Foodie sound off: Here’s your lunch — now shut up!

I got this email from a reader:

[We recently moved and my] kids are told there is no talking for the first 15 minutes of lunch. Some people tell me this is “normal” [for the area].  It might be normal but it is not healthy or natural.  It there any scientific evidence that would prove to my administrators that talking in moderation aids the digestive process, helps with social skills and teaches natural consequences (if you spend all your time talking and not eating you will be hungry)?

To answer the question, I think that this parent is in a great spot to talk about this issue with the classroom teacher and the principal. Because she is new, she can almost “play dumb” and ask lots of questions about why the school does this, as if it’s a completely foreign concept.

Here are my ideas:

1) Talk to the classroom teacher. Ask about lunch. Find out about the number of opportunities to socialize.

2) Stop by the principal’s office. Introduce yourself, tell the principal what you love about the school, then mention the fact that your child is unhappy that he/she can’t talk with friends at lunch. Mention how vital it is for new kids to get a chance to talk and make friendships. How can a new kid find friends if they can’t talk at lunch? Can the kids talk in their classroom? Or is that silent too?

3) Join or start the PTA and/or the Wellness Committee. Meet other parents and neighbors who help make decisions about the school. Make them aware of this. Honestly, many parents, and even some teachers, may not know about it.

I think about school lunch as an opportunity for enrichment. A chance to eat new foods and meet new friends. I mean, isn’t education is about opening new doors? It shouldn’t stop over the lunch hour.

As far as research, this is all I could find with a simple google search:
Socialization myths: Silent lunch at public schools
Behavior and Learning in School/Silent lunch

What do you think about silent lunch? Can you help me find some research that the reader can present in favor of a change?

Lunch Wrap Up #9

I don’t remember the last time I felt this good. I think my body heals with every passing day, but this week I’ve felt especially good. Being gluten-free and dairy-free agrees with me. I’ve lost about 6 pounds in the 11 weeks since I stopped eating school lunch. I’m almost at my pre-pregnancy weight.

Mornings this week have been crazy as usual. My priority is my son and his lunches so I have less time and attention to devote to what I’m going to eat for lunch. I just throw something small together. One of the main reasons is that, just like my students, I have so little time to eat at school. I bet many of you have looked at my lunches and thought, “That doesn’t seem like enough.” Believe me, it’s a very short lunch period and what I pack I can’t always finish.

So we made kale chips. They blew my mind. We used this recipe for kale chips. I can’t stop stuffing my face. They don’t look very appealing in my photos, but they are unbelievable. My son just crams them in his mouth. In fact, we were playing together on the couch and I pretended to nibble him (toddlers are delicious!) and he turned to me and pretended to eat my arm and said, “Eat you like kale.” I almost fell onto the floor.

And I made purple coleslaw. I had never made coleslaw before, but when I was at the store I bought a purple cabbage. I chopped up half a cabbage, one apple, and one carrot and used this Honey Lime dressing. My husband said it was the best coleslaw he ever ate. It was another one of those things I just couldn’t stop eating.

Click below to see our lunch pictures (I’m putting jump breaks into these posts so people can avoid photos of my boring lunches when they land on my blog):

(we’re both gluten free, dairy free)
Chicken kabob (shredded), applesauce, mac and chreese, yogurt,
mandarin orange, purple coleslaw

Last weekend we went out for dinner to a place that had a gluten-free menu. So I ordered chicken kabobs and shredded one piece for my son’s lunch. When I realized I only had one broccoli left in the mac and chreese (also a leftover), I packed some of the precious purple coleslaw (far right). He ate everything per daycare, which I think means that he ate most of the food. Daycare menu: American cheese sandwich, chicken noodle soup, applesauce, peas with fruit and ice cream as snacks

Salmon, rice, kale chips, strawberries, pita bread,
chocolate coconut yogurt, kiwi slices
The daycare folks said he ate everything, but he told me that he didn’t eat the rice, which doesn’t surprise me since he’s not a big rice eater. I planned this meal without the daycare’s new monthly menu because it wasn’t available the night before. Hello March! Daycare menu: Diced ham, rice, orange wedges, green beans with fruit and yogurt as snacks.
Fish sticks, blueberry pancakes with syrup, strawberries & yogurt,
mashed sweet potatoes, sliced kiwi, bar

I caved and gave him the gf fish sticks that we bought on sale at Whole Foods. The other kids were eating chicken nuggets and I wasn’t sure how thrilled he’d be about the pancakes. At home he’s not much of a pancake lover. He doesn’t eat as well at our dining room table as he does around the table at daycare. Even though he’s eating different foods than the other kids, peer pressure still works great. Well, the daycare folks said he ate everything. Daycare menu: Chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes, diced peaches, diced carrots with fruit and yogurt as snacks.

