voluntarily order pizza from them when they had other choices.

  3. Anonymous October 21, 2010 at 4:09 am #

    What's sad to me is that school food quality is so poor that a cup of iceberg lettuce (with practically 0 nutrition and fiber) is considered a "salad".

  4. Monica October 21, 2010 at 4:36 am #

    Why on earth would the CPS agree to a rule like that? If there are exceptions for produce that meets standards the vendor isn't held to, I think I'd just claim that the standards in question are "fresh" and "local". Or that the garden is part of the curriculum, and not the menu, and therefore the vendor should butt out.

    I'd love to see a discussion on school breakfast. Does your school serve breakfast as well, Mrs. Q? Do a lot of the kids eat it? How does eating 2 meals at school change the nutrition equation – especially for kids who likely aren't getting a third meal at home? My first pre-practicum classroom placement when I was in college was a bilingual, special ed preschool class in a city. All the kids ate breakfast right there in the classroom – I remember being surprised to see things like animal crackers or teddy grahams as part of the breakfast.

    I've been a daily reader since January, and many nights reading your blog is both my reminder and my inspiration to go pack a healthy lunch for my husband and myself for the next day. Tonight I'm packing lentil chili with rice 🙂

  5. Nicole October 21, 2010 at 4:54 am #

    A produce flash mob is an excellent idea!

  6. Em October 21, 2010 at 5:25 am #

    As far as other topics go, you've touched on gluten sensitivity, but you haven't talked about other types of food sensitivity that are out there. For instance I have recently discovered that I am allergic to esters. Esters are an organic functional group that in found in many artificial and natural fragrances and flavorings, it is also the primary linkage that holds fats together. Knowing that I am allergic to esters explains many things for me such as why I'm allergic to most beauty products and why I get so sick when I eat meat as a major portion of any meal. I never considered before that I am actually allergic to fats and oils. Unfortunately I have found this out the hard way through multiple emergency room visits over the last month due to ester exposure in an Organic laboratory. If more people knew about these kind of food allergies, or simply that when eating something consistently gives them diarrhea it might be an allergic reaction, they could get tested and avoid the things that make them sick.

  7. Dr. Susan Rubin October 21, 2010 at 5:37 am #

    YES, this is the same stunt that many schools with FSMCs pull. They want to instill fear of bacteria into the minds of parents and school administrators while continuing their profitable way of sourcing food from those who give them volume discounts.

    Your flash mob idea reminds me of the protest that Carlo Petrini organized in Rome that started the Slow Food movement.
    http://www.drsusanrubin.com/carlo/

    I'm game to work with you to get it going. Let's talk!

  8. AlysonRR October 21, 2010 at 7:37 am #

    (((So those of you who are coming back frequently, what other topics do you want me to touch on that I haven't mentioned? Do you have any other suggestions?)))

    I am particularly interested in hearing about schools where the amount of time allotted to lunch has increased. In our schools lunch plus recess are 35 minutes long. In that time students have to leave their classroom, arrive at lunch, pass through the lunch line if they are purchasing school lunch, add condiments like butter for rolls, dressing for salad, ketchup, etc., eat their lunch, and go to recess. There are four long tables for 1-1.5 grades – the next group starts their line 15 min after the first group has finished.

    Today I ate lunch with my daughter for the third time this year. In my adult meal (cost $3.75 – my daughter paid $2.25 – she was excited to buy me lunch 😉 )
    I chose:
    – 1/2 cup lettuce
    – 3 slices of canned pears
    – 4 chicken nuggets (they would have given me 6 but I knew I wouldn't be able to finish them)
    – a large scoop ~1/2 cup of mashed potatoes
    – half the gravy they would have served me (I grabbed the spoon before they could glop on 1/2 cup more)
    – 1 tbsp ranch dressing

    I avoided the kiwi – last time I was excited to see fresh fruit, but I knew from looking at them that they would disappoint like last time – quartered and unpeeled, not particularly ripe. The number that were left on plates confirmed that this is not an effective way to serve fresh fruit!

    My daughter chose about the same, but she got the extra gravy and the extra chicken nuggets, and didn't take quite as much salad or dressing, but she took four baby carrots and skipped the fresh broccoli because she only likes cooked (I hate either – thankful that hasn't passed to kids!).

