The cheapest possible

One day last week I wore a pair of pants to work that I bought for $5 (online and on sale). I love to get a bargain when I shop for clothes. I know full well that I’ll probably get a year out of them and that’ll be it.

It has taken me most of my life to realize that there are things that you buy on sale and things that you spend more on. Over the past year I took stock of my shoes and realized that I had bought too many “for the right price” and too few for their quality. When I analyzed how many pairs I actually wore and why, I figured out that my favorite pairs are high quality shoes I spent a lot of money on. So I threw out all the pairs that don’t fit right or my foot jiggles in or the ones that rub my ankle raw if I don’t wear them with socks (inevitably I forget that fact and wear them to work without socks). I spend the whole day on my feet so quality shoes are a priority. Then I bought myself a couple new pairs that cost me a lot, but I realize the high cost up front pays off: my back and feet don’t hurt!

My husband and I are the rare duo that both enjoy food shopping and we buy quality food. We are lucky to be able to splurge on little indulgences and bigger ones sometimes too. For our family, organic options matter. I enjoy cooking (my husband doesn’t know how to cook, but he can boil water) and shopping is the natural extension of that experience. We’re passing on a love of food to our kid and we make sure to buy the best that we can afford.

Why can’t we give all children the best possible food we can find while they are at school? Why do they have to get the cheapest stuff? If their health and wellness is truly a priority, then we need to pony up and find a way to feed them as if they matter. Children are not “little adults.” They are learning and growing every day (I’m only growing out not up). There are some things you spend extra money on and that would be this nation’s kids.

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74 thoughts on “The cheapest possible

  1. Unfortunately, this issue of "fiscal responsibility" is something that will be tossed about from player to player. Hopefully, the ball will not be dropped.

    Totally agree and understood your example with the shoes. Unlike you, I do not own alot of pairs. But, I believe in spending money on something comfortable and useful and good for you. It is only when you do so that you realize that you actually save money by getting yourself a good pair of shoes, instead of dozens of lousy ones.

    I did abit of research on American health policies of the early 20th century and the 1960s, and seriously, the same thing just keeps popping up and repeating again. And that main question is the question of responsibility. When does something become a "public" or "private/personal" responsibility?

    Even the impetus for the early public health movement was very much an economic one. Measures were taken often only in response to epidemics that threatened the economic prosperity of the nation.

    Most public health systems thrive on statistics. We let numbers dictate our actions. We let percentages determine our next step. We let statistics tell us whether our child is obese or not. We let them tell us whether our child is at risk for certain diseases or not.

    This has got to change.

  2. Marketing and lobbying by big corporations has made making an informed decision more difficult than it should be.

    People are lead to beleive that high fructose corn syrup is "natural" (remember those commercials?)

    And scientists and nutritionists are "sponsered" by monsanto, dupont, pharmaceutical companies, and the like, to convince us that the drugs, hormones and pesticides in our food are harmless and the extra dollars for organic is a waste.

    It is human nature to believe what you want to hear.

  3. Quality options aren't valued by many people since they don't really know the complete influence/power food has on us.

    Our food knowledge is weak: my students are quite surprised and also disgusted that potatoes take on a form of plastic in the french-frying process.

    Some version of genetic determinism is the usual counter argument that I get in any quality food discussion. In the end, people don't believe that they are what they recently ate. I do.

  4. Feed your kids as you will, Just don't raise my tax's anymore… I don't have a kid in school. Why should I pay?

  5. While I agree with the shoe analogy, food doesn't have to be expensive to be nutritious. Following on what Pantry wrote, I believe a big part of the problem is perception: time, rather than price.

    Or perhaps much of the problem is that many of us have become completely indoctrinated in the belief that manufactured foods taste better. For most people, the attraction of fast foods rather than more wholesome options in undeniable. The website Cook for Good at sets out to dispel the notion that good food needs to be expensive.

    A lot of the cost of the Standard American Diet is significantly reduced by eliminating complex engineered products and serving dishes made with natural ingredients instead (legumes, salads, fresh fruit, and everything freshly made, including pizza, lasagna, etc). The problem with making a lasagna from scratch is that it's time consuming, and that time may be costly. Or in some cases, lunch budgets may allocate more money to purchasing food rather than paying for labour. Does the lunch budget have to be that much different if money is taken from ingredients and allocated to labour instead?

    When it comes to what parents pack in their children's lunches, I get so frustrated that there is money for lunchables and other engineered non-foods, but no time to throw together something like an old-fashioned tuna mayo sandwich. There is usually enough time to watch American Idol, but we don't have 5 minutes to put together a no-knead bread and wait for it to rise by itself.