Pasta, sauce, and peas with daiya “cheese”, applesauce, kiwi, cupcake,
egg and kale chips

We have discovered daiya! It was on sale at Whole Foods, but regardless wow does that taste like cheese. Our son loved it. Also the kale chips are back. I made them the night before, but they wilted in the fridge so I baked them again in the morning to crisp them up. He ate everything. Daycare menu was: Ground beef, pasta, bread, diced pears, peas with fruit and blueberry muffins as snacks.

Bacon, blueberry pancakes, roasted carrots and onions, yogurt,
egg, sliced apple, bar

Pancakes again because I figured that since he liked them earlier in the week, I had a chance that he would eat them again. I roasted simple veggies the night before and he like them, even the onions. They say he ate everything. Daycare menu: Pasta and meat sauce, mandarin oranges, green beans, with yogurt and bread with soynut butter as snacks. – Pasta two days in a row on the daycare menu — strikes me as odd.

Quinoa & chicken crockpot leftovers, purple coleslaw,
mandarin orange, kiwi, chunk of chicken kabob

This is what happens when you have less than five minutes to assemble lunch. Random and weird, but it fed me just fine.

salmon and rice, kale chips, strawberries, KIND bar

In a word: delicious!!

Crockpot chicken, rice, beans, and spinach, bag of kale chips,
mandarin orange, banana, KIND bar

I decided to try to make my own crockpot meal (translation: no recipe) with red rice, chicken, chicken broth, pinto beans and spinach. It was very, very plain. My husband and son didn’t care for it so I took it for lunch for three days in a row.

Chicken and rice crockpot thingy, kale chips, strawberries,
mandarin orange, KIND bar

I used to have to avoid eating too much citrus because I thought it gave me canker sores. Nope. It was the gluten. I haven’t had a canker sore since I stopped eating gluten and now I can eat all the citrus I want.

Chicken and rice crockpot thingy, apple, mandarin orange, KIND bar
´╗┐Repeat lunch, but satisfied my taste buds.

Food in the news

Random tidbits you should know about:

Jane Black’s Slate Article: School Lunch Is Not the Answer
Reactions from The Slow Cook: Whoever said fixing school lunch would solve obesity? and The Lunch Tray: Is It Fair to Lay Childhood Obesity at the Schoolhouse Door?

My thoughts: Childhood obesity is a big deal. It’s not something any school district can afford to ignore. Parents shape their children’s nutrition and culture from birth. But starting in preschool or kindergarten, schools have children during the heart of their day — school is your child’s work.

Schools contribute to the obesity/nutrition issue in a positive or a negative way. School districts should strive to make sure that if they were ever called up in front of a judge to testify about their involvement in the obesity epidemic that they could say with all honesty that the school district did nothing to contribute to obesity and that it was all home environment. Right now school districts that offer pizza every day, chicken nuggets three times a week, and no recess can’t say that.

Jackie blogged with a trailer for Lunch Love Community, but what I really love about this post is her quote:

School food is a global issue and diet related health problems are hitting the poorest and most vulnerable citizens the world over. What a difference decent school food programmes could make if we cared enough to act. – Jackie Schneider


Chef Tim Cipriano is cooking up some exciting flavors for our nation’s governors inspired by the HealthierUS School Challenge. (NH School Food)

Speaking of the HealthierUS School Challenge, First Lady Michelle Obama is looking to find some additional schools to sign up by June. (ObamaFoodoRama)

Also I think I like the new mayor of Chicago’s ideas about food (ObamaFoodoRama) Maybe one day we’ll have lunch.

Study finds asthma linked to gluten (SureFoodsLiving) — so interesting considering that after six months of school lunch, I was diagnosed with mild asthma! And then they are also finding a link between Vitamin D and allergies (The Lunch Tray). Recently I was diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency. Very interesting indeed.

Daily recommended servings of fruit and vegetables for just $2 a day (Feed Our Families Blog)

Using solar power for sustainable energy use in cooking (Civil Eats)

People are planting their seeds/seedlings for spring! Signs of Life (Dissertation to Dirt) and Seed Starting! (Sugar Spice) I cannot wait for spring — are you planting anything this year?

Also you can participate in getting food to those who need it:  ShareUrMeal to donate to hunger relief in Philadelphia every time you snap a picture of your food (The Lunch Tray) as well as Eat out Thursday in DC to benefit DC Farm to School. (Better DC School Food)

And for laughs — feeding babies 7-Up! (The Lunch Tray)

Unions, pensions, and tenure…oh my! (part two)

I remember when I interviewed. Towards the end of the hour or so we chatted, my boss pulled out the salary schedule and pointed out how much I would make.

