Day 39: chili

Today’s menu: chili, green beans, tortilla chips, orange, milk

It could be so much worse so I’m feeling quite grateful for that. The chili wasn’t as bad as the veggie chili I had last week. It makes me wonder if it’s harder to make veggie chili than the meat version.

The green beans were good. I didn’t have a chance to eat the orange because I simply ran out of time. I still want to approach a decision-maker about slicing the oranges prior to offering them to students.

Here’s a transcript of my mini-conversation with a student about today’s lunch:

Mrs. Q: “What did you eat for lunch today?”
Student: “Chips” while making a dipping motion.
Mrs. Q: “What did you dip the chips in?”
Student shrugged.
Mrs. Q (easy follow-up): “Was is chili?”
Student: “No.”
Mrs. Q: “Are you sure?”
Student: “Yep.”
Mrs. Q: “Did you eat the green beans?”
Student: “No.”
Mrs. Q: “Did you eat the orange?”
Student: “N-Yes.”
Mrs. Q (internal dialogue)::snort::

(See what I mean about how they never want to discuss their lunches?!)

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27 thoughts on “Day 39: chili

  1. A group of school cafeteria managers recently had a meeting one morning in my library. They had a discussion about cutting up the oranges or leaving them whole. I found out that they leave them whole so that students who don't eat them at lunch can take them with them and eat them later (after school).

  2. i'm doing a field experience at an elementary school right now and the teacher I'm following around said she has eaten the school lunch twice in her 30 years teaching. I am learning a lot by following your blog and I have started paying more attention to the lunches at this school. I may even get brave and try the lunch if its something that sounds good!

  3. Yeah! I was happy to see a real piece of fruit, rather than a processed fruit cup. And the green beans looked good.

    Was that chocolate milk or regular milk?

  4. Today was burned pizza day (leftover pizza from last week) or ravioli day. I think Chef Boyardee makes better food…and I don't eat that, either! In the salad bar, there was celery, "salad", some sort of fruit and crackers. Yum-NO!

  5. interesting that government-funded lunches include branded items like tostitos. i had no idea.

  6. As far as leaving the oranges whole to allow them to be taken home, when I was working as a sub in my local schools, students were not allowed to take food from the cafeteria under any circumstances. Even if they wanted to take their oranges (or their chips) home, they'd be stopped at the cafeteria doors and told to toss the food. Some students snuck them out anyway, of course, but they had to choose to do wrong in that case.

    Ay yi yi.

    I made a point of eating with the students to see how and what they ate. It was interesting. I remember being amazed that one "lunch" offering was a 6 oz. yogurt cup, half an apple, and a carton of milk. That's it.

  7. The kids know that they're supposed to eat the veggies and fruit, but they don't know why. "It's healthy" is generally as far as it goes for them.

  8. Thinking back to my own school lunch days (I'm almost 40), oftentimes I remember the quality of the lunch didn't seem to matter as to whether kids ate it or not. I say that because I'd see kids routinely trash *homemade* lunches as well. I've never been picky and always been overweight, so I'd be nine years old and lamenting people throwing away really nice looking sandwiches and such.

    It wasn't weird to see a kid pull the ho-ho's out of the lunch, the chips, and trash the sandwich and the apple. And on the hot lunch side, it was very wasteful as well. Kids would eat the brownie and the milk and trash the entree/vegetable.

    I guess I'm saying, I've read a lot of comments where people talk about how great their old school lunches were, but my personal experience growing up in a middle class American school, it didn't seem to matter what the food quality was as to whether kids ate it or not.

    I wonder if anyone else noticed this as a kid. I remember being astonished at the waste, even as a child!

  9. love reading your blog.

    when i was a student in the 70s/80s, teachers would monitor you as you dumped your tray and put it back and you weren't allowed to throw away food. you had to eat it; if you hadn't, you were sent back.

    when my grandmother was a school cook in the 50s, she made everything from scratch. she was absolutely renowned for the quality of her cooking. i still meet people in their 50s and 60s who wax rhapsodic about her food.

    they were still actually cooking the food when i was in school. when i see your little containers of microwaved food and the individual plastic bags of fruit and veg, i am astonished.

