Hitting a wall

I’m just worn out. I don’t want to eat any more school lunches. I’ve lost the pleasure of eating lunch, the little respite in the middle of the day. I’m tired of the food. I wish I had more control over what I’m eating….

The first month of the project it was “fun” thinking about trying a new menu item. “What am I going to eat today?” I might think. But now that’s gone. I just hope it’s not PB&J again, or worse, cheese lasagna.

When I first started the project I didn’t want to check the menu so that I didn’t “spoil the surprise” of what was for lunch. Now I glance at the menu a couple times per day, but conveniently forget what is coming next even within the same day. I’m in lunch denial.

But I am still moving forward. I can make it until summer…. summer…. I can’t imagine doing this for 12 months. But 10, with a two month break? Ok. Three down (almost), seven to go!

I can do this, I can do this, I can do this…

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59 thoughts on “Hitting a wall

  1. These four paragraphs speak volumes about the psychology and emotionality that always accompanies food.

    It's sad, really, that school lunch turns the lens from one of "food is pleasure" to "food is consumed out of necessity".

  2. So lets thinks of what the students feel like! They get the same choices on repeat. I remember being in school and saying oh it's friday…leftovers!!!
    I think it is not easy what you are doing but maybe worth it in the end with enough acknowledgement.

  3. You can do this, i know its tough eating the same thing over and over again, but you are really starting to make a difference, your words are being heard.

  4. When you think about the kids who get this as their main meal or only meal of the day….wow!

  5. I love your blog! I think what you are making a much-needed point about the state of food in this country. You have a choice in what to eat, but like you point out, so many students/parents do not have any choice but to have school lunch. At the very least that meal should be a good one!

    I always wondered as well, even if processed food must be served, why does it have to be fried foods? Can't it still be something remotely healthy? It's as if the federal guidelines for meals are junk (and they probably are)!

  6. The middle is the hardest part to get through. Be strong, you are accomplishing real good here!

  7. I hope you look forward to your lunch on the weekends and really savor every bite of the food you can control. 🙂

  8. You can do it "Miss Q."!

    This is an awesome undertaking and as mentioned, it reveals some of the psychology behind food.

    There was mention of how the kids might think in another comment… I think it's quite different. They didn't walk into this as a whistle blowers. They don't understand just how bad the food is. What's worse is that even if a parent does know and he/she prepares a sack lunch for the child, there is pressure to eat cafeteria food. The child would have to find a group of friends that take their sack lunches to school. Unfortunately… nowadays, parents are either too busy or to oblivious to care.

    Kevin :: Glyco Trainer
    On Twitter: @glycotrainer
    Web Site: http://www.GlycoTrainer.com

  9. I remember taking complete control over my lunch when I was in high school. I suggested to the principal that we're in high school, and if we could get a microwave to heat our lunch. Luckily, I was in a student position to be heard, and it happened. I can remember packing dinner leftovers, buying extra at Taco Bell when in town to reheat, and basically grabbing on to anything in our fridge that my brother hadn't eaten and taking that to school for lunch just to avoid eating the same thing I had been eating for the past 12 years. To this day, I never eat anything labeled as "pork on a bun" or "pork sandwich".

    And, it has been a hard winter across the country. I think we all might have a case of "spring fever" and ready to be out of school in general. I know I'm ready to have my kids back home full time and am looking forward to the different pace of summer. Of course, looking forward to having lunch with them every day as well.

  10. You can do it! You're an inspiration! I hope you are an inspiration to your students as well. I hope they're learning how emotionally and mentally destructive their eating habits have become due to school lunches.

  11. Mrs. Q,

    I just wanted to say how inspired I am by your blog. I have actually been following it since your first month, and I'm astounded by the media attention it has been getting. You are shining a light on a huge problem that this country continues to ignore.

    Not long ago, I was a high school student who often had to stomach the garbage you discuss every day. I had the privilege of being able to pack a lunch on occasion, but sometimes school lunch was my only option. I am lucky I was so active and involved with sports, or I could have ended up one of the childhood obesity statistics.

