Day 45: chicken patty

Today’s menu: chicken patty, peas, banana, garlic bread, milk

Definitely edible! The peas, banana, and even the garlic bread were good! Yum. The chicken patty was called “Chicken Parmesan” on the menu. I guess that’s why the sauce was there. I’m assuming parm was sprinkled on the patty or it was an ingredient in the breading. I did not taste cheese at all. The chicken patty is what it is.
This meal ranks high up there in comparison to what I’ve eaten before. I really can’t complain. But I’m wondering wouldn’t it be cheaper to send cooked whole chicken parts (legs, thighs drumsticks, etc) directly to the school, instead of a sending the chicken from the farm to the processing plant and then sending the patty to the school. Would it be possible/feasible to cut out the middle man?
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55 thoughts on “Day 45: chicken patty

  1. I sat and read your whole blog today and I am appalled.

    There is a rare occasion that I don't pack my daughter's lunch and it' s usually because I am too tired or got up too late. On those few days, I send her off with some money to buy a school lunch.

    But not anymore.

    At least my daughter can come home to a nutritional meal. But what of those children living in poverty whose main meal is the one that they receive at school?

  2. Do the foods arrive at your school in the sealed trays? Or is that done at the point of cooking by the school system?

  3. What actually freaks me out more than the food itself is the packaging. Everything is individually wrapped!

  4. It would possibly be cheaper to use real chicken rather than processed patties. And it would DEFINITELY be healthier. And if it were pasture-raised chicken, that would be a dream.

    Still, at least there's a healthy banana and some peas today.

  5. I worked as a volunteer for a food program here in my home town. The school program provides free dinner to the kids. Everything comes individually wrapped and when the kids are going through the line, they must take one of every item whether or not they like it or will eat it.

    Then at the end of the line there is a cart where they can put the food they didn't want. The volunteers go around the dining room to let people take stuff off the cart, but they are not allowed to take it home.

    Anything left on the cart gets thrown away. Even individually wrapped plastic bags of carrots or factory sealed cookies that no one wanted.

    I think it's a huge waste and the food is really not very nutritious to boot. Whenever there is fresh fruit everyone jumps on it.

  6. I am amazed at the packages too! I am a teacher and I eat lunch at my school but what I eat looks like gourmet compared to yours. We do have real chicken! Poor kids at your school!

  7. Too much packaging is the only thing I can say about all of that food. What is on that chicken patty and why are the portion sizes always so small?

  8. I agree that cutting out the middle man would make these meals much more tolerable and nutritious. I have to wonder what toxins are put into that food when it is packaged. Look at a tv dinner, I can not even pronounce some of what is in the cheaper ones.

    I recently went to my old elementary school where a friend is now a sub and was appalled at the lunches that were being served. They look a lot like what your school serves, I am in the south. I was miffed that so much food was being thrown away. I was told that half of the students throw away their breakfast milk because of morning time constraints. It got me thinking on what I remember of my school lunches.

    I remember pizza and chicken nuggets in elementary. I remember that in middle school we had great lunches and plenty of time. They actually cooked but things were fried or heavily salted,like we like it in Georgia lol. In high school, however, more often than not I ate ice cream and french frys because I had to eat something and waiting in line left me with 2-5 min to eat tops. One thing that was constant, no matter what grade, were the availability of soda and other sugary drinks. I actually got in trouble for bringing a tea bag to lunch to make hot tea in high school. I never thought about the awful decisions I was making and I believe that had there been easier healthy choices I would have taken them.

    I applaud your efforts and know that this makes a difference. I have shared your site with my teacher's sub friend. She packs her and her children's lunches. When she is teaching she takes a medium size cooler and "smuggles" the breakfast milks for the class she is teaching that day. I am glad to say that they have recess but the play grounds have been removed and their outdoor toys are limited.

    Your thoughts are wonderful and I hope this system gets reformed soon. Our future needs it!

  9. Absolutely hysterical…..we elect the idiots who do this stuff to our kids, pay for it with our tax dollars and then complain about it online. We need to elect people who spend our money like we do and this stuff would end.

  10. Actually, I'm not sure if it would be cheaper to have whole chicken parts, even though what you say seems logical.

    I'm not 100% sure on this, but I betcha the chicken patties are made of "mechanically separated chicken", which are the little bits of chicken meat left on the bones after the nice big pieces of meat are cut off to sell as boneless chicken breasts, etc. They also might have bits of ground up spent battery hens in there too.