  10. wild_hare, I usually ate all or most of my lunch (I'm one of the ones who has posted that she liked her school lunches), but I know what you're talking about. I remember kids who would just have french fries or chips for lunch. It was worse in high school where there were more vending machines and a popular lunch seemed to be fries (or nacho cheese fries), a soda, and a Hostess or Little Debbie snack cake.

    Also, by high school I was making my own packed lunches (but would still eat the school lunch sometimes, if it was something I liked). My usual fare was a ham and cheese sandwich, chips, a piece of fruit, and a cookie. Not too bad. Pretty much the same stuff my mom packed for me when I was little.

    I guess this might have to do with how the kids are raised. I knew it wouldn't be good for me to just have chips for lunch even as a little kid. I knew if I didn't get some real food in me I'd crash and be starving before school was out. Honestly, I didn't know how the other kids managed to eat such junk and survive the day.

    But I think it also helps to have good choices to begin with. Like I said, I think the problem was worse in high school, and I think that was partly because there was more junk food available. Kids can't eat what's not there.

    And I swear the school lunches were better than Mrs. Q's. There were some things I actually liked, and were nice to get when I was running late in the morning or was just sick of making my lunch.

  11. Yuck. Those beans do look good though. They must have been frozen. I've heard several times that several frozen veggies including beans, are better frozen than fresh because the freezing preserves the nutrition that quickly degrades after harvest.

  12. I think it's hilarious that the student couldn't discern that was chili, because it speaks volumes about the actual quality of the lunches.

  13. The oranges kill me. At 24, I still prefer to start peeling them with a knife. I'm sure I could maul them open with my fingers, but they'd be pretty mashed by the time I was done with them. Even if they just cut them in halves, the kids could either finish the peeling job by hand, or eat the innards with their spork.

  14. Mrs. Q, I hope you are able to talk to a decision maker and find out about the fruit question in your school.

    I thought it was interesting to read about the different reasons for cutting vs. not cutting the fresh fruit from a couple of the previous responses.

    At the school I work at, we do cut the oranges into wedges, which are then put in a portion cup. I know, more things to throw out, but it is a way to provide the portion size required by regulation, ease of serving (tongs can be tough for younger students), and sanitation (just picking up the cup, not touching another serving).

    Food is not allowed to be taken out of the cafeteria, due to past issues with food spoiling in lockers or desks when stashed and forgotten, and some other issues as well. Still, the response that mentions students taking the food to eat later has me thinking. Maybe it is something we could re-visit. Cut and un-cut choices maybe? But, the students go directly to the playground after eating. Would that work? Things to consider!

  15. Wow your lunches are some of the worst I've ever seen. I'm feeling lucky about the school lunches my schools served, which I thought were mostly disgusting at the time. The weird little packages everything comes in…what a waste not to mention depressing. It's like a bad quality tv dinner. What kind of habits is this teaching kids? Maybe this is why so many people seem to prefer fast food and tv dinners to actual homecooked meals?

  16. I assure you that vegetarian chili can be fabulous. I make it on a regular basis and get compliments all the time on the taste, from vegetarians & non-vegetarians, alike. Keep up the great work with posting about the horrible condition of our school lunch system.

  17. Mrs. Q., your conversation with the student highlights the need to encourage students to eat, or at least try, all the foods served. Why bother paying for healthier tastier foods like veggies if students just trash it anyway? This is the argument the "nay-sayers" will use. And how can green beans compete with name-brand chips? Green beans don't advertise and don't come in fun packaging.

  18. Gee, school lunches are so pathetic. I wish my mom could make me lunch everyday, but she works, and is too busy. So I resort to buying lunch. Last year, I tried (with high hopes) to change our district's (lol, really high hopes) lunches by petitioning. I kinda failed, but managed to get about half my grade to sign my petition.