    After seeing the effect that people like you and Jamie Oliver are having on the public opinion of school food, I want to get involved in this fight before I even start having children. I'm fortunate to live in the Fairfax, VA area, where school lunches are of a higher quality, but I want to see everyone receiving the kinds of healthy lunches they deserve!

    Keep fighting the good fight!

  12. Thank you. Thank you for shining the light. What's sad is how many people in this country simply don't care. Hopefully if you and others keep banging the drum they will have to start paying attention.

    Keep fighting the good fight…and if you can't eat another school lunch then we all understand!


  13. Poor thing… I just hope it doesn't get so bad that you end up gagging/puking from the garbage they call school lunch! Hang in there… your suffering is waking up a lot of people!!

  14. You can do it. My BFF and I have been talking about school lunches and shudder at the horror these kids today are eating. I'm 33 and when I was a kid, the lunches were great. What happened?

    I think your blog is helping to bring a hot topic into the forefront.

  15. You can do it! I never ate lunch at the cafeteria (always packed my own) but I don't remember it looking this bad! I've been telling everyone about this site. Keep going!

  16. By eating this way, for excellent reasons, you have introduced into your body massive quantities of damaged lipids that have now become a part of your cell membranes. As with the poor kids who eat this crap, your body is running down and its just a matter of time really before you hit the wall.

    If you and your students started eating wholesome lipids (cold pressed oils like olive oil, Omega 3s, pastured dairy – NEVER skim, pastured meats) today and went cold turkey on all damaged lipids (high temp chemically extracted canola, corn, soybean and other veg oils as well as trans fats) it would take your body NINE MONTHS to clear the toxic lipids from your system.

    These damaged lipids reduce the fluidity of your cell membranes and causes defects or dysfunction in basic cell functions (cell-cell signaling, hormonal signaling like insulin, growth regulation like cancer, apoptosis regulation like in cancer, etc).

    Nothing to mess around with.

    You are also likely deficient in vitamins and important whole food co-factors.

    By exposing yourself to HFCS in foods you are inducing insulin resistance in your liver, fat cells, and muscle cells = metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

    HFCS is also forcing your liver to dump calories directly into de novo fat (lipid) generation in great quantities resulting in fatty liver (that leads to cirrosis and then cancer) as well as shunting calories directly to fat cells without ever having a chance to be used for energy in your body nor in the bodies of the students you sit next to.

    Not only should the USDA and FDA be sued for the formulation of food pyramids and school nutrition based on supporting Big Ag (Corn, CAFOs etc) they should also be sued for poisoning our children by neglecting the very toxicity of the food they are feeding our precious children.

  17. Your undertaking is appreciated! Thank you for shedding light on the issue. I don't have children yet, but someday I will, and I'd like to rest assured that if one day I don't have the time to pack their lunches their options won't be this bad!

  18. Hey Mrs Q, you are making a difference!! You will be one of the people in the history books credited with having the foresight to do SOMETHING about the health epidemic in this country. The system is broken, it is illogical you are increasing awareness. Don't give up you we are all behind you!! A small tidbit of light. http://tinyurl.com/yf237ud

  19. I'm glad you are doing this, and that I found you – my memories of school lunch (twenty-ish years ago) bear no resemblance to what I see here.

    And to hear you hoping for no PBJ or lasagna really does out an exclamation on it, because those foods should always be looked forward to, and if they're not… they must be super bad.

  20. Mrs. Q., I really feel for you. I know you are dedicated to your students, this project, and this issue. I'm sad that it is taking such a toll on you. I feel even worse for the students who have been eating this year in and year out. They may not have much better to look forward to at home.

    However, I'm glad that you are honestly reporting your feelings too, so that nobody dares think that this is just nasty-looking food, but that it there are real consequences. It seemed that you started becoming inured to the food, that it wasn't so bad, that some of it is good, but now it seems you are cracking. I don't blame you. At least you get to eat healthy breakfast and dinner.

    Would it help you to continue if you supplemented the school food with stuff from home? That way you can continue to document what's served, eating some to report on the taste, but eat your own food for your own sanity and health, and for the continuance of the project.

  21. This is one of the most important posts you've written. Children may not be able to articulate why the school lunches are unsatisfying to them, why they throw so much in the (compost?) bin. You are their voice now. It is important you share your physical and psychological responses to the food you are eating. Please, please don't give up.

