Day 42: cheese lasagna

Today’s menu: cheese lasagna, peas, pear, milk, bread, butter

Wow. Truly monumentally bad. I couldn’t get through the main entree. I was hungry too… I bit the cheese lasagna and it didn’t even pass muster as pasta! Al dente? No, al crappy. The pasta couldn’t hold its form and it crumbled. I ate two bites and I was done. Yuck.

Luckily I keep peanut butter in my desk. I used the two pieces of bread that came with the lunch and made a peanut butter sandwich. The spork was my snife. I would have been so screwed without my little snack stash today.

The pear and the peas were good. If it had been a fruit cup, I probably would have cried.

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91 thoughts on “Day 42: cheese lasagna

  1. This is horrible, yes. But I can say that our school lunches never looked that good nor were good. The best we had were Max Sticks (like hot pockets just filled completely with cheese with marinara sauce served on the side.) Atrocious. I'm pregnant now and when my baby goes to school I'm packing his lunches everyday.

  2. Im a high school student, and I buy lunch everyday. Although our food doesn't look quite as bad as that, it's not the best either. I wish we had a salad bar available for every day. We have one every wednesday, and thats it. some of the food disgusts me. The chicken patty, chicken nuggets, hamburgers, and most of the pizza is disgusting. my favorites are chicken stir fry and pasta bar. We also have fresh bagels and cream cheese everyday, which i eat when im not very hungry or not feeling well. So its not bad, but honestly, it could be so much better.

  3. Now I know why my kids come home everyday asking for dinner, at 4pm. It is because they are not eating enough or at all at school. When you read the menus it seems ok,not the best, but ok for one meal. Then you see what they are actually serving and it is gross. And some children are forced to pay for it! Why don't you just send your kid with a TV dinner, it would be the same food except cheaper. That is what it looks like, a TV dinner that you can buy for little more than a dollar. It is slightly better than what I was served in elementary school, I don't remember any vegetable being served except corn, and never fruit. Entree was usually mashed potatoes with meat gravy, pizza, nachos,mini hot dogs. Why are our schools feeding our children foods that most of us limit to once a month? By junior high I was skipping lunch altogether, in high school it was a bagel and cream cheese everyday or nothing. Or maybe something out of the vending machine, which is where my gatorade addiction started. All this pre-packaged, single serve food has to be costing the schools more than fresh food would, so why are they doing it?

  4. Thank you so much for doing this project! I am a senior in high school, and although our lunches do not look as bad as the ones you are posting pictures of, the nutritional values of our food is horrible. The state recently made some laws that forced the schools to become "healthier," but all they did was take chocolate out of the snack machines. The lunches are still generally all carbs or look like they have had grease poured over the top as a glaze. My school district is definitely contributing to childhood obesity.

  5. Sorry to hear that things haven't changed. I have been retired from public school education for four years and know first hand about the horrors of cafeteria "food". We teach children about nutrition in their health/science classes, and then we send them to the cafeteria to eat unhealthy meals. In my school, we had some healthy options for children, but few children selected the salad and yogurt over the burger, fries and cookies. All food options in a school cafeteria should have sound nutritional value.

  6. All I can say is GOOD FOR YOU !!!! A teacher trying to make a difference. Seems as years pass by the food gets worse. The prepackaged food must cost more and the amount of trash it produces (GO GREEN). I worked making large amounts of food and its possible to make it healthy/healthier at a reasonable price. Do you know how the school budget is determined ? So much per child?

    These children are our future and if we don't start taking better care of them now we are cheating them of a good future. They are already telling us at the rate it is going our children may not reach the same age as their parents before their death. Sad thought.

    Hope your efforts will make a difference thanks for the commitment.

  7. Everything but the lasagna looks ok. Even when I was a child receiving school lunches, I always thought they looked gross.

  8. My trick for eating horrendous school pasta dishes was always to put the horrible pasta ON the bread. My friends and I would call it a starch sandwich. It wasn't great, but hey, it helped the food go down.