    It's not that I don't think it's not worth spending more money on food for children; I just believe that if you cut the profit-making big corporations out of the picture, a lot of the money can be spent on simpler, more healthful options instead.

  6. Other than the artificial price imbalances created by food subsidies, there's the issue of spending itself:

    "There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch. Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get."
    – Milton Friedman

    I'd add the distinction that anyone who loves their kids puts at least as much care into spending money on them as they do on themselves. But otherwise, the above paragraph explains a great deal of the problem.

  7. There is an old saying that goes, "Pay now, or pay later."

    You can buy cheap shoes, but you will "pay" with sore feet and shoes that don't last… you'll be buying new ones sooner rather than later.

    When it comes to food, you can eat good quality, healthy food, or you can eat sugar, salt, fat, and processed food that you will "pay" for later in the form of bloating and constipation, and later… diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, excessive weight and all sorts of stresses on your body that decrease your quality of life.

    You can choose which you prefer.

  8. Our organization Experience Food Project ( is doing a lot of interesting and outcome based work largely focused on the cost assessment, savings, and long term benefits for providing nutritious and flavorful meals in schools.

    We take a systems approach that includes integrated and comprehensive food education, superintendent and board education on the issues, teacher support and training, technical support for operations including staff training, menu and budget planning and operational assessment. We also place a lot of value on community engagement through special food events.

    Guess what; when the level of engagement extends beyond the cost only analysis several things happen;

    1) Participation increases which brings
    additional revenue.
    2) If managed correctly production costs can
    be contained, quality and content of food
    offered improves thus encouraging even
    more participation.
    3) Actual consumption goes up because the food
    looks and tastes good and the classroom
    component puts an historic and cultural
    perspective on the act of eating (more
    interesting + less waste = win / win)
    4) Capacity building for local growers is an
    added and important benefit.

    This approach does require the willingness to re-think our values, apply principles of social enterprise and be willing to learn and adapt. (hmm, learning, education….)

    In short it can be done and we have models to prove it!!

    Chef Tom

  9. This is an issue that I've been thinking a lot about lately, and it's all about priorities. Some people prefer a pedicure to eating a home cooked meal with quality ingredients (organic, pasture-raised). My boyfriend and I spend most of our income (after apartment expenses) on food, and we eat at home as much as possible. We don't go out much, and we don't even go to the movies very frequently. But we eat lots of great, healthy food. Again, it's all about priorities. And the choices we make now will affect our health in the future.

  10. Certainly parents need to take more responsibility for what they feed their kids.

    And we need to improve our school food.

    But to Anonymous, who pointed out that he/she does not have a kid in school:

    Did you go to public school? Because if you did, you received the benefit. It doesn't matter if you have kids or not.

    If you went to private school, home school, or no school, then you can complain.

  11. @Anonymous – regarding worrying about tax raises… You have to know that right now you are paying for Medicaid, which is what poor people use to get healthcare. If they eat poorly, they use those free medical services more. So you might not want to fund poor kids' lunches, but you have no choice in funding their dependence on Medicaid (and later Medicare). Their healthcare costs are hidden, but your income taxes are already funding our obesity crisis. Wouldn't you rather the money go towards the kids school food?

  12. Didn't you say that when you talk to the kids who eat school lunch that they just throw away the "healthy" parts of the meal like the vegetables?

    "Why can't we give all children the best possible food we can find while they are at school? Why do they have to get the cheapest stuff?"

    Because kids who get stuff for free don't care if they waste.

  13. I would love to see a blog just like this, except that it would be about what is served for lunch or dinner in prison.

    I bet then the general concensus would be, 'who cares what those convicts get, let them starve' Or something to that effect.

    All the food in this blog is about the same as I got back in the 80's and guess what I survived. lol

    All this 'do it for the kids stuff, and health food nutjobs' trying to change laws and change what other people can/like to eat is just BS! No trans fats in new york city, no pop machines in city schools etc etc…

    jeezz, enough is enough.

  14. If you were to come to Waterloo, AL to Waterloo School and eat the lunches in our cafeteria you would find them to be "just right" for the students. Our ladies prepare foods the healthy way and I am not sure the students even realize it. An example is our rolls are made with applesauce leaving out the oils. We love our cafeteria food and I venture to say it is the best around.

  15. I made the mistake of touching a corn dog, one of the common things on the county public schools lunch list, (and always served on early release days) when I was helping one of my students. The amount of grease on my fingers could have lubed my car.

  16. Mrs Q. I just came upon your blog, so what I am about to say may be information you are already aware of. Disregard this if it is.