She said, “Here’s your salary, but add in your pension pick-up and this is your total pay.”

Honestly, I didn’t think much about it. It wasn’t until later that I realized that getting a pension meant not paying into social security. It hit home when I saw my W2 the next year — big $0.00 for social security.

Um, what??!

I like getting the yearly social security statements. The unmistakable envelope with the green, italicized font “Social Security.” It’s like good tidings. My husband and I both save them in a binder. Looking over those statements is oddly comforting. I like seeing when I first started working in high school and made a whole $332 one year. It went up little by little every year, including my college years because I worked.

Well, those statements still arrive in my mailbox, but mine show zeroes. That lovely upward trend? It plummeted. In fact, at this point in time I haven’t contributed enough money to get social security. That’s a moot point because I wouldn’t be able to get social security with a teacher pension. You can’t “double dip.”

When I saw my first W2, I thought, “Well, I won’t do this forever. One day I’ll work at a social security job again.” That remains to be seen.

I know that social security and pensions are both unreliable. The government doesn’t have any money. But somehow in my mind, social security seems more secure. It’s probably because I have a family member who works in pensions and risk — funding is a big deal and many pension plans are underfunded. On the other hand, there’s no social security “lock box.” You know, I have a darn social security number and that’s got to mean something (insert laugh here).

With the governor of Wisconsin concerned over pension funding,, I have to take a step back. Being a young worker, I have lots of time because my best working years are ahead of me (I mean, hopefully…fingers crossed I’m still attractive to employers when I come out). Frankly, I’d consider opting out of the pension system and jumping back in to social security. I’m only speaking for myself here, but like I said, social security is what I know. That’s what I understand.

But what about my coworkers with 15, 20, 25 years in the system? No social security and only an underfunded pension? What’s going to happen to their retirement?

As with many complex problems in education (ahem, school lunch), there is no easy way out. I am just one person and I’m not an expert, but I think that pensions need to be funded properly — if not, then what’s the point of having a pension? Social security is not in great shape either. That’s why I try my best to contribute to my 403(b), which is a 401k for teachers. Regardless, I’ve figured out I’m going to be working for a long time.
Read part one about unions from last week and next week, I’ll tackle tenure…

Further reading:
Teacher salaries by state
The meaning of overpaid (The Economist) — good article
GM’s Pension: A Ticking Time Bomb for Taxpayers? (Time)
Social Security (Wikipedia)

Guest blog: What’s On Your Plate?

Note to readers: What’s On Your Plate? sent me a free copy of their book because the blog appeared in the school lunch chapter. The words of the blog post are theirs, but the photos of the book were taken by me.

Hello, we’d like to introduce ourselves. We are the What’s On Your Plate? project. It started out with an idea, then came a movie, and we have now developed curriculum and a family activity/recipe book as well as some really cute t-shirts, buttons, posters, and pins.

What’s On Your Plate? the movie, is a witty and provocative documentary produced and directed by award-winning Catherine Gund about kids and food politics. Filmed over the course of one year, the film follows two eleven-year-old multi-racial city kids as they explore their place in the food chain. Sadie and Safiyah take a close look at food systems in New York City and its surrounding areas. With the camera as their companion, the girl guides talk to each other, food activists, farmers, new friends, storekeepers, their families, and the viewer, in their quest to understand what’s on all of our plates.

Following the film project, the What’s On Your Plate? team set to building a community to make the film’s impact as large as possible. Through this process, we met new people, re-engaged with the original community and learned from new projects. We decided to make a book with all the lessons and ideas we found- including Mrs. Q’s journey! She shows up in our chapter on school lunch.

In What’s On Your Plate? the book, seven kids and their families explore the food chain, sharing fundamental questions and vital discoveries. With honest, humor, and creativity, they face serious issues including the lack of access to fresh food; health problems such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and food allergies; and the national school lunch program. They celebrate time together by cooking and gathering at the table. The stories, recipes and terrific activities in this book will inspire readers of all ages to be conscious of what they’re eating and where it comes from, and to make positive changes in their homes, schools, and communities.

It’s been a wonderful experience meeting and learning every step of the way. We have a screening map that you can check to see if What’s On Your Plate? is coming to an area near you, or you can host your own screening. If you are looking to enjoy What’s On Your Plate? at home, we have DVDs and books available in our shop and it is also available for streaming on Netflix. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments- we’d love to meet all of you.

You can watch the movie trailer below: