Day 44: Hot dog

Today’s menu: hot dog, whole wheat buns, beans, fruit cup, milk (for new readers: the milk is not pictured because I’m lactose intolerant)

I forgot to grab a ketchup packet so I had a rough time getting the hot dog down. The beans were good, but I avoided the fruit cup as usual and just munched on an apple I brought from home.

Kids love hot dogs and I also like a good hot dog in the summer (as I’ve said before I like to have a frank from the grill or at the ballpark). I don’t think there’s anything wrong with hot dogs in moderation, but I get upset when hot dogs are offered frequently to kids, especially during the winter when kids require more robust nutrition to prevent illness.

I worry that kids are getting offered junk and convenience food because adults believe that that’s all they will eat for school lunch. Obviously we want kids to eat, but should not cater to what a 7 year old would theoretically prefer to eat.

Does a schoolchild have the decision making power or the palate to have a preference? Aren’t we in the business of educating children not them dictating what they want? Do they really have a clue what they should or shouldn’t be eating?

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124 thoughts on “Day 44: Hot dog

  1. Just found your blog thanks to a friend. I can't believe you're doing this… I could never. I'm nauseated by your pictures! Thank you for this culinary sacrifice. It is enlightening.

  2. Kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for, and that includes being smart enough to learn to make good food choices. Schools need to stop treating kids like mindless eaters who need only calories and not nutrition. And we as parents need to educate our kids about food, starting at a very young age.

    My blog ( is about this exact topic. It's called Spoonfed: Raising kids to think about the food they eat. And it's all about raising kids to be aware of where their food comes from, how food affects their bodies and why it all matters. I'd love for you to check it out and add it to your blogroll. There are a lot of wonderful blogs out there about making good, healthy food part of the family norm, but not enough people are talking about actually bringing kids in on the conversation. That's what I'm trying to do.

    Thanks for all your work on this project. It's opening a lot of eyes, and that's how change happens.

  3. Mrs. Q-
    I've been reading your blog daily since I was turned on to it by a dear friend on day 22, I think! I just want to quickly thank you for sharing about the horribleness that is your school lunch. I am saddened that children are fed this non-nutritional junk and they are inferring it as a healthy, nutritious lunch. There are many problems in education today, but if you look at Maslow's Heirarchy of needs, the bottom of the pyramid are the things necessary for survival. Children simply cannot learn if they are hungry, tired, etc…so let's feed them NUTRITIOUS food!

    I am an early childhood educator and at the preschool/daycare where I work, we rotate four weekly menus. The food is prepared offsite at the University's dining hall that my school is affiliated with. It is actually quite tasty and mostly nutritional. We have such entrees as: Tofu Fried Rice (YES, many children enjoy it!), Roast Beef, Turkey Breast, Italian Chicken Breast…as well as some "Kid" faves: Macaroni and Cheese (made with whole wheat pasta!), Chicken Nuggets (Made with all white meat), and Chicken Patties. We NEVER serve Hot Dogs as the nitrates in them are a known carcinogen! Also, we never have pizza because it loses it's temperature too quickly (State Regulations are quite different for Licensing Early Childhood Programs).

    Furthermore, the sides we enjoy include: Fresh Fruit or Vegetable EVERY DAY- Apple, Orange, Banana, Carrot Sticks, Salad Cups. There are often Fruit Cups served as well, and these include Mandarin Oranges, Apricots, and Applesauce. The fruit pieces are packed in water.

    I think that there is room for improvement with our foods, and we have worked hard on our snack menus. I also am THANKFUL that my son and the children in my care are served more nutritional lunches than many I have read about on your blog!

    Thank you for raising awareness!

  4. I have been looking over your blog and I was shocked to see what appears to be heat and serve (tv dinner) meals being served for school lunches. I grew up and attended school in western Ky and we were never served food that appeared to be heat and serve meals. We had freshed baked rolls and mashed potatoes which were a personal favorite. I was also shoched to see that students actually have to make their own hamburgers, hotdogs or other sandwiches that are normally served already on buns. The food that you are being served is not appealing at all. And they wonder why the kids dont eat it. It makes me wonder how many kids would choose a salad over a hot lunch if it were offered. I know for sure I would! Doesnt the school realize how much food is being wasted because it tastes bad or looks like it will taste bad? I am not a parent yet but you can bet when I am that I am very catious about the food my children will be served when they are at school and if need be I will pack their lunch everyday to ensure what they are eating is not only healthy but appealing and tasty!

  5. Hey, at least the hot dog's not green like they were at my high school. Also, I'm surprised they don't have OJ for the lactose intolerant.

  6. Just found you and LOVE your blog. I hope folks like you, Michelle Obama, and Jamie Oliver can really make a difference with our school lunch program. I worked the lunch counter in school so it holds a fond place in my heart.