    Of those, I finished the nuggets, most of the salad and dressing, all 3 slices of peaches, a little gravy to dip the nuggets in (daughter was disappointed there was no ketchup – when I asked I was told ketchup wasn't supplied when there was gravy??? – I heard other kids ask about ketchup – nope). I sat for maybe 5 minutes longer than the kids, leaving as the next group arrived with only two of ~240 kids still eating and therefore missing some of their recess.

    Daughter finished 4 nuggets, most of the mashed potatoes with 1/3 of the gravy, a little salad and dressing, a carrot stick dipped in dressing.

    What I saw from the students around me testified, again, that:
    — 15 minutes is not enough time to eat lunch
    — fresh foods will be eaten if they are palatable (unripe fruit doesn't cut it…)
    — half the food we Americans are paying for, either directly as parents or indirectly in free&reduced lunches, are ending up in the trash.

    I'm happy that our district composts all food products (including meats – not sure how they manage it), but the amount of food wasted each day is appalling. And I think the main reason is the amount of time allocated for lunch. The sooner they finish, the sooner they're released for recess – after a morning confined, that's a hearty bribe.

  9. Stephanie Rose October 21, 2010 at 8:53 am #

    There is some GREAT new research that is being done at Cornell:
    http://smarterlunchrooms.org

    Here is one of many articles about it: http://www.aolhealth.com/2010/10/12/school-cafeterias-add-psychology-to-lunch-line/

  10. Maggie October 21, 2010 at 11:51 am #

    School garden situation – I’d say there’s some hope for the future, since the article cites other districts that have put systems (for food safety) into place. Sadly, it’s possibly a fear of litigation more than any fear of competition. And, back to the point again that the “kitchen” at some schools might not have the equipment and staff to prepare fresh fruits/veggies following food safety rules. (you've mentioned your kitchen is pretty "bare-bones".)

    Topics – How do we keep the quality people who are working in the school meal programs and attract more? Ali touched on this in your post about her entry in a competition. She mentioned a couple of points…I think another point is that school food service jobs may not be jobs that you can make a living doing – and how many people have the luxury to do something like that? They are not year-round jobs, are likely hourly…only for days school is in session, many don’t even qualify for benefits. Granted, jobs such as a director might be a “make a living” job, but what about those in the kitchens?

    Respect is another area. Are meal programs disrespected because they are “bad” or “bad” because they are disrespected? If the meals were truly included as valuable part of the school day, what great things could we do?

    How about touching on cooperation? Food is an emotional topic. I read words like anger, pressure and arm twisting in conjunction with suggestions for making changes to meal programs and sometimes get the idea that many are determined that there is some sort of conspiracy to keep meal programs “bad”. Brainstorming, new ideas, all are fantastic. Still, items such physical facilities, time, and yes, even budget do have to be addressed. Cooperation/understanding between all who are wishing to make changes could help those changes come about sooner.

  11. Anonymous October 21, 2010 at 12:59 pm #

    Hi Mrs. Q- just wanted to put another word in there from your "base". I have been reading since last year and I even guest posted– remember– it was about body image last spring. I read the blog everyday and in my new job in a new place(at a college in the northeast) I find new ways to relate to your posts.

    A local food pantry here is desperate for food. A volunteer group that I advise (I coordinate volunteer service) has decided to bake food, like pies, to donate to the pantry. Did you know that this "can't be done?". It is against the policy of the college because of liabilty– we would have to purchase ingredients from the college and have a kitchen staff member on hand to supervise us.. all because someone might get sick from the pie and sue the college- ahh! The complications never end.

    I've loved your posts lately that have tended to be a little more personal. I sometimes think about what all of this must mean to you as a person and how your life has changed.

    Something that might be interesting is talking more about poverty and the access that poor americans have to fresh, local food. I know this has been touched on– but I would love to ehar about different obstacles, how certain states try and deal with this issue and what local food pantries, shops, farmers and schools are doing to help or hinder quality food access for all.