  9. I am just impressed that each day your school seems to have a vegetable. That is something. I was an elementary school teacher for many years and I rarely saw a vegetable being served.

  10. I just heard about your blog today and it is fantastic. I teach a Pre-Culinary middle school program and often when I am talking about how not to cook things I have to bite my tongue to not say "the pasta should not be mushy or stiff as it is usually prepared in the cafeteria". My students commented to me today that the spaghetti served yesterday was not "al dente" it was "hard as a rock". I teach a lot of nutritional info to my students and I feel bad when the free lunch kids tell me "but that's what they serve in the cafeteria so it must be healthy". I refuse to eat the school lunch and pack my own kids a hand-made lunch every day. Thanks for the great blog, keep it up!

  11. You probably wont read this, but still…
    I'm a 7th grader in a small middle school in Massachusetts. Our day starts at 7:37 and ends at 1:53. So, because of time restrains, we have lunch at 11:09. We have 22 minutes for lunch, which, for us, is stuff, talk, run back to class. I do not like the school lunches. Our lunches usually consist of a main course and scary looking veggie. I don't care if its the most healthy, delicious thing ever, if its ugly, we wont eat it. What I'm trying to say, is that they need yummy, APPEALING lunches. Something we can dig into!

  12. That lasagna looks wretched! I refused to eat a school lunch for 12 years. During high school, I had a bagel during 2nd or 3rd period for breakfast, then a Diet Coke, an apple, a yogurt every single day from 9th to 12th grades.

    During elementary school, I was so repulsed by the lunches that I refused to eat them. During the 80s, they would serve this scary pizza and some vile processed chicken called "chicken whirygigs." Also, the teachers would drink all of the limited servings of skim milk, leaving only the whole milk for the children. I would have to be aggressive to get a prized pink carton!

    I pity kids with bad parents that failed to properly plan their families and can't afford to feed them properly! I don't know what I would have done for food if my parents weren't providers!

    Your experiment is very brave.

  13. I have seen some truly horrendous things come out of cafeterias, but this takes the cake. Seriously, this doesn't even pass for edible. Thank you for this–you are a braver woman than I am.

  14. Can someone say CARB OVERLOAD?????
    Lasagna, bread, a pear AND peas???
    Dr. Atkins would be pissed

  15. Ok–where's the protein??? That "cheese" lasagna isn't going to cut it. The kids will be tired out quickly on that!

  16. The lunches they are serving you at your school are ridiculous! I pack my kids' lunches because we actually save money that way and they still eat better than eating a school lunch, but I don't think they're as bad as what it looks like here. I went to school in a small county in Georgia in the 80's and early 90's and remember the food being really good. I always wondered what other people were talking about when they said school lunch was bad. We also had the option of a salad BAR (not premade) EVERY day. I don't understand why it can't be the same in every school district. And, why are we contracting school lunches out to private companies? That's what the school district we live in now does. What is up with that?

    I think what you are doing is great! Thank you 🙂

  17. You should see the lunches they have at my high school. One of the main entrees look like a box of mush, with some sort of cream sauce and rice. It looks disgusting, and tasted bland. Think Campbell's Cream of Chicken with mushy rice but just 100 times less flavorful and mostly all cream. And that was just one of the meal selections… Along with that is a normal looking apple and chocolate milk, the only actually tasty part of the meal.

    It's so great you're doing this, I hope schools get something out of this because school lunches are horrible right now!

  18. "The spork was my snife." LOL!

    I think my Kindergartener and I are going to spend the summer experimenting with foods we can pack into her school lunches so we're prepared next Fall when she starts full days. I don't want her eating the cafeteria food, at least not until I've visited and vetted it (yes, parents are allowed to join their kids at school for lunch! I'll be trying it!)

    Another thing I'm worried about — first grade lunch period is at 10:50. School goes until 3:00. She has to eat breakfast at 8:00, lunch at 10:50, then survive until 3:15? I predict afternoon slumps!