    And why exactly is America's school lunches so terrible? I've attended an elementary school in China, and the food is amazing. It's practically restaurant food in a tray. Everyone gets the same thing, with no flashy packaging or choices of different stuff.

    I say that we get too many choices for lunch. If we got one choice everyday, all the money for the nutrition stuff would be used to buy good quality ingredients to make just that one kind of meal everyday.

    My school has three lines, all equally fake, terrible, you name it. The one thing that saves many from hunger is the ice cream (fancy, Blue Bell packaged ice cream, of course), baked chips (lays, sun chips, hot fries, etc.) and cookies. Oh, and the Nestea, and Yoohoo, and gatorade.

    Well, I could go on and on about the retarded procedures to make the "food" they serve (oh, like cutting celery 2 days in advance, so that the edges are grey when we get it), but that would be too lengthy.

    Good luck on changing the food system.

  19. Our school lunches here in Stillwater, OK suck! They say they are heart healthy and have to follow strict "healthy" guidelines. However, the food is absolutely discusting!!! Its bland, nasty and tastes discusting. Its so bad that all my kids bring thier lunch everday. Most of the time they say the food is not what it says its supposed to be…ie the chili in the post. Even thier pizza is gross. If my child forgets thier lunch then end up eathing nothing for lunch which makes me want to cry thinking about them sitting there hungry all day long.
    Even if the menu is pizza its so gross the kids only eat the piece of fruit on the side and drink the milk.
    There has got to be a healthy balance of nutrious yet yummy foods! What our district is teaching the kids is that healthy is GROSS!
    I don't know what's worse the schools that make over proccessed high fat foods or the ones that make the cheapest crud possible or the ones that try to pass discusting foods as healthy. Most of the kids food at our schools are thrown into the trash cans. Get with the program people.

  20. This is a very cool project. I wish it would do some good.

    I guess that I don't agree that the school / government needs to police the lunchs served. I work a full time job and cut grass, shovel snow, and what ever else I can, to pay for the private school for all three of my girls go to. I guess I did something right from the beginning, my kids would rather eat fruit than candy. My wife and I take time to think before we just eat what we want, we think about the kids 1st.

    I allow them to buy about 3 or 4 times a month. I do watch what days they choose so I can watch what they eat. If it is Nacho and Cheese day, I make sure dinner has extra veggies.

    No matter what you get the school / government to do. One meal a day, 5 days a week, 40 weeks a year will not do that much, in my eyes.

    Eduction is the only way to solve this problem. It would also help if the Wii and TV was not the babysitter. I can not tell you how many of my daughters school mates do not get to run and play outside after school. This is a major problem and I wish you all the luck in the world.

    I hope that more parents read about this and help their children. We as a country should be concerned.

    Thanks again – Sarge

  21. OMG I'm sadly jealous of your lunch, this year I finally gave up on eating the free lunch plan I have and am just 'going without'. Sadly your lunches are much better than our best lunches, and our lines are atrocious and our lunchtime is incredibly short but oh well. If I was not to be on the free lunch plan this 'delicious' (not) lunch would cost a whopping 2.50$ hunger included. Occasionally a friend of mine will get his lunch and I will watch as he eats it all, and is still incredibly hungry. Because though us kids are still growing I have the same sized meal as I did back in kindergarten.

  22. Your school should be absolutely ashamed at what they are serving. I work in a school cafeteria. Everything is prepared fresh on site. Most meals are MADE FROM SCRATCH- from the lasagna we served this week to the tacos to the soups. We still do scratch baking- all of our dinner rolls, french bread, cookies and desserts. I would love to be able to post some pictures of the other side of the coin. Unfortunately what you are experiencing is what gets in the news, not the good work some of the rest of us are doing.

  23. at 22, i would be helpless when given an orange without some kind of utensil. i can't imagine being a hurried elementary student trying to deal with that.

    when i was in elementary and high school (same building k12 public school), whenever we had oranges they were cut in quarters, and we would put the whole thing in our mouth so the rind showed instead of our teeth. looking back, i'm a little grossed out because who knows how clean the rinds were.

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