Skipped lunch

Shot from Day 2: the paper containers and their ironic message

I did not eat school lunch today. I should inform all my amazing and devoted readers that there will be large bunches of days in February (and throughout the year actually) where I will not be eating school lunch due to absences (family commitments), holidays, teacher institute days, etc. In an effort to protect my anonymity I’m not going to elaborate…
So instead of a usual post, here are some other random shots I’ve taken since starting the project that I have not shared previously:
Up close shot of the Fruit Punch Juice I drank sipped on Day 5. I was a little shocked by the list of countries that “may” have provided “products” for the juice.
The “cherry icee” from Day 11. Above: a strange label I couldn’t entirely decipher. Probably for legal purposes.
The ingredients of the “cherry icee” …notice no cherry was involved in the production of the icee: it’s apple juice-based. When I read the ingredient list, I tossed it.
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35 thoughts on “Skipped lunch

  1. I always know it's icee day at school when I pick up my class from the cafeteria & all of them have red or purple faces! Blech.

  2. Cherry Icee with no cherry? May contain products of 10 different countries? Food for thought?! Mmmmm… Yummy.

  3. Reading your blog has made me so much more aware of the crap our school systems feed our children! Even though it seems like a hassel, I will start sending my preschooler packing!

  4. Hi, I've been reading your blog since the beginning! And looking at the food, I am SO GLAD we homeschool. Holy moly. I can't imagine what they feed kids here in SC…I'm sure it's as bad or (probably) worse. They could really help our obesity problem by fixing the school food. I'm really amazed you're still doing it, because I know I wouldn't last this long! I'm glad you're willing to, though.

    Besides the food, what bothers me is the food being heated in all of that plastic. Who knows what is leaching out into the food?

  5. It may be surprising to some, but the list of countries of possible origin on the label is standard operating procedure for the food industry. Pretty scary considering the past issues with adulteration (Melamine, etc), and the fact that gov't agencies like FDA and Customs, USDA can only check a fraction of imports. Thanks Globalization!

  6. Glad to see you are doing this. I've added you to my Google reader. I recently spent a week in the kitchen of my daughter's elementary school. The write-up has appeared in Grist and elsewhere. If you go to my blog, you'll find a feature that easily links you to all the articles in the series.

    Good luck. I'll be following along with you.

    Ed Bruske
    aka The Slow Cook

  7. Just be sure to take some extra, extra good pictures of the grilled cheese the next time! I love those things. :): And the tater tot's too!!! 🙂

  8. I've been reading the book "Free for All: Fixing School Food in America" by Janet Poppendieck. She notes that one of the reasons that schools serve mostly fast food in these individual packages is that they think its a way to reduce plate waste — kids throwing away food instead of eating it.
    What strikes me is that no-one is taking into account the amount of package waste. Surely that should be part of the equation when calculating the costs of feeding school children.

  9. Thank you so much for your blog! I'm a teacher, too, and I almost cry when I have to do cafeteria duty and I see what our children eat. The saddest part is that the majority of cafeteria clientele are the students who are on free and reduced lunch programs. It's so sad that we're setting them up for a lifetime of horrible eating habits, not to mention the potential damage that we're doing to their growing bodies in the meantime.

  10. You may be shocked by the list of countries that may have supplied fruit for your juice… but I'm happily surprised by the lack of added sugar or HFCS or any additives whatsoever. It's just fruit juice.

    Good for your school.

  11. Have you ever read the ingredient list on the Hostess Blueberry Pie? No blueberries. Apples and artificial color.

  12. I'm surprised nobody commenting on here except anon above have remarked on the label you found on the icee. In case you don't want to wade through the USDA's legal doublespeak regarding standards for school lunches (although you seriously should check out anon's link above at some point if you have even a passing interest in how this stuff makes the cut as 'food'), to wit, this icee can be used in substitute for juice, which can be used then in substitute for fruit/vegetables in the standards system for what each lunch has to comprise.

    this brought to you by the very same people who called ketchup a legitimate substitute for a fruit/veg in the 80s.

  13. A friend sent me the link to your blog and I think what you're doing is great. As a soon to be RD and a mom of 2 school-aged children, I'm happy to see a teacher acknowledging the problems with school lunches and bringing attention to it. I'm fortunate that in my kids school, there is a salad bar, fresh fruit, veggies and beans, but its still far from perfect. At our previous school they served funnel cakes for breakfast. I understand its one meal a day, but for some kids its their only meal, or their highest quality meal. There is no reason our kids should be expected to perform well in school while being fed about as good as cattle.

  14. You have been passed the "Honest Scrap" Award. This is given from one blogger to ten chosen for there honesty,inspiration, passion and soul. For more details, and to pass the award to ten others please see
    Thank you!Renee

  15. The idea of ketchup being classified as a vegetable was indeed proposed, but never passed as a regulation.

    Is there any way to make improvements within the current standards and funding? Where do we start? What do we do?