  19. I would just like to say that not all school lunches in the us look like yours. I moved to several different places in the us while i was in school. I encountered lunches like this in new york and I agree they were nasty but when I lived in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Kentucky,and Georgia our lunches were a little different. They weren't prepared in those little packages. They were however mass produced and we were served almost no fresh fruit. The fruit mostly consisted of cocktails or fruits in heavy syrup. The meats were always the same each month hamburger, pizza, spaghetti, baked chicken, BBQ chicken, hot dogs, tacos, and fish sticks. I don't remember many other foods.

  20. I go to a public high school in a fairly wealthy district. Most of the kids can afford to pack their own lunches, or even go out for lunch, but we do have a few who are on free or reduced lunch. Last year, school nutrition reform in our state forced our cafeteria to do away with most of the options for students, such as the sandwiches and pizza that were occasionally ordered in. However, the most significant cut was that of the student-run coffee stall in the lobby of our school. The amount of caffeine, needless to say, did not comply with the new requirements. However, before-and-after polls indicated that consumption of coffee among my fellow students was not affected by the removal of the cart. It would appear that my classmates are now going to Starbucks instead. Perhaps because the administration has recognized this, or perhaps because we are facing a grim budget crisis (the coffee cart pulled in over a thousand dollars per day), the coffee cart has been reinstated.

    The main effect of the changes made in the name of nutrition in my school has been to drive students to find food off-campus. I think that it is important to recognize when a school district can no longer control the decisions that students make regarding their food choices. In a high school with an open campus, it is impossible to dictate students' nutrition by what is served in the cafeteria. Legislation passed intended to educate elementary school children should not inhibit a high school's ability to make money for much-needed programs, such as music and art, that are under threat under the proposed district budget cuts

  21. I had this sort of meal at my school yesterday too, but this just looks plain horrible. I took one LOOK at that food and I wanted to walk away. I don't know what I would do for this lunch, I can't eat fruits (I have a medical condition, complicated) so I would be able to eat the pear, and I am not a big fan of peas (its like one of two veggies I will not eat, I eat all the rest of them though!) That just looks yucky, how would any kid eat that?

  22. I really love what you're doing. I understand why certain people may take offense to this, but I also think those same people have forgotten what its like to be a school child. I applaud you for putting yourself in their shoes.

    I've only been out of school for a couple of years and I remember lunchtime vividly. My mom used to pack cold lunches for me in grade school, but she stopped in second grade. Packing a nutritious sack lunch is actually pretty difficult if you plan on serving your child something besides peanut butter every day. In addition, my grade school segregated the sack lunch and hot lunch kids. I was a very shy kid and my best friend happened to be a sack lunch kid, so I didn't enjoy sitting with a bunch of kids that were only interested in stealing my dunk-a-roos. 🙁

    That being said, I ate school lunches for many years, and I can attest to the effect they have on you. My school provided very few options. We had an ala carte line, but it was quickly discontinued. There was no salad bar, though there were sometimes boxed up salads that you could buy, and if you were at the head of the line you might be able to find a container of dressing or chopped ham to go with it. There weren't any vegetarian options. There was one meal served to everybody and you often had to fight your way to the front of the line to even nab a shot at that meal, as they ran out of food fast. The bigger and more influential kids would often walk out, see that the line was long, and casually walk to the front of it. People would push and get forceful. Everybody had to pay full price for these meals unless they could prove they were unable to do so, and kids that fell behind in payments were denied lunch all together.

    In high school we did not have the option to go off campus for lunch. Our only choice was to eat the school food.

    A typical lunch week consisted of what my peers called "crap on a bun" just about every day. Usually cheeseburger, followed by chicken patty, followed by porkchop patty, followed by turkey fritter. I actually liked all of them, but after a few days the tastes all blended together. The lunches were loaded with carbs and starch. Everything was buns, bread, pasta and mashed potatoes. I often felt that a single tray did not thoroughly fill me up and I would go back through the line to get seconds, if they were available, which caught up with me after a while. I've lost quite a bit of weight since my graduation.