    I wish you could get a nutritionist to analyze the food you and the students are eating. I wonder if Chef Ann Cooper of The Lunchbox project could help with that.

  22. OMG – I was wondering when this would happen. I can't blame you at all. Variety is the spice of life, and food is just (or can be) so fun! While reading through your blog the other day I saw how frequently the menu repeated and couldn't imagine how you don't get totally bored! I'm the kind of person who goes through phases of food. For instance, I went through a period where I ate oatmeal all the time. For years now I have been totally repulsed by oatmeal. As much as I know it's good for me, I gag at the sight of it. I can't imagine how you are doing this! Good luck! Thank goodness for the 2 month break!

  23. Now is the time to take drastic measures. Buy an incendiary device. When you get the food burn away all evidence that it existed (after taking a pic of course). The pull out your mega-delux-combo-lunch and eat that.

    Really though, I wonder if the kids have the same feelings as you do about the food.

  24. I have been so impressed by your efforts to bring awareness to this issue. You will know the point at which you need to stop, and you should never be afraid to do so.

    You have set the ball in motion and now have this amazing platform through which you can continue to bring attention to htis issue in all different ways. I would suggest that if you continue into next school year, perhaps just eat the meals one week a month (or one day a week, even), share the menus, and then use guest bloggers/commentators or even lunches from around the country to fill the remaining days. Your lunches have been a real eye-opener, but other posters are correct in that you shouldn't overlook the impact this project is having on your body and spirit either.

    Keep fighting the good fight… in whatever form you choose to do so!

  25. I think it's beyond amazing what you're doing for the food movement. I hope that the final results would prove something to our government that if we can improve school lunches then we may be able to improve the students health and behavior. The connection of the two is undeniable.

    I was wondering if you've gone to the doctor to check your cholesterol, hdl's, ldl's. I am just assuming that your health has to be affected even if it's the slightest bit. I know that you are eating well with your other meals but if this tangible evidence was something that could be offered up to the gods of change, then that might be something extraordinary.

    What you are doing is brave, noble, and necessary. You truly are a pioneer. This needs to be done in order to give voice to those that live below the poverty line and have no choice of whether to eat school lunch or to brown bag it.

    Keep up the good work.

  26. obviously you have a lot of support in this and although i find it strange to encourage you to continue to eat such unhealthy food, you are bringing a good deal of attention to the state of food in schools… and maybe just maybe over the summer there will be a massive overhaul of the food program at your school and you'll be eating delicious fresh salads, made from scratch stews and other wholesome meals! this is what i hope for you and ALL kids!

  27. Keep up the good work. If we had better school food, then maybe I would give school food a chance. You are making a difference.

  28. That is exactly what I thought right when I was a few months in of eating the same processed and unrecognizable food. It's hard enough being a new vegetarian surrounded by a world of omnivores but school lunches are definitely not everyday veggie friendly. I really don't know how you could even stand 3 months of that food. I've been forced to bring my own lunches. Well good luck.

  29. Mrs. Q.! You can do this!
    You are so close to the finish line and have literally hundreds of thousands of people cheering you on! Because of you..and you alone..I was inspired to start *trying* to make changes here in Texas. What began as just a school garden idea blog, has now become a full blown "garden and let's change these lunches, too" blog. I now have a twitter. That alone speaks volumes (for those that know me:) I look to your blog each morning for inspiration.
    Last week, I committed myself to eating cafeteria lunches at my son's school. Everyday, when I sat down to eat, I had to remind myself that *you* did it everyday. By mid-week, my body was feeling terrible, my mind was all over the place, I couldn't focus, I was cranky, and I was just overall "out of it". I cannot imagine how you feel.
    The day you were featured on GMA, my little blog received lots of readers. That same day, so many parents came to our school to eat lunch with their kids that they had to open up a new "parent and guest" table. I overheard many of them talking about how our schhol lunches needed to be healthier. Our school is in a high-poverty area; we don't have many people eat with their kids. Honestly, parent participation is really low. Actually, I'm being nice…counting myself, we have four parents that participate…out of 500+ kids. One woman even walked an hour to school so she could eat with her daughter after hearing about you on GMA.
    You, my friend, are changing things so much more than you know. And you are doing it in ways that create an immediate impact. You're inspiring parents! You're amazing!