  16. You DO know about the fact that manufacturers have been known to de-ionize (there may be other things done, not sure) apple juice and use it instead? De-ionzied apple juice is devoid of color, flavor, and nutrients. IE: sugar water. I read it in a fact book somewhere. Give it a google and see? (Sorry about the inexactitude of my examples, the title might have been 'True Lies: Sweetened with Fruit Juice'…read this years ago.)

    I hope they've stopped doing that, but I don't hold out much hope.

  17. You're doing a good job so far so you shouldn't be nervous at all. Man! The school should start thinking about minimizing the amount of trash it's generating. My school didn't have that problem. The only plastics that were involved were the utensils and the tray. That's about it.

  18. If you read the sheet that comes with medicine you probably won't take the medicine. My wife quit some of it. On TV they spend 10 seconds telling the benefits of a medicine and then 45 telling of the possible side effeccts. What'll we do?

  19. This is an eye opening blog! I would LOVE to see (pics) & read more about where these products are made, I was releived to see the carrots said "product of the USA" but I worry where the rest of this stuff comes from. I'm going to check out the caf at the school my son goes to & see if they are serving this pre-made (TV dinner like) food or if it is more like what I remember when I was in school which was a LONG time ag0:-) Heres a link to one of the companies that makes some of the products shown here:

  20. ms. Q
    please keep surepticiously photgraphing the labels…………..there is NO WAY….that stuff is meeting the SRDA for school children.
    I would know.

    keep on keeping on.

  21. Hey, I think it's great that somebody's stepping up to sort of prove just what's in our school lunches (other than the typical horror stories about lunch that have been going on for a while). My school's lunch looks delicious by comparison to what your kids have to eat, at least they make it in the kitchen there. They probably only do that because they have 600 kids to feed total, combined middle and high schools. Still, I do think that the national standard for a school lunch really needs to be changed.

  22. My first thought was about FDA regulations about the truth behind the labels. Wouldn't that violate regulations not to have any cherry in a cherry icee? And wouldn't common sense tell you that some cherry should be in it, much less as the first ingredient? lol I shudder when I read this. Although I understand why you are anonymous, I would love to know who you are. I think it's great that you have spotlighted the need for better stuff in school lunches. I'll be cheering you on from Pittsburgh, PA. 🙂

  23. The reason the cherry icee had apple juice instead of cherry juice was probably because apple juice has a lot of natural sugars, so the apple juice was basically a way to get more sugars in. (Grape juices are also used in similar cases.)

  24. No wonder there are more and more kids acting out in class these days! That cherry icee has high fructose corn syrup, which can raise triglyceride levels (increasing the chance of heart disease) and LDL cholesterol levels. It also has red dye #40, which may create the following reactions in children: temper tantrums, hyperactivity, aggressive behaviour, uncontrollable crying and screaming, kicking, nervousness, dizziness, inability to concentrate and still still. It can also give you headaches and migraines, upset stomach, and can just make you feel ill in general.
    Do you ever notice a difference in your students after they eat "foods" like these?

  25. Just an FYI, many cherry and grape juices, and juice "icees" are apple based. Its cheaper for the companies to produce a fruit based drink from apples, then flavor it cherry/grape/etc. than to actually use cherries or grapes. I found that out a few years back when I was wondering why one of my name brand gape juices contained no actual grape juice.

  26. Is it absolutely necessary to drown the sugary Icee in Red#40? The wrapper is already red. Is that not enough?

    Last year in my travel to Scotland, I stopped in the grocery store every other day.

    Different grocery chains, all had one thing in common. Food seemed a lot healthier then the food here in the States.

    Canned, and packaged food didn't contain MSG.

    Candy, gum, jello.. did not contain artificial colorings, all were derived from natural sources, such as grape skin, beet juice, etc.

    In the veggie section, so many veggies were grown in disposable pots (no soil) but the roots were still intact and watered to keep the veggies crisp and fresher.

    I mentioned what I noticed to the cashier at one of the stores, and she had explained that people in the UK were made aware of the harmful effects of artificial colours, especially the blue and red dye, and certain ingredients in food. Enough people stood together, refused to buy those items and demanded change from the companies.

    Familiar names such as, Heinz, Nestle, and Campbells are some of those companies that changed their recipes to satisfy the people of UK.

    Likewise I believe you, and others will be able to replace the unhealthy school lunch program with healthier food choices, (meal choices with children in mind) nutritious real food that the children will enjoy to eat.

  27. Note- whoever asked about the labeling laws, it doesn't have to have cherry in it to be called cherry, it just has to be "cherry flavored" but that doesn't really mean anything. Consider candy like jolly ranchers. They don't have juice in them, they are just flavored as such.

    I don't remember much about school lunch rules, but I majored in nutrition and I know that 3/8 cup of juice is NOT a full serving of fruit,(a pear or large apple would be equal to 1 cup of fruit or juice in the new food guide pyramid).

  28. Did anyone else notice that "preferred" is spelled wrong on the fruit punch packaging? Apparently, it's distributed by a company called "Prefered Meal Systems, Inc." And "single strength juice" is very disconcerting!

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