    After lunch I always felt very groggy and headachey. On year I had algebra immediately after lunch and it was a struggle to keep my eyes open. When I came home from school I would always be hungry right away. One of my friends used to come over to my place after school and we would both feel so tired that we ended up napping for two hours.

    I knew teachers who ate the school lunches as well and mentioned feeling the same way.

    Don't get me wrong. I acknowledge that I was privileged to be provided with a meal during the day at all. There are even a few school lunches that I kind of miss. I also miss having a (sometimes) full course meal provided for me and not having to purchase groceries or go to a drive thru for lunch. I do, however, believe that there is always room for improvement. I was not the greatest student in high school. Could I have done better if my lunches were more satisfying? I guess I'll never know.

  23. The Lunches at my Children's schools are so disgusting to them that they would rather not eat and they come home hungry. We are a poor family and qualify for free meals. I can't afford to make my kids meals everyday. I do sometimes, like right after payday, but it is usually just a PB&J and a banana. They would rather get that than eat at the school. I feel bad for them because I remember getting free lunches when I was a kid and I looked forward to it. What happened that could have degraded the food quality so badly in the last 15 years?

  24. I suppose I was lucky at my school, but the food wasn't the "greatest" even there. It looks like your food is all microwavable, and they have a giant microwave or something. Seriously. That's terrible to feed kids! And I used to skip lunches at school. Occasionally I'd nab something a friend didn't want off their plate, or bring leftovers, but the most I had was a doctor pepper every day, that I brought from home. I went into starvation mode because of it, though I suppose in a way, we should be thankful the lunches are provided. I went to a school in late elementary / middle school / Freshman year of high school that had no cafeteria. It was a Christian School, so it fell under different regualtions, and didn't get state funding. We HAD to bring our lunches, so once again, I was bringing a doctor pepper or nothing most days. They did have Pizza from a local joint on Tuesdays and "hot lunch" on Fridays, which was something like Taco Bueno or Jack in the Box, but still.

  25. Besides the poor quality of "food," your photos show an astounding amount of disposable plastic containers. We are drowning in trash. Unbelievable.
    Teaching has become an almost impossible job. How can we NOT leave children behind when there are 30+ in a classroom? You have my support and respect. Good luck and God bless you and your colleagues.
    PS. Even as a teacher I always brought my lunch from home – didn't have the funds, even as low as it was compared to eating "out."

  26. When I was a kid going to school, we were fed homemade pasta dishes with salad and fruit with milk. I have eaten those processed pasta meals and they do not taste good at all. It amazes me that our kids are fed junk. My son is only two so I have a few years, but I will pay close attention to the food they serve at school and if it is still junk like today he will go to school with his lunch in hand.

  27. To be honest, most of the pictures you post of the lunches even look MUCH better than anything I have ever seen in my schools! I never make my kids eat the school lunch, but sadly I know that not everyone is that privileged.
    This is so sad…we NEED to do something for our children! They are our future.
    – From Texas

  28. i was a child with a nervous stomach and hardly ever ate more than one thing on the lunch tray because i knew id be sick later in the day. school lunches didnt make me fat but skinny. in 5th grade i got violently ill at school sometime after lunch (not saying it was spoiled or undercooked food). the next morning the dr informed my mother to put me on a strict died, turns out that for some reason i was unable to digest all the saturated fats and other things in fast food and school lunches. mother was on financial assistance and i was enrolled in the school lunch program but due to illness unable to eat at school…needless to say that having to pack a lunch each day put more financial hardships on mother. it would have been nice if REAL food had been made available.

  29. This is a comment about your blog/project in general, but other posts were so full this was the first that would allow me to comment.
    I think what you are doing is amazing, and extremely brave. I wish you SO much luck in your mission. I don't have kids, and not sure I ever will (partly because of issues like these), but I think what you are doing/saying is absolutely necessary! I am so happy to see that there are still teachers who really, truly care about what is best for the children. I know SO many teachers who just don't care anymore, and in these conditions I almost can't blame them. The school systems (from what I hear) are in terrible shape, and we are dooming these kids to a miserable future. I am actually afraid of the type of person school systems are producing, and it's a shame that voices like yours, voices screaming for changes that are desperately needed, are not being heard. BEST OF LUCK AND THANK YOU!

