Today’s menu: popcorn chicken, peas/carrots, bread (kids took two slices), pear
I have to admit I was a little crestfallen to see the popcorn chicken. Like I’ve said before I try not to look at the menu to keep it a surprise as well as to approximate the experience of non-reading students, but they are posted in the school. I do pass menus posted right by the door of many classrooms and so I get a chance to see what is coming up. But I see the menu items’ names with unseeing eyes. The meals’ labels register for a split second and then they are forgotten.
A couple of the popcorn chicken thingys were fused together so I could get a look at their spongy interior.
I chat with the lunch ladies almost every day. I want to share what they have told me over the past month or so. One told me about getting burnt on the big ovens and warmers. They all have battle scars (anyone working in food service does). Then she said with a half-smile and a shrug, “[They] pay me to serve, not to cook.” My heart broke in that moment.
Another told me, “I can’t believe you aren’t getting fat eating all of these lunches?! I had to stop eating them because I gained too much weight.” Funny, right? (My weight has not gone up or down over the course of the project)
Yet another told me, “All of these kids…are my kids. If I’m having a bad day, I don’t let them know so that they don’t think it’s them.” That tells me so much about the relationships they build with the kids at my school and the inherent relationship we have with the people who feed us… it’s so valuable. For the kids that lack stable homes (once one of my colleagues had a class roster with eight kids in foster care), building that connection with lunch room staff affects their education in a positive way. As someone who frequently hangs out in the cafeteria, the only problem with not serving the kids one day is that they notice. When I don’t see the regular faces, I wonder where they went to.
I want lunch ladies to receive more credit for the work they do for kids every day. If you don’t think what happens in the lunchroom affects a child’s education, you’d be wrong.
Thanks for your sweet and encouraging comments from yesterday. I wrote what I did not to defend myself, but to clarify what I said. I don’t want my words to be misinterpreted and I try not to offend when I can (some topics are inherently prickly). Like some of you suggested in the past, I think it might be best for me to start a different more personal food blog next year so I can express myself more freely and devote this blog to school lunch info exclusively. I’m overwhelmed at the idea of two blogs, but it could be a better way of managing the personal information many of you enjoy reading and that others of you dislike hearing about. Thoughts?