  30. Just watched the first two episodes of "Food Revolution" with Jamie Oliver, totally made me think of you! There's a movement coming in this country, I can feel in my bones…and you are one of the tiny seeds planted that is going to get it moving!

  31. Ms. Q,

    I'm sorry that you're frustrated, and I do understand your pain. As a secondary English teacher, I am horrified every day by the slop we serve the children (many of them in dire economic circumstances, eating lunch as their only meal). I also know what a terrible toll a poor diet can have on the body, mind and spirit.

    Hang in there, Q! You really are making a difference by taking this stand. I believe that parents and other adults feed children poorly not because they don't care, but rather because they don't know. The more we agitate, the more we educate, the more horrible gray vegetables we choke down, the more equipped everyone becomes to make better choices.

    Keep up the good work. We're pulling for you.

  32. You can do this! And its so important that you do! You are helping save the lives of your students, and for that I am greatful. Thank you for your service, both as a teacher and an advocate!

  33. Mrs. Q., I'm gonna take a different tone here: I want you to know that in eating school lunch for 3 months, you have already accomplished your goal–you wanted your readers to have a clearer sense of what is passing for nutritional options in America's public school cafeterias. Your readership and numbers of commenters has grown and grown. You have attracted the attention and laudits of some very important people and some of them even have some strong influence. You have NOT lost your job.

    Many here have commented on the lack of variety in the menus offered at your school: That means you have undoubtedly already been served each and every item–with only very subtle sorts of possible variation–in your school's cafeteria arsenal. A quick note to those who have criticized the lack of variety: Study after study has concluded that humans tend to acquire and prepare a repertoire of the same foods over and over AS A MATTER OF CULTURAL PREFERENCE (see Dr. Oz for info on this; also Weight Watchers cite such studies). That means that the vast majority of your readership, should they do a serious analysis of their own food intake across 21 days, would find a whole lot of repetition in the foods they CHOOSE to prepare, serve and consume. So your district is doing nothing reprehensible in SCHEDULING the meals it offers. We are all pretty much in agreement that it needs to make some powerful changes in WHAT it serves in terms of both nutrition and packaging, however…

    So,you do NOT have to continue this project, and should you choose to call an early halt, you will not have failed in your purpose. Don't let anyone guilt you into feeling that you must continue to actually EAT the food being offered by your school. You have a right and a responsibility, if you so choose, to exercise your ability to chamge your mind. Much appreciation for what you have given us these last three months; I will continue to read you as this has become an important forum. But you can continue THAT function without further compromising your health and your palate.

  34. Didn't you once say you were going to stop doin this when it stopped being fun for you? I don't think anyone would blame you if you took a much-needed break.

  35. Your work is inspiring and I am so glad that you are shining a power light on what we give kids to eat. Everyone else has said it, but I'm going to say it again too – THANK YOU for doing this difficult work in awareness raising!! You are truly one of my heros 🙂

  36. You're bringing national attention to a tremendously important issue. PLEASE, keep blogging. Even if you just photograph the "food," taste it (for authenticity of description), and eat actual, nutritious, fresh food from home, PLEASE keep blogging.

  37. I started reading this blog in the past few weeks…I am sure it is quite a challenge to eat this food…I can't imagine…but watching Jamie Oliver's show on ABC and reading your blog, I just hope that those in the arena of power will get the idea and CHANGE IT! Why don't our school children deserve fresh produce and products…cooking from scratch is cheap and healthy. We are doing the future of this country a disservice by serving our children this rubbish!

  38. Sooo….don't eat? I know, your point (maybe) is that some of the students don't have a choice because they don't have any other food in the house to eat.

    Still, I think you and the others here are capable of holding discussions about the concerns without a meal posted daily. Might even move past the repetative "oh that's awful" to some possible solutions?

  39. This post reminds me why in the 6th grade, or somewhere around there, without a packed lunch from home; i Choose not to eat. I would rather not eat at all than go through the trauma of eating BAD food. And people wondered how I stayed skinny in JRH &HS, it was not healthy, but I did so and many others do as well. Not good for the brain, afternoon classes, grades or growing bodies.