  12. Anonymous October 21, 2010 at 1:27 pm #

    There was a school lunch/dinner article recently in the post you might be interested in

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/18/AR2010101805040.html

  13. Megan October 21, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    Mrs Q, just keep doing what you're doing! The pictures of school lunches are still my favourite, and I get ridiculously excited for you when you get fresh fruit or salad. It's sort of funny (probably a bit sad for me, hahaha!)… You write insightful and often entertaining commentary on serious issues (and some awesome anecdotes, like the crusts of the stolen sandwich!) and I just want to remind you that we regular readers really do think that you're doing a great job. I'm so fortunate that I have the money to buy real food, and the skills to prepare it. Thankyou for reminding me of that.

  14. Rachel J October 21, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    As a reader, I am more interested in the nutrition content of this blog than in the "school lunch" part. I am not in school nor do I have any family still in school. But reading this blog has changed my eating habits for the better and I would like to be able to apply more of your wisdom to my home. I really enjoyed the "pimp my lunch" entries. I'm also interested in more suggestions for healthy meals. What would make up a healthy brown bag lunch (I bring one every day to work). What actually is a serving of fruits or vegetables and how do I consume my daily reccomendation? This is what I am most interested in (though don't get me wrong, I love reading about the school aspect, too! Maybe some day I will be a Mom after all!)

  15. Kerry October 21, 2010 at 2:33 pm #

    I understand food allergies and sensitivities- I myself have a lactose sensitivity, but I feel as though this blog has drifted slightly from it's original mission. I have been a faithful reader of this blog since since its inception, and I was very humbled by Mrs. Q's pledge to eat school meals every day, just as our children do- in order to shed some light on the (sometimes) horrible food they are being served and how we may improve school lunch programmes across the country. But with this recent adoption of a gluten-free diet, there doesn't seem to be as much of a focus on the quality of the food, and moreso a criticism of how it does not conform to a specific dietary choice. I fully acknowledge that some individuals most definitely do have gluten allergies, but cutting them out entirely seems to be just another incarnation of the low-carb craze- less bloat, more energy (with increased protein consumption) and weight loss- I'm all for it- do not get me wrong, but when you make a pledge to eat the same things our kids are eating- you should follow through- at the beginnings of the blog- you spoke of how you changed your eating habits at home to compensate for all the processed foods consumed at lunch time- unless you have Celiac's, one slice of bread at lunch will not make you sick. Wheat and Cereals are essentially what allowed humans to make the shift from hunter-gatherers, to agrarians dwelling in civilised communities.
    Sorry for the mini-flame, I remain a faithful reader despite my apparent irritation.
    Keep posts like "school's garden produce" coming!

  16. Megan V October 21, 2010 at 4:08 pm #

    I swear that "they" are reading your blog and responding!!! This, aside from the pizza, is the best lunch you've ever been served! And how have they suddenly offered "gleuten free" chips?? that is also a first, right?? You're making miracles happen!

  17. Amy October 21, 2010 at 4:54 pm #

    I agree with what Kerry said — I've been reading this blog since April (I had an evil bout of strep throat and was home from work for about a week and tired of daytime TV) and I loved the original mission of this blog. However, recently I feel that the mission has strayed to the point where now I just glance at the images to see what the kids had to eat for lunch and move on. How can you be "eating school lunch like the kids every day in 2010" if you only eat some parts? Perhaps to focus on your new found aversion to gluten products you can create a new blog, or new posts on this that focus on gluten free meals at home…but, continue to be a trooper and eat like the kids do. Afterall, most kids are not passing over the pizza for the weak iceberg salad (which is surprising because romaine is less expensive and better for you than iceberg…it'd be nice to see them use healthier salads).

    As for school lunch memories of my own…My elementary school on Long Island did not offer school lunch for students in the early 90s…but the middle school did, and I don't remember it being so bad. I loved pizza days and chicken nugget days or meat ball hero days. Our food didn't come in little containers, but rather we had lunch ladies who cooked them in ovens and served the food in metal trays. I used to love rice "snowballs" with some meals…they would scoop it out with an ice cream scoop and it was a perfect little gelatinous rice snowball. In High School, we did have a cafeteria…but we also had open campus for lunch so I never ate the school lunches (occasionally, I grabbed a bagel between classes)

    But with that said, in conclusion, please don't forget the original mission of this blog…I would rather see you stop posting the lunches then to only eat partial portions.

  18. Mackenzie October 21, 2010 at 4:54 pm #

    I agree with Kerry — what's the point of eating the same lunch as the kids when you're not ACTUALLY eating the same lunch as the kids?

  19. Natalie October 21, 2010 at 6:15 pm #

    I just recently became a "regular" reader, and you are a daily inspiration. I get all excited to read your posts in my few quiet post-lunch moments at the office. So I thank you for taking the time to post as often as you do. Love the witty side notes. ; )

    As far as topics, I'm with a couple of the other folks who commented:
    1) I'd like to see something on school breakfasts as well. I was horrified when I flipped our school's lunch menu over to the breakfast side and saw things like this: honey bun, OJ, milk. What?! The very next day: fruit-filled turnover, OJ, milk. And Wed: sausage pancake on a stick (whoa, is that protein?) and fruit drink (ugh, should've known). How could anyone focus with all that sugar?!

    2) The time alloted for lunches. I know that my kids get a half hour for lunch and recess combined. The kindergarteners do get a 2nd recess if they find time in their busy schedule. But, IMO that's hardly enough time for chatty elementary schoolers to get to the cafeteria (wait in line if they're "buyers"), eat, clean up and … get outside to run? What the heck?!

    3) How, we as parents, would even go about changing our local school cafeterias. For me, it's even more daunting b/c my cousin (by marriage) is the "nutrition" director. Oh my gosh, think: overweight smoker, who blantantly ignores her education in her own food choices. Tough situation! : ( But, where are some places to start… perhaps anonymously?? ; )

    Anyways, keep doing what you're doing! I for one, don't mind the gluten-free quips. We've got lots of food/preservative sensitivities in our family, which is what helps keep my commitment to "real" food going. So I feel ya! : )

  20. Anonymous October 21, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

    I third Kerry and Mackenzie. I understand your newfound health benefits of cutting out gluten, but at some point you're going to just be photographing the food and not actually eating it. You may as well stop buying the lunch and start taking candid photos of kids' lunches as you walk by.

  21. Amy in StL October 21, 2010 at 7:15 pm #

    I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who feels a little let down by your decision to only eat the portion you feel like eating and then add peanut butter or something as a snack. I felt a little miserly thinking that; but this was the original intent of the blog. I come to your site to see what the school lunch is and then I usually move on. I was amazed this summer at what some people think of as healthy and that there's such variance in people who are so self-righteous in their idea of how to eat healthy. I don't think there's a right way to eat for everyone and honestly I don't come to your blog to read foodie news or other stuff. I go elsewhere for that. So just keep posting the lunches; unless you're going to keep not eating them – then I guess just give up the ruse and just snap a pic.

  22. Anonymous October 21, 2010 at 7:25 pm #

    I'm less worried about you actually eating what the kids are being served. I like the pictures–whether you eat it or not–if only to show some progress over what youi were eating in January. I, too, have read every blog post. I have a 4th grader who eats school lunch and a 4 year old who prefers I pack a lunch for her. A teacher myself, I choose not to eat cafeteria lunch because of the time factor. Many days I have lunch duty and would have 12.5 minutes to eat lunch. That is what concerns me–too little time, both for me and my girls. Many days I hear that they were unable to finish in the time allotted. On a side note, there is no talking allowed in our elementary school cafeterias. Do you have a similar rule?

  23. WendyGK October 21, 2010 at 8:05 pm #

    I'm in on that flash mob, too. When I was teaching my summer camp cooking classes in Appalachia, I wondered if all that glutenous food they were serving up in the school cafeteria was poisoning a lot of those kids. Their ancestors were swimming around in the very same gene pool that mine came from and who had passed on celiac disease. One day, I hope someone researches the Scots-Irish and English Quaker lineage of my West Virginia ancestors and links some of the health problems of Appalachia to gluten. Very happy to see you mention the gluten issues in school lunch and how reliant the institutional food is on the cheap wheat-based foods. GLuten made my kids act like they had autism spectrum or ADHD issues that are gone now on a GF diet. Wonder how many kids in a classroom would have the same experience.

  24. Mrs. C October 21, 2010 at 8:20 pm #

    For those who feel Mrs. Q is deviating from her mission in not eating all of a lunch, please understand that she is actually hoving closer to the kids' reality: THEY ARE NOT EATING IT EITHER. That's right, not even the pizza. You might be shocked by the number of kids who just scrape the sauce/cheese combo off the crust with their teeth and ditch the base as "cardboardy." And some of them reject it because they, too, are gluten-intolerant.
    As to the "gluten free" chips–that is merely a labelling innovation; as the market for gluten-free products has expanded, more and more companies are finding profit in declaring what has ALWAYS been true of their particular products–that they are and have been manufactures sans gluten. It IS a smart move, of course: making it easier for consumers to identify the products they are interested consuming is a win-win.

  25. PB and Jess October 21, 2010 at 8:55 pm #

    Hey Mrs. Q! I'm another one of your regulars. I especially enjoy your personal anecdotes, and I'd also be interested to hear more about vegan/vegetarian options at your school.

    A few commenters have mentioned that you don't eat all of the school food anymore. If you're avoiding dairy and gluten then that will definitely cut out a large portion of the offerings, but I think you have to put your own health first. After all, if one of the kids was lactose or gluten intolerant then they would also avoid those items.

  26. Hilary October 21, 2010 at 10:19 pm #

    I also agree with some of the previous posters…what is the point of continuing your project if you aren't going to actually eat the food? Nothing is stopping you from making a second, personal blog about your gluten-free and other dietary concerns. This blog has gotten a lot of media attention about you eating school lunch every day for a year, so I feel it is important for it to stick to that mission. There is nothing wrong with making a second blog and promoting it here, but that way those who are interested can read that as well.

  27. Viki October 21, 2010 at 10:48 pm #

    Hi Mrs. Q. I've been reading since March, when I found you I went back and read every post from Jan. on and now you are on my daily stop and read list. Sometimes I comment and sometimes I don't…some times I even email you ;-).

    May I remind readers that Mrs. Q. has not drank Milk at school for most of this quest, however, she has continued to eat the faux cheese and other foods that most of us would not touch.

    The problem with telling Anyone what to eat and how much of what to eat is that we are all different
    AND
    we can not go by the USDA standards = that Pyramid that shows up in books and other literature about nutrition…because Big Ag has bought and paid for the dairy and grain and meat sections on that little bit of propaganda.

    The biggest example of mixed up nutritional thinking I have seen in regard to feeding children is Low Fat Foods. (Accck you scream but what about all the over weight kids????)

    Younger kids need the fat for their brains and bodies…our brains are mostly made of fat, to learn and develope they need fat…
    It is the sugar that is in everything that is making them gain weight.
    Okay
    off my soapbox. I'll let Dr. SuRu take over…she can really make the point.

  28. Just a girl October 22, 2010 at 12:06 am #

    That salad looks pathetic. I hate to say it that everytime that you put up a pizza post it makes me want pizza like I had when I was in school. Now they serve pizza from Pizza Hut or Dominoes.

    It makes me sad that if the students spend the time to help grow the food that they don't get the chance to eat it. Our high school has a nutrition class and they are always bringing some kind of cookie or muffin or sweet treat to class. To me that doesn't seem like the kinds of things that a nutrition class should be making. Then again maybe they are working up things that are more nutritious.

  29. Michelle (What's Cooking) October 22, 2010 at 2:49 am #

    Come on people – the appeal of this blog is not watching Mrs. Q torture herself and eat foods that make her sick. It's about paying attention – REALLY paying attention to the foods that our schools think are good enough for our children. Regardless of whether or not she eats the food, we are able to see through her eyes what the children see on their trays and what they are expected to eat (regardless of their food intolerances, mind you). I love this blog for many reasons, most of which is the simple fact that it is getting people to discuss what we can do to improve the food that kids are getting. For many of the students in any school district, this meal is the only one they get for the day. It NEEDS to be talked about.

  30. Sarah G October 22, 2010 at 4:23 am #

    Oh Mrs. Q!

    I just had to come back and post on yesterday's post after reading today's! I have been a faithful reader since the very first week (yes, I am the moron who couldn't figure out where to subscribe to the RSS feed) and it is one of the first blogs I check in Google Reader each night looking for an update. This blog has totally captivated me!

    Honestly, I am okay with you not eating the school lunch, in light of the health discoveries you have made. What an incredible journey – to start the year as a dairy-eating, gluten-eating normal person and discover so much about your body! Yes, the original mission was to expose school lunches for what they are – and I think you have done a remarkable job presenting the lunches fairly. They are what they are, even if they make us heave a collective sigh most days.

    I think it's okay for your blog to change over the course of the year. You are still posting school lunches every day, right? You are still eating bits and pieces of each lunch, right? The public (in ever increasing numbers) is seeing what you are forcing yourself to eat right? School lunches are at the forefront of many more peoples' minds because of this blog, right?

    IMO, the blog has "matured" more than it has "strayed" from it's original vision. It's grown, taken on new ideas, yet still showing us 4-5 days a week what is being served up for lunch to our children. If you had left your blog the way it started in January, I think by now many of us would be very, very bored. I have learned so much from these side "tangents."

    My favorite was your summer series, "Soup Up My Lunch." Who knew Yoplait was full of HFCS? Because of that post, I have switched the yogurt eaters in my family (I can't stand the stuff) over to Organic Greek Yogurt. What a cleaner ingredient list!

    And because of this blog, I have seriously cut back on the amount of processed food my family eats. That means buying more "ingredients" and less meals, cooking more from scratch, and really reading labels.

    And I have been entirely entertained by the Lunchables discussions. 🙂 Of course, as a person who came of age when Lunchables burst onto the scene, I ate my fair share of them growing up, and even still as an adult experience the occasional craving for one when I would pass them in the grocery store. But after reading this blog, I ate one last Lunchable and can honestly say I am through with them!

    Keep up the GREAT work, Mrs. Q! You are such an inspiration!

  31. Anonymous October 22, 2010 at 7:06 am #

    I disagree with the "purists" that think Mrs. Q should eat it all. First of all, it's her life and lactose and gluten can cause all sorts of misery.

    Second, why object to gluten avoidance now but not lactose avoidance earlier? Because lactose intolerance is commonly experienced and accepted, but glucose is still seen as a bit wacky by those without personal experience of it?

    Third, she's eaten the avoided foods before and already reported on what they taste like and how they affect her. Insisting anyone repeat the process is unnecessary and just cruel 😛

    Fourth, I'm curious as to how the schools handle documented food intolerances, especially lactose and gluten, which are very common yet present in every meal. Can you get extra fruit instead of wheat? More of the protein instead of the milk?

    Fifth, the photos provide a lot of information themselves, especially combined with Mrs. Q's physical description (frozen, soggy, etc). Taste is pretty easy to guess from the appearances, and the appearance alone is important when talking about kids who are likely to dismiss gross food out of hand.

    The purpose of the blog is still being accomplished without eating harmful foods that you've already experienced and blogged about for us.

  32. Kim October 22, 2010 at 6:56 pm #

    Mrs. Q, I understand your reluctance to eat the pizza crust and cheese, but gee whiz, can't you stick a straw between the crust and cheese and suck out the tomato sauce??? 😛 Seriously, don't knowingly make yourself sick for the sake of this blog. Your students, your son, your husband, and your followers (whether they recognize it or not) all need you to be well.

    I would love to hear more success stories about other schools that have reformed their lunches and more details about how they got there. I also think it would be worthwhile to hear about parents who are trying to reform their kids' school lunches, the obstacles they're facing, and what they're doing to fight for improvement. I also love, love, love to hear what lunch ladies are thinking. I don't think we've heard from one who's now working under a reformed lunch program (as a worker bee and not as a manager or supervisor) and what that's like compared to working under a lunch system like your school's.