    Basically it's the chicken equivalent of ground beef or sausage (or pet food for that matter), a way to use the little bits that are left over. In theory, I don't have a problem with this, since otherwise it would go to waste, but forming ground chicken into patties also gives them an opportunity to sneak in a bunch of fillers and additives. Also, your patty might have the remains of who knows how many different chickens in it, making it hard to trace if some of it is contaminated.

    Here, I Googled up up the ingredients for a McDonalds chicken nugget. Sorry, but it's really long.

    Chicken, water, salt, modified corn starch, sodium phosphates, chicken broth powder (chicken broth, salt, and natural flavoring (chicken source)), seasoning (vegetable oil, extracts of rosemary, mono, di- and triglycerides, lecithin). Battered and breaded with water, enriched bleached wheat flour (niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, bleached wheat flour, modified corn starch, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, dried whey, corn starch. Batter set in vegetable shortening. Cooked in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, (may contain partially hydrogenated soybean oil and/or partially hydrogenated corn oil and/or partially hydrogenated canola oil and/or cottonseed oil and/or sunflower oil and/or corn oil). TBHQ and citric acid added to help preserve freshness. Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an anti-foaming agent.

    I guess it's possible to give your school the benefit of the doubt and maybe your chicken patty has a shorter ingredient list than McDonald's, but I doubt it. Given that the school lunch program is used as a dumping ground for meat by-products, I can definitely believe that a chicken patty made from leftover chicken parts, fillers, and preservatives (so they can keep tons of it in a freezer for a loooong time) is cheaper for your school to get than drumsticks.

    Besides, I bet most kids don't eat chicken if it's not in patty or nugget form (and don't they have stars and dinosaurs now?). I mean, drumsticks have BONES in them. Bones remind people that they're eating dead animals. Most people I know won't eat meat with bones in it.

  11. I've been keeping up with your blog for a couple of days now, and finally got a chance to post a full-on reply to it at my blog:
    You may enjoy the video I link to explaining how hot dogs are made (then again, you may want to avoid it since you've got more than a few coming your way in 2010).
    I also want to send a hug your way regarding the whole budget situation; the district I grew up and then subbed in has cut more than a dozen teachers and aides, and surrounding districts have done the same — some even more so. It's a sad, scary time to be a teacher in Illinois, and I applaud what you're doing even with the state of our state.

  12. they're probably worried about the little darlings choking.
    I'm amazing at how much trash each lunch produces. When I was in elementary school (less than a decade ago) we had reusable trays and forks. Disposable was reserved for field trips or when the washer was broken.

  13. I work for Food Service at an elem. school in a state across the lake from IL. Individual wrapped lunches are a standard when outsourced company runs the program. Students where I work, self serve and we offer varieties of fruits and veggies to help make it hard not to take a full lunch. Natl School Lunch PRogram has portion sizes and components that must be met to equal a lunch. I eat our school food everyday. I wouldn't eat yours!

  14. Everything looks relatively edible….except for the chicken, which looks horrid.

  15. This is my first visit. I don't know what to think…probably because I am not good at preparing and cooking food, so it's hard for me to judge food when prepared by someone else.
    As a mother of three kids in school, perhaps, I'll learn something from you. 🙂

  16. Okay seen ur posting yesterday on Yahoo and I read almost every single blog u have posted so far….and personaly I can't stop talking about let alone believe it…I'm 23yrs old and a mother of two girls, in which one will be entering Kindergarden soon. (scary) But when I went to Elementray school we had three Recess plus lunch was Super long…i would say at least 30mins. We had P.E. 3'x a week and Music 2x's a week. I just can't believe that they would take that time for kids who need to burn off energy and to strach to being cramed into a classroom for so long. I Just don't understand how its come down to that.

  17. Wow… if that chicken "thing" in the picture tasted good, I would bet that it has MSG in it (and who knows what else, as Anonymous pointed out).

    To the person who mentioned all the breakfast milk being thrown away… that's probably all for the better. I bet they only serve "ultra-pasteurized milk" in schools now… that stuff has a shelf life of 6-9 months.

    Ultra-pasteurized milk is so dead that it doesn't even need to be refrigerated (although it always is, because we Americans would be creeped out by room-temperature milk). Any naturally occurring nutrients and enzymes are killed off, so they add in some nasty synthetic ones so they can advertise it as nutritious.

    I feel so sad for children (and teachers!) who have to eat this garbage every day… 🙁

  18. I wonder the same thing. How can "chicken" patties cut up, processed, packaged in plastic and shipped to schools be cheaper than whole chicken. My husband, who is a chef, has an answer. He says the meat in "chicken" patties, hardly qualifies as chicken. It is all the scraps left hanging on the bones, back, tail (in other words the carcas) of the chicken once the meat is cut away. These leftovers are scraped off, chopped up and formed into patties. It includes some meat and some of it is cartilage, which has the same nutitional value as gelatin. Actually cartilage is 50 percent collagen which is a poorly digestable, fibrous, connective tissue. But chicken patties do have some protien, they just consist of the least preferred parts of the chicken. So it's cost is a fraction of "real" chicken.
    Good luck with your project. I'm a teacher and I applaud what you're doing. I hope our government and communities read this and change their priorities so we can start doing right by our children.

  19. The chicken in question, is more likely than not, chicken that was a government commodity that the is turned back to a "major" processing plant to make chicken nuggets, patties, fajita strips,etc. This happens because, sad to say, this is how kids and their families eat in todays world. At the school that I work at, while we still received whole chickens, we would peel all the skins off the pieces, in order to try and reduce the amount of fats that we were serving. This wasn't a very pleasant task by any means! We do our best each day to make the food palatable for broad age range that we serve. In our school we deal with a multitude issues, from dietary ones to religious ones, and we feel that we should never say "no" to a student if it is at all possible for us to grant thier request. My firm belief is that food should never be a hassle for the students.

  20. I know when I am looking at the frozen meat section, they have bulk packs of frozen chicken patties for much cheaper than fresh/frozen chicken pieces, especially considering the # of kids each would feed. I think someone already mentioned it, but the patties are usually made of leftover meat or meat that isn't aesthetic enough to be sold whole-which is probably why it is cheaper. (100% white meat chicken patties are 3-5x as expensive at my grocery store)

  21. My son is a 1st grader this year and I've learned that school lunches are no better than when I was at that same school as a child. I distinctly recall that pizza (think something like those Totino's party pizzas that are 10/$15), hamburger and bbq rib sandwiches (think McRib) were my favorites. They were the most processed items we got, and the least likely to have been made inedible by time and lack of motivation by the cafeteria staff. I still have nightmares about what passed for "Turkey Dinner"…instant mashed with turkey flavored pudding on top with a slice of formed turkey meat product. Oh…the horrors.
    At our schools and his daycare, the meals are made by the hospital, and if you've ever been to one, I'm sure you feel my child's pain. He's lactose intolerant, and while I have to applaud them for getting him lactose free milk, the actual meal portion is a disappointment. We've discovered dairy hidden in the most baffling places. While this is not often too much of a problem as school, it has been a problem at his daycare. The school always has 2 choices for lunch. The daycare only has 1. The lady who is in charge of the food at the daycare happens to be an old family friend, and keeps us apprised of days when he's going to need to bring lunch, but when she's not there, things are different.
    I realize that times are tough and money's tight but we HAVE to do better for our kids! Between unedible food and almost no physical activity, our kids aren't getting a fair deal in any area of health. I really can't imagine being a child that depends on these meals for most of their nutrition. I wouldn't eat it either. Unfortunately I have to ask my child to eat it. I'm disabled, so we're on a very limited budget, so a free lunch can't be passed up if at all possible. I just try to make sure there's something yummy and nutritious for supper to make up for it…and throw him outside with his friends to play (read exercise *grins*) and get fresh air.

  22. Compared to our district, this is gourmet. Maybe they're on to you. If so and it's making an impact then that's a good thing.

  23. I wonder – do you think, with repetiton and acclimation to these meals, your taste buds and standards have 'lowered'?

    I seem to be seeing a slight trend of 'it is what it is' or 'this is actually good in comparison' and 'edible' more here.

    That is not a criticism, at all, only an observation and thought. Are we doing the same to our kids? Get them used to icky?

  24. I agree with Angela. I'm 10th grade student and compared to our school these meals seem amazing. We have the exact same thing every single day, chicken nuggets or pizza. And neither are any good and half the time they're cold or burnt.

  25. I started reading this blog (yesterday? This morning?) And just finally found time to catch up between work and housework.

    I graduated from High School in 2005. I'm going to be finishing my degree in 2011. So, needless to say that I have not been out of school that long. But for me to read and see what your school is serving is just surreal to me.

    All of my school districts that I attended were fairly "wealthy" by some of the standards today and in inner cities. For the most part, I attended suburb schools, or rural schools, where the food was good, balanced, and nutritional information was easily obtained. After reading this blog, I'm counting myself lucky, and making notes to really look at school districts for when my fiance and I decide to start a family.

  26. The chicken … is hemorrhaging …

    This is a great blog and a great project. Wish more people on the "other" side of the fence would chime in – cafeteria staff, school food service managers, etc.

  27. For what it’s worth, I’d like to think we are all on the same side. *smile* (There are comments from food service workers here.)

    Even though I work in food service, I would only be able to comment on the school I work at, not Mrs. Q’s. While the regulations cover all districts that participate, each school faces many different circumstances as far as specifics.

    While I can’t comment with any authority on why Mrs. Q’s school has a food service program like this, if you are interested in my opinion, I can theorize that at some point it was a budget issue and the choice that was made means these types of meals are the result. I have no way of knowing for sure. I’m guessing that because Mrs. Q has also commented about the large class sizes and teacher cuts, no recess, so I am led to assume the area she works in is struggling a great deal financially (as are most schools). Sadly, I’d guess most of the time, it is not likely food service will be a priority or supported if money can be cut in that area.

    I hope Mrs. Q’s awareness project will both bring improvements to her specific district and inspire more people to learn about how the school meal programs work and be able to bring positive changes at all levels and all schools. There’s a lot of brainstorming, which is not a bad place to start.

    I’d respectfully suggest that those interested would look into the current rules, regulations, funding and so on. From there, work can be done to change those if needed, or to make suggestions for immediate improvement in the current framework.

  28. I am a chef turned lunch lady. I went from cooking high quality steaks and seafood to traying up nuggets and pizza. I have been working for school food service for 5 years.

    The food that you have pictured here looks horrible. The food that I serve looks nothing like this.

    Every day we offer at least two vegetables, two fruits, fresh salad, and pasta. We offer at least 6 entrees for them to choose from every day. The kids really seem to enjoy our lunches(the teachers do also). I take pride in what I serve…if I wouldn't eat it, then I don't serve it.

    I will admit that most of the entrees that we serve are high in calories and processed to the extreme.

    I would love to have fresh, raw chicken and other non-processed foods. The problem is that this would be very expensive. Our lunches are 2.25 for a lunch. For us to have fresh, non-processed foods we would have to raise the price of our lunches. I feel that it is easy to sit in your house behind your computer and look at these pictures and say that you would pay more money for a fresh, non-processed lunch for you child. However, when it's time to put out the money, most parents would start to change tone.

    There are so many variables to school lunch that I feel many people are not looking at. You are trying to provide a healthy lunch, at a resonable price, that children will eat, that the parents will aprove of, that is easy to make in mass quantities. This is not an easy job. Something has to give somewhere.

    I don't know that there is an easy answer here. I do know that trying to find the balance between price, healthy food, and keeping everyone happy is not an easy job.

  29. I worked for a couple years for the federal agency, FNS, within the Department of Agriculture that orchestrates school lunch.

    In answer to your question, it definitely would not be cheaper if they sent whole frozen chicken parts directly to the school. One of the key costs for schools that participate in the program is labor. Centrally processing their food so it only has to be reheated is one example of how they have cut costs. Purchasing pre-processed commodities is another.

    If they had to bread each one of those patties, or process each, they'd be screwed. Instead, they go in with other districts to buy a huge amount of subsidized commodity chicken from USDA, and then they pay less than cent per meal to a processing factory to have the food delivered to them in a form they can use without a lot of labor at all.

    This is all driven by the stupid low reimbursement rate and economies of scale, not by poor planning or stupidity.

  30. Thanks for what you are doing. I work in the local schools as a volunteer and teach a martial arts program to over a thousand children K-8 every year. The schools are in every socioeconomic subgroup and range from private and parrochial schools to lower and upper income public schools. The food is about the same everywhere. Add to this the reality that most schools have cut PE to one or two days a week, and the problems compound. Schools are broken and nutrition is one good first step to fix them. Keep up the fight.

    Matt Pasquinilli

  31. i'm a substitute teacher in oregon, and i'm amazed at how much better our meal choices are!
    kids have a choice of pb&j, yogurt with graham crackers, and usually 2 other hot choices… and then a fruit and veggie bar with whole, fresh fruit, salad, carrot sticks, tomatoes, etc… the occasional canned fruit or veg thrown in, but mostly it's real fresh produce. most kids at least take salad (usually it's a standard salad mix with spinach and sometimes tomatoes added)
    and our milk is local
    plus once a month they do "local lunches" which use lots of locally sourced foods.
    and low income schools have fresh fruit or veggies provided to the kids as a snack every day.

    move to portland!

  32. I just can't get over the packaging. Our kids school lunches come on a real plate. They go down the line and get what they need and the plates get washed for the next day. They also use real utensils.

  33. Have you read Fast Food Nation? The chapter on the meat that goes into the school lunches is especially interesting. Lets just say that whatever cannot be sold to the grocery store is given to the lunch program. The meat is highly contaminated and not fit for human consumption.

  34. I've just finished catching up with all of your blog. As a broke college freshman, who cant afford to eat as healthy and organic as I would like to afford, I agree with the purpose of this blog. I cannot even imagine what goes into out lunches/dinners here at my university, nor what i used to eat in my younger years. This has taught me that I will never send my future kids to school without a healthy organic packed lunch.

  35. Maybe whole chicken pieces might be considered a liability – a choking hazard. I agree that these lunches are incredible collections of processed parts, but in my school, the lunch planners were challenged with the task of choosing "safe" menu items, too. In the lunches that are featured in this blog, I noticed that although the food may look unpalatable, everything seems like it would be pretty easy to eat. It seems funny to consider a chicken drumstick dangerous, but I suppose that makes sense in a world where children are only offered plastic sporks as utensils.

  36. at my school, things are not nicely packaged in plastic containers or bags, they are just "out and on there" on a Styrofoam tray. garlic bread is always good!

  37. um. ew. I'm in middle school right now, and my school lunches in elementary were better than this. The food I've seen here is… odd. Do they not even have apple or orange juice? we had decent meals such as baked potatoes, fresh fruit every day, fruit salads, vegetable salads, and many other choices that were healthy and good. I just wish all schools were like that. I mean, I thought every elementary school had food like mine, but… i guess not. Then again, where I live is one of the wealthiest towns in the country so… I suppose it depends on where you live?

  38. Love what you're doing here to raise awareness about what we're doing to our kids in schools.
    To your "chicken parm" question. There's no legal definition for that (like there is for Parmesan cheese). Likely it has a processed cheese food (read: never was nor will be cheese and not necessarily made with milk). Either put there to make it taste like "parmesan" – which you said it didn't. Or maybe put in more to give some visual resemblance to parmesan cheese sprinkled on something made to resemble chicken.
    BTW, can anyone obtain the ingredient list on school food?

  39. totally appalled at some of this 'food' being fed to growing and hopefully learning children.

    I'm an English lady who now lives in Sweden and has two daughters in government run daycare. They are 4 and 2½ and I can honestly say that what they eat is way more nutritious and plentiful than the food your older kids seem to eat.

    My girls always have a main meal, spaghetti and meatballs, sausage casserole, fish, chicken stirfry, served by the teachers with seconds if required. No classic 'kids food' like burgers or chicken nuggets.)They eat salad with their meal and hard bread usually as a side.. then fresh fruit, with an alternate if they don't like the option. My little one is like mamma and hates oranges, they always find her something else.

    If they attended at the right times, 8am and 2.30pm, they also have breakfast and a snack. The snack at 3pm is hard bread with cheese and coldcuts, milk and perhaps a biscuit.(I just see the trolleys as they go past since we go 9-2)

    Add in the peer pressure thing too and its wonderful, my girls both gained weight after starting… not bad since big sis was off her percentile and caught up nicely.

    The only day the menu could be lacking IMO is when they serve pancakes.. its apparently a classic Swedish thing, even served as a hospital inpatient meal.. Crepe style pancakes with jam and cream for lunch. hmmm.
    But for the little ones they have a nutritious pasta based soup first, then pancakes. So if they don't like the soup the protein content is perhaps a little low.

    Our local newspaper also publishishes the weeks school menus at the weekend too so parents and kids are aware of what is being served.. so if a child were to dislike both alternatives the can opt out. Our meals are incorporated into the daycare costs.. for us only $95 a month for BOTH girls to attend 15 hours a week. I don't know what school meals costs, I'd guess at around $4 for an teachers meal.

