Guest blogger: A lunch from the West

Hello from Washington State!  As an elementary school teacher and foodie, I’ve been reading Mrs. Q’s blog with curiosity, but have never taken the plunge in eating my school lunch…until today.

I had a surprising number of choices for lunch: cheese pizza was the featured item, but a corndog, bean/cheese burrito, and yogurt/blueberry muffin/string cheese were also offered as the entrée.  Each month’s menu has a featured fruit/veg/grain – this month had grapes, pea pods and quinoa.  A fresh salad bar, additional fruit (dried/fresh/canned) and veg is also provided each day, along with 1% milk or fat-free chocolate milk.
I chose the bean/cheese burrito, as I hadn’t had one in awhile (I found out later they’d sold out).  It was surprisingly good – better than anything I’d anticipated.  The flavor/texture was spot-on, and the cheese wasn’t rubbery or greasy.  In the salad bar, I chose grapes, pea pods and baby carrots.  All were crisp and fresh.  Also available was a tossed salad, canned peaches and raisins.  I didn’t see the grain, but I was excited by the fresh fruit/veg and probably missed it.  I was happy to have ranch dressing to accompany my veggies, and I saw a few kids with a similar set-up on their trays.
Our school kitchen is reheat and serve, but we’ve a few things that make us unique.  First, upper-grade students serve the entrée (with gloves, of course), while our lunch lady oversees the line and replenishes food.  All kids help themselves to the salad/fruit/veg bar.  Our trays, while disposable, are compostable.  They cost a bit more, but it’s something our student environmental group supports.  Recycling and composting of leftovers from lunches is also in place, helping to reduce the amount of trash produced.  Our district also publishes menus and nutritional information online, but not ingredients (that I found).
All in all, I was beyond impressed with the lunch.  I’d eat it again, if not for the cost – over $3.00.  I simply do better packing my lunch each day.  But I’m still impressed bythe nutritious, healthful options my district offers students on a daily basis.
–Miss A

*** Thanks for eating school lunch for the blog, Miss A! I’d love to eat that lunch too! ***

NOTE: all guest bloggers have contacted me of their own free will, have given consent, do not know me personally, and are not receiving compensation.  

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38 thoughts on “Guest blogger: A lunch from the West

  1. What an awesome lunch! Comparatively, it IS one of the more expensive school lunches out there, but it's still healthier and less pricey than fast food off the extra value meal menu. I'm impressed by the options and the student servers–great way to save money and teach students responsibility.

  2. That lunch sounds really good. But it is pretty expensive. Also i wish my school had compositable trays.

  3. This lunch looks AMAZING compared to what my kids are served (elementary school in southwestern Ohio)! Truly. I would GLADLY pay an extra 75 cents to have them get this many options.

  4. Sounds like Miss A's school is doing a great job with the menu, about being environmentally conscious, and getting the kids involved in the process. Wish more schools would take this approach.

  5. It sounds like your school is offering excellent choices for students. Why does it seem so hard for other school districts to replicate this?

  6. That is a really wonderful choice! When I was in high school (2002) we had the choice of a sald bar and our lunch was $1.20. Surprisingly enough about 30% of us ate the salad bar food. I hope by the time my little girl is in school they will have better options. I love the blog by the way 🙂 it is very interesting.

  7. I like the idea of having that knid of lunch. It'e healthy and it teaches kids responsiblity.

  8. Man, I wish I knew what school district that was here in WA. Our school district doesn't have that kind of variety. Quinoa? In school lunch? We are so there.

  9. i think this lunch is great. it shows that serving healthy food is not necessarily cost prohibitive. with everyone's mind focused on cost nowadays, this district could serve as a model for others!

  10. Wow, that's a great lunch (with no bright yellow/orange cheese goop in sight)! My daughter (a 5th grader) would gladly eat those fruits and veggies. Sadly, our lunch food looks more like Ms. Q's blog, minus all the individual wrapping.

  11. Miss A – great looking lunch. I am also a teacher in WA and we have great looking lunches like these as well, salad bar an all. I am shocked at the lunches Mrs. Q's school offers. It is definitely ridiculous that our higher income schools have amazing well balanced lunches and the rest of the country eats terribly, especially considering it's the best meal of the day for some kids.

  12. thats REALLY cool. Your school seems to have taken many steps to improve upon school lunches! my question is, do the kids go for the fresh veg and fruit? or do they gravitate to the pizza and corn dogs? I think it all has to do with what goes on at home, and if they are familiar with the fresher, healthier foods. its all about education!

  13. Those of you in Washington State…where are you? I am in south west Washington subbing in two districts and the food in these districts doesn't look like this at all! The food the elementary kids ( I don't see the middle or high school kids food because they eat at the same time as the adults) get looks much more like the processed food Mrs. Q shows. One of the two districts does offer fresh fruit every day but most of the kids waste it. The other district sometimes gets fresh fruit and sometimes gets canned.