  7. Mrs. Q. I applaud you. I have forwarded the link to our school lunch program. I have also suggested to our school lunch people that we start a School Garden. If our kids help to grow fresh food they will be more excited to eat it too!! My 7 year old loves fresh veggies from our garden that she helped me grow. We live in a small farming community in Northwestern Wisconsin, so we don't have the warm weather that some of the CA schools have for their garden. We usually get about 6 months of winter. But if we can rally as a community with volunteers to help can or freeze the fresh at the end of the season it can last hopefully for part of the winter. I'm crossing my fingers that this can become a reality and our community can come together for our kids. I think this would also make a great educational class, especially for those who live in the city they can do container gardens, you don't need alot of space.
    Once again, I applaude you and hope that school lunches can be improved for our kids sake.

  8. I am new to this blog – and new to twitter! I only joined so I could comment…

    My 5 yr old started Kindergarten this Feb and his new (private Christian) school started a new lunch program that month by Revolution Foods. All natural and organic foods! They are only 3.75 each and each meal comes with veggies and fruit, milk or water only.

    He gets choices like honey glazed chicken breast, BBQ chicken strips, ceasar or sesame chicken salad, southwest chicken raps, beef tacos, tamales, sloppy joes and quesadillas.

    But yes, every tuesday is pizza (still with fresh fruit) and every other friday there is a hot dog option. And, several times a week there are non-meat choices like mac and cheese or pasta and marinara.

    He came from a preschool where they cooked like this every day for lunch and I cook like this for him at home. In fact, last night he decided he wanted only rice and asparagus instead of his chicken.

    We've been blessed not only with the kid we have whose favorite food is broccoli but also a school that cares about what their kids eat.

    Look up Revolution Foods and see if they are in your area – they even have snack foods available at our local all natural/orgainic grocery store Henry's.

    I'm looking at the box of Organic fruit mashups right now: Founders are "Kristin and Kirsten, founders, moms and healthy-lunch enthusiasts"

    Good luck and God Bless you Mrs. Q! I pray you change the world! 😀

  9. Agree. Agree. Agree. I have also taken pics to show our school board and food service provider what the kids are eating. During the month of February, hot dogs/corn dogs/bologna were served more than 40% of the time. When I asked about switching to whole grain or wheat breads, I was told it was too expensive. Also, does your food provider serve "Italian dunkers?" Aramark serves them to our children – – white bread hot dog bun drizzled with tiny amount of cheese product and warmed. Tomatoe sauce is served on the side for dunking. I have a pic of a 2nd grader with only those two items and a milk on her tray for lunch. She didn't open container of tomatoe sauce (the "vegetable" requirement), nibbled the white bread and drank the milk. That was her lunch. Then she's expected to perform academically and behave the rest of the day. It's unbelievable people can sleep at night when they feed that to children and call it lunch. Mine take lunch EVERY day and I've tried to bring attention to the inferior quality of the lunch program on behalf of the children who don't have that option but until the standards are raised by the Child Nutrition Act it's unlikely many districts will make voluntary nutrition upgrades, especially with the budget problems most are facing. I know, I know, a lot can be done without driving up cost. That's my soapbox, but there's little incentive for large food service provider companies to be flexible. I'd love to send you pics I took at my kids' school. I've sent them to policy makers at every level, including the Undersecretary at the Department of Ag and am disappointed in the responses (there haven't been any). We need more people like you to help us concerned parents bring attention to this major problem. My guess is something good is going to come from this. Keep up the good fight.

  10. Mrs. Q, thank you for caring about our children!

    Currently I hold two jobs, one as a 4K teacher and I hate to say that the location I teach at the food (not supplied by my district) is not much better than this. I've never seen anything placed in front of the children that isn't overly processed, from a can, or could be described as fresh.

    Please, all of you who are reading this, think about what is going on in the news. The push to pay teachers based on children's test scores. How is a child supposed to get a great education AND fill in bubbles on a test with this crap fouling up their brain and impeding their learning process!

    How can a child be asked to do their best, when their basic needs are not being met?

  11. I think my niece must eat food like this. When we have family dinners, she doesn't like it when one food touches another food on the plate. This leads me to believe all the food at the school cafeteria is in these separate containers like you are served. To me, some of the fun of eating is the mixing of different items on the plate to create a new taste.

    It's been so long since high school and that much longer from elementarty school, I can't remember if I bought or took lunch. I do remember that they actually cooked the food.

    If I were a teacher or a student in school today, I wouldn't touch that stuff.

  12. Yikes, I know my kids school still cooks a lot of the food. They also heat up a lot of items they get from the govt food program. But most of the stuff is pretty good. Like the mac and cheese comes frozen in a 5 lb bag and they put it in the warming table and heat it up. It is still served cafeteria style on a try. And you never see the little containers of individually prepakaged stuff like in your pictures. I don't think I could eat any of that. Our meals are really good and nutritious. The lunch ladies have rules they have to follow and they do.

  13. I also think a child should be taught to eat what is on their plate or at least try it. When I was in grade school in the 70's you ate everything on your plate or no recess. Well I'm not saying that was right but the kids ate. Now you wouldn't believe how much they throw out or won't even taste. Our school serves good lunches and some of the kids just don't take advantage of it. They won't eat anything different from what they get at home.