    Have you seen the documentary Food, Inc.? If not, you should. Part of it addresses the fact that of the policy-making players involved in food product regulation (e.g. FDA,Dept of Health etc) many of them at least appear to be "in bed" with the very few and very large and very politically influential food concerns that control all aspects of the food industry (including the end products like school lunches).

    I myself now see the benefits of paying a bit more for organic selections (if TRULY organic that is), buying from the local farmers markets and reconsidering how and what I eat. I want control of what I eat not a handful of congolmerates to decide that for me.

    Eventually, if enough individuals who can start to pay a bit more for the organic and healthier selections that can been found, their spending habits will start to be noticed by retailers and will product an impact for consumers in general. Money talks and it can change things drastically. Walmart (shown in the documentary) has already started making some changes toward more purchases of organic products as well as have some other chains (albeit smaller ones). The more customers they get to buy those healthier products, the more they will make available those products available. The more they make them available, the greater the potential to attract customers. The more customers that want them will want to get them for the best price and the competition to attract them with the best price will force prices down to become more reasonable for the average person.

    I do think that there should be some limits as to what types of foods can be purchased with government sponsored programs like food stamps. That is, give them an allowance within their alloted food stamp credits for SOME snack foods, but require most of the stamps to be used for meats and vegetables. Chances are even if they make less healthy meals at home with these goods they are not getting all the processed junk that allowing them to spend their food stamps on snack foods is giving them.

    Good luck with your project.

    Anonymous in Northern NY

  17. Thank you for addressing this issue, I admire you for what you are doing. My daughter learned to eat junk food in high school. We rarely ate out when she was young. I always packed her lunches and did not always give her the "healthiest" food. I was not a parent who restricted sugar or went overboard on health foods, not that there is anything wrong with that. But once she entered High School with more of her own (babysitting) money, she learned to eat garbage. My daughter ate french fries and ranch dressing daily, with the occasional slice of pizza with ranch dressing! We live in a good school district which did offer healthy choices like fruit and salads. But they are kids, what would any kid who does not get junk food at home order at school? I had wished that they would offer "only" healthy choices, that way kids would learn to make healthy choices from what is offered. I hope someone listens to you.

  18. Good for you teacher!! You are doing a wonderful thing. I feel the same way about school lunches. I feel that school lunch programs could easily shift what they are purchasing that is processed frozen food to buying whole foods. The myth is that the kids won't eat it – BULL – I am a girl scout leader and I feed our girl scouts healthy wholesome foods at our meetings. They rush for the cut apple slices and orange slices, veggies cut up with a little bit of ranch dressing, or cheese and crackers. They dont argue about it that it's not sweets – they eat and chat and have a great time. I think if you put healthy foods in front of kids, a large % of them will eat it!! The trouble is… these programs dont do that.

  19. I too had to know the winner of Packed vs Buy but from a financial aspect. So the kids bought 5x week. But after watching attitudes and grades drop thru first grading period, we switched back to pack only with quality choices. Now I am content knowing quality food is an investment with rewards paid out in health and winning attitudes.

  20. There is a great book called "The End of Overeating" that came out recently that talks about why people crave the manufactured foods over home made. Scary stuff.

    I hope this blog helps change school lunches forever. I worked at a daycare as a chef and my budget was $1 a day per kid. A DAY! I can not tell you how shocked I was. I did it for a year but it was tricky. I cooked for 120 kids for am breakfast/snack, lunch, snack. You should have seen the hubbub the first time I served roasted broccoli (fresh) instead of broccoli with cheese sauce. The teachers refused to eat it and were sitting around complaining about the "new chef" serving "healthy food". All this as they sat there with the kids at the tables… preschoolers who were looking to them for cues on how to eat. Ridiculous!

  21. also, check out Chef Jamie Oliver's FOOD REVOLUTION… he changed the way schools in Britain fed their children and he's trying to do the same in the US.

  22. I posted the 'anonymous' comment right above and just wanted to add that we try to be NPFF as much as possible (non-processed food family) and that I pioneered the dessert 1x week years ago, but am very relieved it is now the cool thing to do, thanks to First Lady Obama!

  23. They gave your blog adress on z100 (a radio show)…so get ready for your blog traffic to pick up…

  24. I'm lucky enough to get food stamps, and smart enough to make them last all month. My four children all eat school breakfast and lunch. Fortunately I cook a well balanced meal each night but I know many other kids who have parents who either do not because they're exhausted from their work day or can not because they work late. These kids are eating more processed foods at home. It is a sad shame and completely unnecissary. I hope that you open they eyes of these schools.

  25. Hi Mrs. Q! I totally get what you're saying about the benefits of quality. My husband and I have been fighting for years because he likes to buy quality — which I always saw as merely expensive, with no benefit other than 'keeping up with the Jones'. After a few lightbulb moments (like feet hurting!) I've come to realize that he's right — about some things. Quality socks and tshirts? Nope. Quality shoes? Definitely. Food isn't even a discussion. The grocery bills are high, but the medical bills are usually non-existent (my kids and my husband are rarely ill).

    Your blog is wonderful. -Erika

  26. I have to be the devil's advocate on this one. I too find the meals not very appetizing, but the truth is, money is money and the schools all over the country are deeply in the red. The food they feed the kids are partly government subsidized and the rest comes out of the budget. You have to decide whether you as a teacher want a job and a paycheck or the food is lousy, it is your choice!

  27. Mrs. Q,
    I,too, have been very concerned about this same issue over the years at my own school. I have even done some research on schools that believe as you and I do and have found schools that have made sacrifices in other areas to be able to offer their children healthier alternatives. For example, a school in Olympia Whashington started a Program with these goals in mind:
    *To provide fresh organic produce
    *To provide alternative protein choices
    *Reduce sugar intake
    *Purchase locally grown foods
    *Do what was necessary to sustain the program.
    An organic salad bar was added as a third complete meal option. The salad bar features
    organic fruit and vegetable choices, whole grain breads, vegetarian meat alternatives,
    eggs, and organic soymilk.

    Where there is a will, there is usually a way. I think part of the problem is that most people are so accustomed to eating processed foods that they don't see feeding it to our children as a "big deal".

    If you would like to read more on this school system you can look them up at

    So many times I have thought of attending a PTO meeting and trying to make a difference, but did not due to some of the issues you mentioned. What you are doing is to be commended!

    Behind you in Tennessee! Hang in there and Best Wishes!


  28. All right, I have to say this, because I am sincerely getting sick and tired of hearing that it has to be up to the schools and/or government to make healthy choices for our kids. I am a mother of two beautiful boys, and I will tell you this right now, I have always fixed their own dinners, lunches, and breakfasts. Unless you have children too, you will at some point realize that a lot of the choices that kids make are dependant on what exactly their parents decide. I used to go for vegetables, fruits, and actual food anytime I was in the school lunch line (and btw, i was always on free/reduced lunch) and rarely did I ever pick up what you happen to pick up for lunch. It should be more on the parents to make these sort of changes, and not necessarily on the schools. If they make the choice to change the way their kids eat, then the kids will inevitably make the same choices, whereas if they decide to stick with the fast-food/crap diets, then you will never be able to change their eating habits. It needs to change at home before it changes at the schools, and I guarantee you that just making changes at the schools will never help. All you will end up with is a bunch of students that decide to not eat at lunch and instead eat when they get home, and it could be anything like soda, chips, etc.

  29. I just stumbled across your blog today due to an online article I was reading about your project. So many things are going through my mind right now.

    Good for you for taking on this project! I completely agree that our school lunches are sorely lacking in so many ways. I agree with some of your readers who have pointed out to those concerned about their taxes being raised that we are already paying the price for having unhealthy lunch options in our schools. Medicaid costs would probably drop if many of the children eating these lunches had healthy alternatives, not to mention that they need that example set for them, as they are certainly not getting it at home.

    My husband & I have two children who rarely eat school lunches. When they were very young, we made their lunches for them, and when the youngest was in second grade or so, they began to make their own lunches. They have always packed healthy lunches consisting of items like half a sandwich on whole-grain bread, a low-fat dairy product (string cheese, cottage cheese,yogurt, etc.),fruit and skim milk. Sometimes they take homemade soups or pastas, or a salad. Our youngest is now in seventh grade and they continue to make their own lunches. There have a been a couple of times when we were pressed for time so I gave them the option of having a school lunch and they turned me down. They would much prefer to bring a lunch from home because the lunches from home taste better and they know that they are also healthy lunches.

    One thing that strikes me as strange when looking at your photos is the amount of packaging used for the lunches at your school. It's obvious that everything is massed-produced elsewhere, frozen and shipped to the school. Think of the costs that could be cut simply by cutting the packaging alone! That savings could be used to make the lunches more nutritional. At our schools, we have trays with sections and the various lunch items go into the various tray sections, rather than being wrapped in tin and plastic. While the lunches are not great in our schools, at least many of them are made on-site. I work at the same school where my youngest goes to school and I have seen the kitchen staff making burgers, making pasta with sauce, making soups and many other lunches, not just pulling out single-serve packages and heating them. We also have a salad bar and someone who makes sandwiches to order (ham or turkey with lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, etc.)The lunches at the school where you work look like they might as well come from a vending machine. That's just nasty.

    Good luck to you, and keep up the good work!

  30. Thank you, thank you, thank you for acting. I've been repeatedly brushed off by my children's school for questioning the nutrition value of the school lunches. It is beyond frustrating and I would do anything to help facilitate a change! Each week I watch as the students eat the desserts and snack food available for purchase while throwing the fresh fruit and (overcooked) vegies in the trash.

  31. Dear Mrs Q,
    I think you are amazing! Thank you for taking on this project and I sure hope that it gets the attention of the right people who can change what these children are eating. Only recently have I been learning about nutrition and I'm 39 yrs old, and I started my quest for better nutrition b/c I had high cholesterol and did not want to go on medication. I started taking Juice Plus, which is 17 fruits & vegetables, juiced, dehydrated, and put into a capsule and/or chewable for kids or adults who can't swallow capsules. I noticed an improvement in my overall energy level after just a few days. My husband takes it as well, and so does my 6 year old daughter who gets the chewables for free as part of a children's health study. Then I started learning more about better food choices and now we too are spending a little more on food with better quality but it has really all evened out since we are buying less junk food and eating out a lot less. Any child, 4yrs old-college age can rec'v Juice Plus for free as part of the children's health study if they are sponsored by an adult on Juice Plus. My daughter who wouldn't eat a vegetable, after 3 months on Juice Plus is now eating salad, likes it, and even asks for it in her lunch. Juice Plus is NOT a vitamin, it is Whole Food Nutrition, and it's backed by clinical research and many doctor's around the world. Again, I want to thank you for taking a stand for our children, they need good nutrition if they are to do well in school and in life.

  32. I have eaten at my granddaughter's school. Utterly disgusting for a top notch school. The "salad" was an inch of lettuce and something else. Not even a biteful. It's mostly hot dogs, corn dogs, and other junk food! I looked at Mrs. Q's pictures and I am pretty sure she is eating at the same school…and if not…..well…

  33. True, the responsibility does lie with the parents. However, it is a sad but true fact that too many school lunches DO NOT offer the "healthy" alternatives that we, as parents, would prefer they choose. I work for food services in the school district my children attend, and this year is the first year that a management company has taken over. Since this has occured, the quality has improved DRAMATICALLY. At least twice a week, fresh vegetable cups, including raw broccoli, baby carrots, and celery (all grown locally), are available to the children, and believe it or not, they actually take it and…EAT IT! We have changed to 1% fat or less milk choices, and at least twice a week, there are lunches that are balanced choices, that provide the RDA for grains, meats and protein, veggies and fruits, and healthy fats. Fresh fruit is available every day, as well as fresh salads. And while the students in the higher grades have a choice of pizza every day, it is made daily with a whole wheat crust, reduced sugar sauces, reduced fat cheeses and meats, and vegetable options as well. The district brought in the management company to increase nutrition, manage costs, and increase quality overall. While the students turned their noses up at first to the healthier alternatives, it grew on them since they saw that it was coming every day, like it or not. The students overall response has been positive. And since this is the inaugural year for the management company in this district, we will be able to take feedback throughout the year and customize the local favorites for next school year.

  34. In Genesis 1:11-12 it is written:
    11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
    12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

    Again in Genesis 1: 29-30 another reference what we have been given:

    29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
    30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

    I believe that we were given the things that would keep us healthy. It does not say that we were given hot dogs, french fries, and ice cream. In my humble opinion, our bodies are the finest computer system on the face of the earth, taking is sub-standard fuel and extracting the best out of the worst in order to sustain life. Quality of life? Perhaps not!

    The rise in dis-ease is evidence of that. People simply cannot eat a large amount of processed food which contain a large amount of salt (for one thing) and think it is not going to be harmful to their health at some point in their lives. One cannot continue to eat foods high in sugar , salt, fats, and chemicals without some consequence. As the old saying goes, "as the twig is bent, so grows the tree." Our children learn by example! Make sure, as parents that your child is learning the basics at home. THAT is where it should begin and then the schools should serve food to continue this learning process. Is that idealic? I am certain that it is, but I call it like I see it.

    While I agree that our schools should offer healthier foods for the children that are entrusted to their care during a large portion of each day, I believe that this responsibility falls more so to each parent in the early years of their life, long before they even attend school. It is not about keeping them quiet and feeding them the easiest way possible (giving them a bowl of high fructose cereal and putting them in front of the television because you are too busy to interact with them), it's about giving your children the best possible fuel to begin their day…healthy foods to sustain them through the day and increase their ability to learn AND be able to retain that information. AND taking the time to educate your children, at home, the consequences of making unwise choices and generally just spending time with them and teaching them about life.

  35. My first two years as a teacher, I taught in Southern California, at a small school district east of San Diego. Every single day of the two years they served nachos (chips and yellow pour type cheese you get in a can) Iceberg lettuce with some grated carrots and whatever creamy fattening dressing you wanted. The third choice was the 'hot lunch' which was either a hot pocket or a burrito that had been warmed in the microwave. It was very bad – really the worst I had ever seen. Most kids brought their lunches. The teachers would order out and there were companies that would serve the teachers where you could order salads and deli sandwiches and bring them to the school. Why can't they do something like that, where they have a choice – a salad or a deli sandwich, or even a hot meal that you can order from an outside source?

  36. This sounds like a very good idea that all school districts should examine.

    Many school districts, though, seem to have private agendas that preclude their supposedly sincere concern for the childrens health. Our school district does not seem to get the point of what's best for the students. Mostly they seem to be more concerned with 'passing the buck', so to speak, posturing and political expediency.

    The biggest thing right now is the fact that several schools seem to have altered CRCT test answers to obtain a better over all score for the school.

    Insisting on nutritious food in the school cafeterias does not seem to be that important to anyone here in our town.

  37. I just wanted to let you know that the government who is paying for these meals for the kids, who also pay for the meals that people in the military get, are definitely getting jipped (sp?). Both my hubby and I are in the military, hes active and I'm guard, but when we were going through our training we HAD a salad bar and ALL the nutritional food we wanted. Of course, we had the choice of getting junk/crap food if we wanted to, but we at least had the choice to eat healthy. Now, if the military can do that every day for the people who are protecting this country, why can't we do that for the kids who may eventually take our place? We got about the same amount of time to eat as the kids who are in school, so that shouldn't be an issue, so what can their excuse be? We have 2 young children right now (and waiting for our 3rd to arrive) so why shouldn't they get the same treatment that my hubby and I received? This world has become so sad. No one realizes that the more we screw with these kids the more our retirements and health care will suffer because they will remember how they were treated. They will retaliate when they get their chance to be in power. Such a sad, sad thought.

  38. "And while the students in the higher grades have a choice of pizza every day, it is made daily with a whole wheat crust, reduced sugar sauces, reduced fat cheeses and meats,"

    (roll eyes)

    That is not pizza… Don't lie to the youth of America.

    Should call it something more like (all the good stuff left out, health-nutjob nazi's force it down your throat because we say it's good for you pizza replacement fake pizza)…

    Could print on the box (god forbid), "So good for you it taste's like s**t".

    OMG! Just let the kids have their pizza…

  39. Really Now?!! … Although I do not know this teacher nor have I ever met her, doesn't it make you wonder what the real ulterior motives are behind these types of publicity stunts? Don't be surprised if you notice her soon rubbing shoulders with the first lady on the obesity issue

  40. I worked as a parapro in an elemantary school in Ga in 2009. When I started working in August I did not take my lunch. I ate in the lunchroom almost everyday, since I had to be in there to monitor the children anyway. When I went for my yearly doctors visit in November I had gained 10 pounds. The only thing I had been doing different was eating in the cafeteria at the school. Needless to say I took my lunch from then on out. At this particular school the children are offered options. On Monday the regular tray might be vegetable beef soup with grilled cheese or pb and j. If they do not want soup they usually have the option to get chicken nuggets with the sandwich and the third option is just a pd and j sandwich. On the days when vegetables are offered they are not put on the trays they are put in styrofoam cups for the students to get if they want them. Most do not choose to get them. There is sometimes fresh fruit, a banana that is so green you can't peel it or a plum the size of an apple, and then there are almost always fruit cups, with fruit from a can. After spending a year in the school and gaining 10 pounds in 3 months I am concerned about the health of the children. I remember when I was in elementary school the food seemed to be much healthier and there were no choices, it was put on your plate for you to eat. I think the alternatives to the healthy meal should be eliminated. Because, the options are not healthy, chicken nuggets on Monday and Wednesday, pizza on Tuesday and Friday and hot dog or corn dog on Thursday. Of course most of the children chose the chicken nuggets, pizza or hot dog. Also, with all of the budget cuts why not offer only one meal. The salad bar was there for the teachers, but it was not the best. I agree with this teacher, schools need to go back to basics and offer nutrionally sound lunches. I feel like too many shortcuts are being taken and at the expense of the children. She is right school brakfasts and lunches are sometime the only food some of these children receive.