    How does it work in the US for special diets, I'm coeliac and having browsed through today haven't really seen any meals I could eat in full. (chances are the chicken teriakyi contained wheat flour via soy sauce.)

    My little one won't drink milk either, perhaps like me that will also be a throughout childhood thing too… I personally hate the stuff.

    Makes me think packed lunches would be our only option.

  40. I was part of a task force that helped to improve our school district lunch program. We eliminated our third party lunch vendor in favor of having our high school kitchen act as the hub for the elementary schools in the district. The move represented the end of all those individually packaged meal items!

    We took back control and introduced a much lower fat to calorie ratio in the meals, all items are made from whole grains, and once a month the district has an ethnic celebration day. Now if a hot dog is served it is made from chicken and served on a whole grain roll. Not perfect, but better.

    Over a couple of years the program was rolled out to all eight elementary schools in the district and has grown to include options like salads or sandwiches for children who would rather not have the hot lunch offering of the day. Even with all these upgrades to the program there are still issues with labor costs, food costs and certain dietary restrictions, however, the improvements have already been so great that I expect the program to continue to make strides in the coming years…perhaps we'll begin seeing organic produce in our lunch rooms someday!

    The truth is we had a district population that wanted better nutrition for our kids and were willing to put their time, effort, and energy into making these much needed changes. It took patience, but it all started with being fed up with lunch!

  41. The lunches I see here are pretty much on par with most of the school lunches I had as a kid in California — everything plastic-wrapped, lots of patty-type items, the fruit no one ate, etc. As a kid, even as a teen, I remember really liking the food. When I did eat the fruit/veggies, it was probably some of the only fruit/veggies I got that day — in an elementary school, I was poor and on the free lunch program, while as a teen I had just formed bad eating habits. When I lived in Arizona briefly, I seem to remember the meals being a lot better, and actually served on real plates.

  42. I ate the school lunch every day because: 1. I was too busy to make/bring my own lunch; 2. I didn't have time (and was too cheap) to go out; 3. I hated to see all those leftover lunches get thrown away. The best lunch was baked chicken, which, mysteriously, we only had a few times, then never again.

  43. I am not sure if you have reviewed this, or written about it, but it would be helpful to understand the circumstances (policy and regulations) of school lunch. The truth is, it is hard to make a profit on school lunch, and many schools rely on government commodities. Guess what those government commodities consist of? Yup, you guessed it; frozen chicken patties, nuggets, tater tots in the shape of a smile,canned veggies and fruit. However, in order to get reimbursement from the government there are specific nutritional guidelines that the meal MUST meet, so it is all not incredibly terrible.

    I agree there is an imbalance in the system. However, I don't think it is the fault of the school, lunch workers, or food service supervisors. In fact, some of the criticisms people left are insulting to the people in the cafeteria who are doing the best that they can with very little means. These people are attacked a lot, for things that are not in their control.

    I think all must realize everyone wants good nutritious meals for our children when at school. The reality is that there must be an overhaul in the system and most importantly more money (taxes?) to make it happen.

    To the people who left complaining comments about school lunch, a piece of advice: Take it easy on the school lunch program, instead, understand the regulations and advocate for policy change.

  44. I am a Junior in high school and only can wish that they would provide healthier meals. I started doing online home school at the beginning of my Junior year for health reasons including high cholesterol and high blood pressure (Hypertension) among other things. Since leaving the public school system, I have lost weight just buy eating a healthy lunch with more fresh fruits and vegetables along with non-processed meats.

    I would love to do a guest-post, but, alas, have no way of taking pictures of the meals being served now.

    I did just look up this month's meal calendar for my sister's high school and was disgusted at what they were serving.

    Processed meat is being served every single day. Salad is only being offered six times doing this month.

    One meal that they are serving is called a "walking taco" (served once this month). I had never heard of it, so I just asked my sister what it was. She said they gave the kids a bag of Doritos, hamburger meat (all greasy of course), cheese and a container of shredded lettuce. The point is to open the bag of chips, dump all three other things in it, hold the bag closed and shake and crush it together, then eat it. Salad was on the menu for that day, she said the lettuce they were given was the salad.

    I could go on and on about the menu, but this is a long enough comment already.

    Basically, I completely support what you saying because I have lived it. I spent the previous 13 years living it.