  14. I am fascinated by your blog! I work as a lunch lady and it pains me to serve the kids the things we have to offer. Everything breaded, processed to within an inch of it's life, hig fat, and to top it off they can then go to the snack bar for ice cream, cookies, chips, Hostess cupcakes (!) and all kinds of other high sugar, high calorie junk. I have complained to the manager to no avail. Sing out! I will be checking your blog with interest. I believe more people need to understand the poor choices their kids are getting!

  15. I love your blog. I don't have kids but growing up I can remember school lunch. We moved a lot as an Army brat so I have had my share of really great and really horrible school lunches. My advice for you after reading your blog daily…stock up on the ketchup and mustard… 😉

  16. This is horrendous. (Not just the hot dog, though when I was little, I saw a Nova episode about leeches, and one of them looked like a boiled hot dog with teeth, and after that day, there were no more boiled hot dogs for me!) Just the whole blog, the idea that this is what we're feeding kids, is awful!

    I don't have a lot of interest in 'nutrition', per se. I don't always eat what I should. But if I was in charge of food for kids? You can bet I'd do my darnedest to fulfil their nutritional needs!

    And kids aren't only interested in junk, certainly. When my mother was a teacher at a small (underfunded, terrible) school, there was a little boy who she gave an apple to every day. His family (really, the whole town) was poor, he sorely needed what little the school lunches could provide, and his parents didn't buy fresh produce. He was so in love with the idea of real fruit! If schools would start feeding kids good food when they're young, then they won't grow up thinking crap is an acceptable substitute for nutrition!

    But, I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir…

  17. "I worry that kids are getting offered junk and convenience food because adults believe that that's all they will eat for school lunch. Obviously we want kids to eat, but should not cater to what a 7 year old would theoretically prefer to eat."

    I completely agree. I do not trust a 7 year old to know enough about nutrition to completely plan their own meals. When you only feed kids what they will eat with no fuss, that's exactly what you're doing. You're saying, "Here, plan your own meal. You know best."

  18. Just a quick comment regarding what you said about needing better nutrition during the winter months. This is absolutely try but not b/c o the weather.
    There are the same number of bacteria and viruses in the winter and in the summer. The issue w/ getting sick in the winter has nothing to do w/ the weather but more w/ the fact that sugar consumption jumps with the start of the school year (due to school lunches which is why your taking on this challenge) and w/ the onset of Halloween, the Holidays, Valentines day and Easter, Americans consume the majority of sugar in these months.

    So what does that have to do w/ getting sick? It only takes 24 teaspoons of sugar to completely deplete the immune system for 6-8 hours. So we eat a high sugar meal (processed food) then get exposed to bacteria or virus that IS ALWAYS there, then BAM!!!! You are down for the count. You have NOTHING to fight that exposure

    And if nutrition labels are read, there are 4 grams to a teaspoon. So if the label reads 22 grams of sugar at 2 servings per container, then that is 44 grams of sugar OR 11 tsps.

    So, I praise God for this teacher who is doing this but I just wanted to make that small correction.

    Our immune function is dependent upon the food we consume (or don't consume)

  19. I agree with your statement that adults think this garbage is all kids will eat. I'm appalled by the way my sister in law feeds her kids. McDonalds and the like everyday, sometimes several times a day; until recently when the oldest (6) was diagnosed w/ diabetes/ He's now on insulin 3x a day, and they STILL go to Mcdonalds more than once a week. I saw the lunch she gave him the other day and it still didn't seem very healthy – pb&j w/ chips for one, bologna and chips for the other. Why not just feed them a cup of sugar and a stick of butter. The sad thing is, she doesn't cook, and both parents HATE fruits and vegetables, so they don't give them to the kids. I've actually seen these kids turn down a candy bar their mom offered, and ASK for an apple. When we go out to eat they are always stealing half my salad. They are BEGGING for healthier food, and the parent neglect to give it to them because either they don't like it, or they think the kids won't (without ever giving them a choice). It's really sad, and I fear what other health problems those kids will have. It's a miracle they aren't obese! Some people need to get a clue!

  20. My uncle ( now dearly departed ) worked at Oscar Mayer for years, after you find out what is in them you will never eat another one.
    Can't add too much else here without being redundant…hot dogs carry the risk of Listeria and shouldn't be served en masse to children in an institutional setting.

  21. I go to a public middle school in metro minnesota and read your whole blog in about 20 minutes and I think that you are working towards a great cause!! we have hot dogs about twice a month and that is always the day I bring cold lunch because the hot dogs are paler than me!! My school lunch program definatly does their best to be healthy, but I fail to see how a hot dog bun covered in cheeseish material and a scoop of marinara sauce counts as school lunch. I wish you all the best while you eat these lunches everyday!

  22. hot dogs… eww…. they bring back baaaaaaaaad memories. I would have liked to bring a lunch on these day that they only serve 'junk food' (i doubt it's real meat) such as a 'cheeseburger' (mystery meat with cheese), hamburger (mystery meat on a bun), hot dogs (mystery meat shaped like a hot dog), and chicken patty (mystery meat on a bun, breaded with artificial chicken flavoring.) At least, i'm pretty sure that is whats in them, being a middle school student myself. I have tried all of them. All most threw up…. ick.

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