    I stumbled on this blog back in March. Like some other readers, I went back to the beginning and read all posts and comments so I could catch up. I don't have kids but the photo of your nasty lunch just plain pissed me right off. When I found out how wide-spread free lunches are, it just about broke my heart to see what many of those kids are getting. I got appealing, nutritious school lunches cooked from scratch when I was a kid and I had no idea that kids today were being given anything less. It's just plain wrong and I feel compelled to support the school lunch reform movement in any way I can. If you know someone who could guest blog on ways for non-parents to fight for better school lunches, I'm all ears. I know I'm not the only one of your followers who isn't a parent.

  33. Anonymous October 22, 2010 at 11:13 pm #

    I have to admit I'm with Kerry, Amy, and the rest from above. Unless you are allergic to gluten, the one or two servings of bread in the school lunch isn't going to make you sick. If in fact you are sick later on, there's a bigger chance you are allergic to something else or you have cut too much stuff out of your diet. I don't get how you can cut dairy out of your life when calcium is something every doctor I've ever known has always promoted.

  34. Sam October 23, 2010 at 12:52 am #

    ^ Anonymous is incorrect. Please read Going Against the Grain. One or two servings of bread is going to make you sick in the long run. The bread isn't properly prepared to reduce the phytates, the anti-nutrients that rob your body of the nutrients in the food you're eating.

    I think you're doing a fabulous job on your blog. Don't let the gluten fanatics run you off of your own blog!

  35. Mrs. Q October 23, 2010 at 1:33 am #

    I'm happy that you were able to share your honest thoughts with me. I appreciate all feedback and I'm doing my best to listen.

    With regards to breakfast: I want to tackle that starting in January, but I won't be eating it. Instead I'm going to investigate further what's being served in the morning.

    Regarding calcium from milk, check this out:

    http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/calcium-full-story/

    http://www.vegsource.com/attwood/milk.htm

  36. lori October 23, 2010 at 1:59 am #

    just thought i'd add my 2 cents. i've been following your blog since you were listed on "cheap healthy good," back in january.
    feel free to eat or not as much as you want. i believe that the pictures truly do the job.

    also, i want to echo kim's comment above. i am not a parent and don't plan on ever being a parent. however, i enjoy food and know that feeding the next generation of kids well is vital to our entire society. anything i can do to help from the sidelines would be great.

    finally, to anonymous @ 6:13, don't believe what doctors tell you about nutrition. most med schools don't require students to take even 1 nutrition class. the average well-read lay person knows as much about nutrition as the average doctor. as a vegetarian moving towards vegan, i can tell you that it is easy to get calcium from dark green vegetables and certain nuts, though adding a supplement isn't a bad thing for women.

  37. austingastronomist.com October 23, 2010 at 3:10 am #

    Please keep up the good work, Mrs. Q. Whether you eat gluten or not, you're doing a great job of sparking conversation about the politics of eating in our country. As Kerry said above, I do appreciate it when you focus on the quality of the food instead of whether it adheres to your specific dietary needs. However, I recognize your health and point of view are central to this project. I do enjoy reading about various food allergies, your health, and similar topics as side topics to the daily lunch updates. Thanks for all that you do and please don't get discouraged! 🙂

  38. Shelly October 24, 2010 at 12:25 am #

    You are doing a wonderful job and I enjoy reading this blog, although not everyday, several times a week. I have been reading since the beginning and I'm always pleased with the content. You're doing a great service for these kids!

  39. sherry October 25, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

    as with any writer, you grow and learn over time. I enjoy reading this blog every day. Keep up the good work.

  40. Becky October 26, 2010 at 4:25 pm #

    This is the first time I've ready any comments on this blog and I'm surprised how many people told you to actually eat the whole lunch. Like one person said, the kids aren't eating it either! They may have different reasons, like time or taste, but they're NOT eating the whole lunch every day. But, remember that the kids do not get a choice of a quick spoonful of peanut butter between classes. They're stuck and that's that. That isn't meant to be a slam on you, but perhaps a suggestion on a new post. I wonder if there are ANY schools that do a morning/afternoon snack time past, say, second grade? And, for the teachers who often provide this snack by paying out of pocket, it's completely impractical to serve fruit or veggies of any kind. It's graham crackers, goldfish, and animal crackers, often with juice. Again, sugar, carbs, and wheat. Hmm.

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