  41. I would love to see a more healthy foods brought into our schools. I have worked for the cafeteria for 2 years and didn't eat their food every day and I gained a rate of 10 lbs each year. Now that I am almost 50 I have been fighting losing the weight for the last 6 years without success. I have 4 kids in the school system and I know first hand how the food comes into the schools, how it is stored and prepared. None of it is made that morning or afternoon it is all pre-made and packaged. The one thing I do know is that the parents have the biggest influence on what the kids get for food at the schools. Their is a committee of parents that get together and they decide what is healthy and what is not. I think it is a crock! The one thing I have also noticed is that they forced me to put one of everything on a kids plate which all the lunch ladies have to do whether the kid likes it or not. I have seen more food be tossed into the trash over the past several years from working in the school cafeterias than I ever care to see. I teach my kids to only take what you are going to eat and the schools are teaching my kids that if you eat lunch at school you have to have one of everything on your plate regardless of whether or not you like green beans, refried beans, apple sauce etc….then where do you think it ends up you got it in the trash. I have seen this time and time again on a daily basis. I say stop letting these so called parents tell the schools what is healthy because obviously they are not doing a good job. I have to agree with some of the other people that have commented let a chef a (real chef) come in and decide how to feed these kids. I would love to see a full salad bar at all of these school sites and not a salad that is already put together. Elementary schools put the salad together and then put the dressing on the salad by the time the last grade comes through to eat the lettuce has been soaking in the dressing and is now disgusting and most of the kids have to take it but throw it away. PLEASE HELP OUR CHILDREN TO EAT HEALTHIER AND NOT HAVE SO MUCH WASTE IN OUR SCHOOLS.

  42. I would love to see a more healthy foods brought into our schools. I have worked for the cafeteria for 2 years and didn't eat their food every day and I gained a rate of 10 lbs each year. Now that I am almost 50 I have been fighting losing the weight for the last 6 years without success. I have 4 kids in the school system and I know first hand how the food comes into the schools, how it is stored and prepared. None of it is made that morning or afternoon it is all pre-made and packaged. The one thing I do know is that the parents have the biggest influence on what the kids get for food at the schools. Their is a committee of parents that get together and they decide what is healthy and what is not. I think it is a crock! The one thing I have also noticed is that they forced me to put one of everything on a kids plate which all the lunch ladies have to do whether the kid likes it or not. I have seen more food be tossed into the trash over the past several years from working in the school cafeterias than I ever care to see. I teach my kids to only take what you are going to eat and the schools are teaching my kids that if you eat lunch at school you have to have one of everything on your plate regardless of whether or not you like green beans, refried beans, apple sauce etc….then where do you think it ends up you got it in the trash. I have seen this time and time again on a daily basis. I say stop letting these so called parents tell the schools what is healthy because obviously they are not doing a good job. I have to agree with some of the other people that have commented let a chef a (real chef) come in and decide how to feed these kids. I would love to see a full salad bar at all of these school sites and not a salad that is already put together. Elementary schools put the salad together and then put the dressing on the salad by the time the last grade comes through to eat the lettuce has been soaking in the dressing and is now disgusting and most of the kids have to take it but throw it away. PLEASE HELP OUR CHILDREN TO EAT HEALTHIER AND NOT HAVE SO MUCH WASTE IN OUR SCHOOLS.

  43. This is my first time reading this blog and to all of those people, who are nay sayers in understanding school lunch, let me give you a little bit of info from my point of view…

    I am a former teacher and back about 8 years ago, I taught elementary school. I too started eating school lunches, WITHOUT changing the rest of my diet, not for the same reasons as Mrs. Q, but simple because I was too lazy to make my own lunch each day. For those of you who don't know the average day in a teacher's life, never do you have more than 20 minutes to gather and eat your lunch, especially by time you've walked you class to the cafeteria, called the two parents who are on your daily list to call, picked up your mail, checked your email, talked to your team, etc… 20 minutes is actually pushing it! But that's a totally different tangent…

    I started eating school lunches and within the course of the year, I gained 20 lbs. No lie! I personally began to analyze my whole lifestyle and realized that the school lunches that I was eating were not only making me fat, but not providing me with the nutrition that I needed, even by adding the extra 1/4 cut up wilted lettuce that they called a salad.

    I actually hope that Mrs. Q rubs shoulder with the first Lady, because it’s only through people addressing these issues that things will change. And yes, I agree, we should allow the children to have their pizza, occasionally. There's this thing that's called moderation and we live in a society that believes in excess, NOT moderation. A slice of pizza once a week IS okay, but when the school serves it as an option daily and a child has to make a decision, they will often make the wrong decision. They are non-the-less… kids.