  30. Hi,
    I am from Harlingen, Texas and being in the valley all of my life let me tell you about cafeteria food. I just graduated back in 2008 and nothing has changed. Still have ice-cream shaped mashed potatoes and rice. Lasagna didn't exist at our school they had a spagg dish but it was lacking any sauce. I had to pay full price for a meal which was $1.10. We did have a separate line outside, for the same price, that was like a sack lunch: sandwich, ships, pickle, sometimes fruit, and milk. This was because half of the school had lunch at the same time and we had nearly 1200 freshman at one point. Waiting in line inside for gross hot food was unthinkable. At least lunch is a tad better than breakfast. Try the eggs, oatmeal, or french toast sticks- goo, grits, and cardboard. . .. YUCK. I commend what you are doing. I wish we had actual food. Oh, and they had salads, but you had to pay extra for those: $2 for a salad by itself. Outrageous.

  31. Hi, from North Florida!

    Wow, the food pictures you share look considerably worse than what I remember from school lunch. Either it has gotten much worse over the past 20 years , or my school wasn't that bad, afterall. Several things I want to comment on…

    1 – Why is your bread often directly on the food tray instead of a plate (or at least a napkin)? I noticed that in several of your photos. Yuk!

    2 – Looks like your school uses microwave/prepared meals instead of cooking from scratch. Guess they are trying to save money. I can't believe packaged microwave green peas would be cheaper than canned peas.

    Very interesting blog – thanks for sharing your project!

  32. You get to keep peanut butter in your desk? At our school we have so many kids with nut allergies that PB is practically forbidden. Some kids are so allergic that it can't even be in their classrooms at all. We do have a separate "peanut butter table" for kids who want to bring peanut butter, but my kids never want to sit there. I've pretty much nixed PB from their home-packed lunches at all.

  33. Well I for one can say that my school's food did not look like that. Mind you I never saw lasagna in my school lunch but we got spaghetti on occasion.

    My question is WTF are those little containers your food is in? Now in middle/high school I got paper containers for the snack line (the nacho/nugget/fries line) but I got a tray like in the military in the regular line. Honestly the food we were served was probably a step or two down from that. It wasn't great but it wasn't bad either. We were served salad with our meals almost every meal.

    But looking at that set up I'd be pissed to and bringing my own food to school.

  34. Count your blessings, Mrs. Q. At least your school's peas are actually GREEN. Mine are a revolting shade of brown tinged with shades of vomit.

  35. Hi Mrs. Q.

    I've enjoyed reading your entire blog today. I am a former teacher who taught in a central Illinois high school for 4 years. When I first started teaching at the high school, they incorporated a new district rule: closed campus for lunch. Before then, students were allowed to leave school to get lunch. How they managed this in 20 minutes was beyond me because I've tried to "run" get lunch during my break and that is exactly what I was doing–running. Of course when they closed the campus students complained, but they also "improved" the lunch selection to include a variety of choices including a salad bar, sandwich bar, hot bar, pizza bar, and a specialty bar. The teachers were given an incentive also–eat in the cafeteria and your lunch is free. Since the change, many teachers eat lunch in our cafeteria. There is a designated area for the teachers and I've found it to be a good experience. Of course I agree that the school lunch program needs work, but there are schools who are working to get it right. I am surprised to see the packaged food at your school. Our cafeteria workers spend time "cooking" and I will say that the green beans and turkey pie are always a BIG HIT among students and teachers.

  36. yes while that doesnt look like something i would eat. our school lunches are even worse looking. im a senior in high school and have chosen not to eat luch for the past two years at school. the food kees getting worse.

  37. There is a web site devoted to showing parents and concerned citizens how they can change the food in their schools. It is
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