  14. Miss A here. I should've been more clear: the student lunch is $2.75 – over $3.00 is for adult. I think the price is about right for the quality/selection. The students really do eat the fruit/veg – I had kids asking for my carrots that had brought lunch from home. One item of canned/processed fruit is offered, but so is something fresh and pre-sliced. The students do like the pizza, but I saw very few corn dogs and a lot of fruit being eaten. After watching what Mrs. Q has been dining on for the past few months, I felt like I had to see what my school really offered. I picked a random day, walked into the caf, and was most pleasantly surprised. And from what I hear, the MS/HS lunches are even better…

  15. What an amazing offering of good foods! I am really impressed. My elementary school lunches were nothing like what was described above. It sounds like the school has really put a lot of effort and planning into the school lunch experience. And the cost is very reasonable! Other school districts need to take notes!

  16. I think it is so terrific that your school is offering a salad bar and whole grains!!! I am curious how you are charged for the salad bar. Per pound? or Is it included in a set lunch price?

    I am finding it amazing that there is such a drastic difference between offerings at public schools!

  17. That lunch sounds and looks very similar to the lunch i got at my elementary school. I think the quality of food each school gets has something to do w/ how much it cost to get the food the to the school. I live in southern california and most people dont know this but most of california is used for farming so getting fresh fruit/veggies isn't that hard or that costly. I think that if the east had alot more farms then the quality of food would be much better.

  18. That's a big improvement on what we've seen on this blog lately. Two veggies is impressive.

  19. That bean & cheese burrito DOES look good! Kids need fiber in their diets and so using a fun menu item they can/will recognize is always a good option. However, I am a bit concerned with the gassy quality of the meal…we don't want any smelly distractions going on in class, hahahaha. 😉

  20. That looks terrific!

    When I was in grade school in Kansas way back in the Pleistocene (actually late '60's, early-mid '70's) it was required that the 5th graders served lunch. We all loved it because we got out of class. We also had to do much of the clean-up – learned to use a commercial dishwasher at age 10!

  21. I don't know, but it seems to me that the quality of school lunches is also going to have something to do with the tax base of the community –richer communities are going to get better lunches, both because they have more money and because the parents in the community are going to expect/demand it. And the kids will be more likely to eat the healthier options because they're more familiar with those from home.

  22. It is so great to see that your school is serving fresh fruits and veggies and wholegrains! I am curious how they charge for the salad bar. Is per pound? or A part of a single fee for lunch?

    I am really amazed by the difference in the offerings from one school to another . . .

  23. I went to a K-12 Catholic school for my entire education, and we always had two huge salad bars open to us every single day. It was amazing to see how many students would crowd around them and load their plates up with fruits in veggies. I'd go so far as to call it the cool thing. But really, children will often make good choices if they are given the option. Sadly, not enough are.

  24. Wow! I want to know some things from this teacher. I am interested in getting my class to compost for our school (I'm in Iowa) and I don't know how to go about doing it. I LOVE it that the older kids serve, we need that kind of involvement. I wish she would post again and tell us her district so we could contact her. I have questions!!!!!!

  25. That does look better than what we've been shown by Mrs. Q, for certain. This hardly seems fair to even comment upon, but why must a school lunch be served on a segmented tray? Even that compostable one looks awful. Is a plain old plate with silverware so wrong?

  26. i have flipped through a number of old posts (just found your blog today) and am curious about the way the food is served. it looks to me like it is a microwave meal that that is headed and then served. is this true?

  27. I am curious about the federal reimbursement rates for lunches. I thought they were the same throughout the country, but perhaps not? Although I agree that this is a great lunch, and at a great value at $2.75, we would not be able to serve it at our school. We get reimbursed at less than $2.00 per meal, I believe (I'm a parent, not an employee, so I may be getting this mixed up.) Because over 75% of our kids are on free lunch, it is not possible to make it up by charging the students more than that.

  28. We have reusable trays and fresh fruits/veggies in Tacoma, but our main courses are usually pretty bad. 2 months in a row now we've had pepperoni & cheese bites, corn dogs, and pizza all in the same week.

  29. Remember folks, she said HEAT-N-EAT. That means if this kitchen takes "commodity" goods from the Feds (most likely) the burrito she ate was made off-premises about a year ago, filled with nitrates and stabilizers and fillers, and trucked to about four different places before it reached that school. The next step to healthier school lunches is to PAY COOKS at the schools to make the pizzas and burritos from fresh hole foods.

  30. Growing up in a Michigan elementary school, this is very similar to what one of my lunches looked like. We had student servers too as well as a choice of food (something I think my district still does). Essentially, 4th and 5th grade classes rotated through servers (5 kids from each class per cycle). Lunch consisted of salad, 2 veggies/fruit, and a main course (pizza, hamburger, taco, or main meal that changes each day – I just looked at our website and they also now offer low fat grilled chicken/bun) I'm actually pretty impressed by the choices and what I've seen there.. especially now that I'm a teacher in a different district in Michigan…

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