  45. Hello! I am a Senior at our small (and only) high school in Kent County Maryland. I very recently found this blog and a couple things have really amazed me.
    1) How excited you are over fresh produce! Our cafeteria offers an array of fresh fruit every day. We always, always have red and green apples and you can usually count on pears too. Sometimes bananas and oranges are offered as well. Also, since Kent County is a very agricultural community our produce actually comes straight from local farms when available in season. No matter what is being served, I always save my fresh, crispy red apple for last! Yum.
    2) Your lunch packaging. Why all the individual boxes and plasic? It seems like so much waste and makes the food look so unappealing. Our lunch staff actually serves the food, while not trying to demean the lunch "ladies" at your school, it makes me wonder what they actually do?
    3) How few choices you have mentioned. As I said my high school is the only in the county and we are very, very small. I am talking less than 600 kids in total. But even so we have a wide array of choices every day. My school offers three lines. The first is the "Special" of the day. The second is the hot sandwhiches hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and chicken patties with french fries. Third is pizza, pepperoni and cheese, and french fries. Each line also offers a choice of cold cut sandwhiches – ham and cheese, turkey and cheese (both offered on whole wheat or white bread), tuna fish (wheat, white, or a pita pocket), and PB & J.
    4) You guys only have 20 minutes to eat! Only one word: Crazy. I always just assumed every school had a half an hour lunch. It seems like the perfect time frame to me.
    Overall, reading this blog has really made me appreciate my school lunches more. It has definately taken me a few years to get up the courage to eat some of the school meals and some I simply will never touch in my life. Some of my favorite school meals include shrimp poppers, hot turkey sandwhiches, chicken nuggets, and baked BBQ chicken (I know in one of your posts you asked about individual parts of the chicken: breast, wings, etc. – our BBQ chicken comes like that and we actually get to choose what combination of pieces we want.) I will say some of your school lunches made me a little drool worthy. The penne and rotini pastas looked so good, we are usually stuck with boring spaghetti when it comes to pasta, and I will say… the grahm cracker PB & J sounded so good… apparently it was rather decieving! This is a really wonderful project you have started and as a student, especially one who has skipped wayyy to many school lunches, I appreciate more effort being shown to making school lunches not only better tasting but healthier. I do think our school tries very hard and for that I am thankful, they do a great job and have definately improved over my years at the high school.
    Good luck!

  46. I attended a parochial high school, and it was truly a bizarre situation as far as lunch went. I get the feeling that many people assume private schools are invariably wealthy and only full of 'rich kids' but our school had many underprivileged attendees. There was no subsidy for lunches, as we were not a state school, so poorer kids had to bring from home if possible, or pay full price. What did full price get you? Well, that depends on what you were in the mood for. While our school had a cafeteria, it didn't have a KITCHEN. The cafeteria was stocked with about 20 vending machines. Most were the standard vending machines, with chips, cookies, and candy, and a few ones with doors that would open to access bigger items. We had a Cup-A-Soup vending machine that was always a big hit, when there was actually hot water available to use, which wasn't every day. Other vending machines offered bagel and cream cheese or little salads. Sometimes there would be a fresh fruit option in those machines as well. The bagel was a plain white processed flour thing, often stale, and the cream cheese package was always hot from being next to the lightbulb in the little window. I shudder as I remember the hot cream cheese. The salad dressing was of course hot as well, and the salad warm and limp. Ever had a hot apple or banana? Unappetizing, and the heat creates a weird texture. Occasionally there were little sub sandwiches available in the door vending machines, but I would never eat them because of the soggy bread and warm lunch meat, as well as nice hot packets of mayo and mustard. I felt the meat was a breeding ground for nasties, and at least the hot cream cheese was in a sealed package.
    A typical lunch for me was a diet coke, a bag of wild berry skittles, and a bagel or a cup-a-soup. I'd get a salad if I saw the machines being refilled, and could expect that they hadn't been sitting under those hot lights for too long. Talk about a blood sugar spike! Not to mention the huge amount of sodium in those dehydrated soups. Bagels and cup-a-soups were always big sellers, and if you had the third lunch period, they may be sold out, in which case lunch was likely just a soda, a bag of candy, and a bag of chips.

  47. Find out what the ingredients are in the school chicken patty. At the school where I worked the chicken was entirely processed.

  48. I just discovered your blog this week, and have really enjoyed catching up and look forward to 9 more months. I am confident that you can really inspire change! Did you happen to catch Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on ABC? He's trying to change the food system in America. I think you might enjoy it – check it out. And keep rollin, sistah! You're doing a great thing here!

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