  40. You absolutely are bringing attention to this issue, so please hang in there!! I agree wholeheartedly that you could photograph the lunch every day but not eat it, and still continue your good work. Thanks. I'll be featuring your blog on my own at http://www.funfindsformom.

  41. Mrs. Q-

    Your blog is having a profound impact on awareness of the terrible quality and nutrional of the lunches being served in the nation's schools. I applaud to and say abundant thank yous for this endeavor.

    In one of your previous posts you mentioned not feeling well and the lunch foods taking their toll on your health. I had suggested that you continue to purches, photograph it and do a taste test so that you could comment on it. But bring your own healthful lunch or additional food to snack on.

    Your health is vital- to you, your family, your students and now this community. You have to take care of you if you want to take care of business. Please continue to record and blog, but don't force yourself to eat something that your body is screaming no towards.

    Your sacrifice has been well noted up to this point. Now, please, take care of you while you continue to fight the good fight.

  42. You can do it! I know I could never try, but my parents are always asking me to eat at school. I always tell them how bad things are, but they never believe me. :/ Anyway, just think about all of those you're standing up for.

  43. I really hope your blog does something to bring attention to schoolboards across the states. You have a lot of support here.

  44. Mrs Q, thank you so much for bringing attention to this subject. It really is sad what school lunches around the country have come to. I hope you luck with keeping with this project and make it through the year.

    I had to eat school lunches everyday and it was a better quality than what I have seen on your blog and around the net. I was on free lunch from K-12 and from K-8 the food was at least reconizable even though it was from a "poorer neighborhood." I actually liked the food with a few exception, the PB/J graham cracker thing being one. Then in high school I went to school in an affluent neighborhood and the lunches sucked! The entree was either burger, burrito, or pizza on three or four days of the week and ALWAYS served with fries. The portions were huge but they also all tasted like salted cardboard. I got sick from eating this because it was the only thing I could get. I talked to the school administrators and nothing changed. The response I got was that there were not enough students who were willing to buy lunch to afford anything else. That's something I really don't understand. If they made the food better then the students would be willing to buy lunch at school.

    At my elementary school, we always had warm food along with fresh fruit. Either fresh apple, banana, or orange to grab along with milk, a warm entree, and a side but it was rarely fries or tater tots. We could go to one of the lunch ladies and they would cut the fruit in half for us. If we forgot our lunch card then we had a pb sandwich with milk. The warm entree was always something that was heated up in a huge pot or in sheet pans so the lunch ladies would ladle whatever it was onto our try. Not in little trays where you cant tell what the food is. This is in a neighborhood where almost every single student was on free or reduced lunch. This was not that long ago so I don't see how all these admistrators say that there isnt enough money for any other options. The food I had in school growing up until high school was far better than the preportioned, cellophane wrapped lunches that Mrs Q and her students are eating. Also, I live in a state where the labor cost is one of the highest in the nation.

    I believe that its because the district administrators across the country are becoming complacent that school lunches have become so bad. They focus on math and reading because thats how they are judged. When they have to determine the lunches, they choose the easiest option that will fit in the budget and move on. Since no one complains, they continue doing so year after year and the kids are stuck eating this stuff.

    That's a real shame because all this does is push the cost into the future when these kids grow up obese with health conditions. Also, it is detrimental to what they can learn and pay attention to. If they're sick or hungry (because they skipped lunch again like I did in high school) they're not going to learn. That continues the cycle of more students from poverty neighborhoods dropping out and being stuck where they are. Ok there are many factors in that but improving school lunches is one that can help more than people think.

  45. What you are doing is so important and it is already having an impact! I have heard more about the dismal state of school nutrition in the last few months than I have heard in my lifetime. You are giving our society a much needed insight into what we feed our kids. Hang in there! You CAN do this. But also remember to take care of yourself. If it is too much, then take a break. You could even blog about what a healthy lunch could look like. You could do a challenge to make your lunch for the price of a school lunch. No matter what you decide to do, you have already achieved great things and sparked much needed dialogue!

  46. I hope you eat two especially delicious lunches on the weekends to help counteract the boredom :{

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