    However, the children's choices never truly amazed me… during our nutrition unit; one could see why the children made these poor decisions. Why you ask? Because that's what their parents are teaching them is the right decision. Nearly 1/2 of my students would come in with their meal log indicating that they had eaten out 3-4 nights a week MINIMUM. Oh and these are the same student's would come in with the Mickey D's breakfast (Bacon, egg & cheese and a hash brown). That's 570 calories and 32 grams of fat and little nutrition value. When you add this to the unnutritional lunches that schools typically offer of corndog, pizza, and fake bbq ribs, how can we expect our children to grow up and make wise choices?

    Just my own personal tangent… take it with a grain of salt. But, when an adult gains 20lbs in less than 10 months, solely because the only diet change has been the addition of school food, one must think about what we are doing to and what we are teaching our children about good nutrition. It's actually quite hypocritical to teach them a Health Nutrition Science Unit in the a.m., and then send them to the cafeteria for pizza, fries and ice cream for lunch…

  44. I think what you're doing is wonderful. Perhaps if all the teachers and district staff had to eat the school food for even a week there could be some changes. I look at the meals the school serves and see little or no protein, lots of preservatives and artificial flavors/colors, and almost always it's all pre-packaged. The cafeterias here do not actually prepare the food from what I have seen. Then the schools can't figure out why these kids have low test scores and behavioral issues?

    I hope you will continue this project. I found this page from AOL and will be sharing it with anyone I can.

  45. Mrs. Q
    Thank you so much! I have been an advocate for changing school lunches since my son entered school. He has never eaten a school lunch and he is now 12. He knows that the school lunches are not good for him. Does coorporate America really think that the health of our children is worth sacrificing so they can earn more by manufacturing food that is made from chemicals and modified ingredients. Look at when HFCS was introduced into manufacturing and the increase in obesity and diabetes rate; coincidence.. no it is not. We as parents need to help put a stop to this, stop poisoning our children with all the food in the market place. I am fortunate to have found a company that sells a complete line of all natural foods that are made here and made without genetically manufactured ingredients, High Fructose Corn syrups, hydrogenated oils, food dyes, MSG and no additive or preservative of any kind. I am a rep for this company so I am not going to post the website because I am not on here to advertise my business, but just say how much I appreciate that someone in the school system is taking this on. Mrs. Q you are the best, and I cannot thank you enough for what you are doing and putting your job at risk to do it.
    Cynthia in GA

  46. I felt the same way you did when my first child started Head Start.
    I lived in Toledo OH and those first days of school were the first time my son
    ever ate sugar cereal, doughnuts with chocolate frosting, frozen /microwave foods.
    You know that it is bad when a 4 yr old comes home hungry and you ask "Didn't you eat lunch in school?" and his reply is "It was dog food mom". I quickly volunteered to help in the class so I could "See" what they ate. Hell I wouldn't eat it!
    After his statement about the food I continued to feed him his usual large bowl of oatmeal with honey on it, for breakfast and a nutritious lunch when he got home at 12:30 PM. I told him to just not eat the food offered and say he would eat when he got home. Toledo schools have a central kitchen. They cook the food, seal it up in those cardboard containers and then freeze it. The schools nuke it and the poor kids get stuck eating frozen cheese burgers ect… it is GROSS. I grew up in Perrysburg OH where they actually "Cooked" your food every day and it was wonderful. They got veggies and fruit from local farmers and that kept the cost down. Guessing they aren't even allowed to do that anymore. I did question the Head Start teacher, my argument was that most of the children were Af. Am. who are known to have High BP/ Diabetes and other problems so WHY are you feeding them lots of salt and sugar ???!!! The whole thing stinks and we need to go back to doing things the way they did in the 60's. Oh and we used to love working in the cafeteria as kids too!

  47. Great web site. It was mentioned on AOL this morning. I'm a retired high school teacher and watched students eat pizza, hot dogs, and other junk food in lieu of hot lunches. The kids started their morning with sodas from the vending machine! I've also been in the schools' kitchens enough times to know that school lunches are processed, pre-packaged, and tasteless. Most food is microwaved or re-heated in hot boxes.

    When I went to school, a hundred years ago, the kitchens hired cooks to prepare food on site. I remember everyone loving the spaghetti with real cheese melted on top.
    The burgers were not processed meat. The subs
    were made with tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, ham, and cheese. Grilled cheese sandwiches were fattening, but they were so good.

    The excuse today from kitchen staff is kids won't eat healthy choices and too much is thrown away. I disagree.

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