Day 67: cheese sandwich

Today’s menu: cheese sandwich, apple, broccoli, milk

The sandwich was stale, but the broccoli and apple? Great. I do believe overall the lunches are getting marginally better! I’m waiting to have a lactose attack because of the sandwich, but it hasn’t happened yet.

I asked a student, “What did you have for lunch?”
“Egg sandwich.”
Mmm, hmm.
My response, “I think it was cheese.”

“And did you eat the broccoli?”
“Yes.” (obvious lie for my benefit)
“And the apple?”
Huge smile, “Yes, it was good.”


In regards to the “Meatless Monday” post — before I considered posting it, I sent an email to Ms. Puccini with more questions about the program. My concern about “meatless” meals is that they are like what I ate today: cheese sandwich with borderline tastiness. Would I prefer to have the cheese sandwich or a potentially low quality beef patty? Um, I can’t answer that. Her response was similar to what you see in her post. The foods are varied and rich in nutrients.

In my house we eat a varied diet. It includes meals without meat like tofu, but our home diet includes eggs, fish, pork, turkey, and bison. I like how Meatless Monday is examining food diversity on the menu, but I also believe there are more animal sources of protein that kids would enjoy too.

Also I think that Meatless Monday is a decision by NYC that is right for them. I think regionality is very important when it comes to food. So if they want to do this considering there are few farms in the boroughs and therefore fewer sources of meat available to them, I say go for it. I’m sure it costs a fortune to “import” every food into Manhattan. Every part of the country needs to do what’s right and logical for them. For example, if you live in Montana, at school you should get bison since that’s a local source of animal protein. If you live nearby an ocean, your school menu should include fish. And let’s expand our thinking to include local and seaonal fruits and vegetables. That is how we will save the government’s money.

Let’s eat local, which should include tofu AND eggs, fish, pork, turkey, and bison depending on what’s logical for your area. Let’s think out of the box. Bravo to NYC!

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28 thoughts on “Day 67: cheese sandwich

  1. I think it's great to see some fruit and veg on offer that actually look like fruit and veg! Just a weird combo – cheese sammy and broccoli. Not something you'd normally expect to see 😉

  2. At least today you got a range of bright colours: red AND green from a real fruit and vegetable, plus yellow and brown!

    The cheese sandwich looks quite icky. Is that really meant to be a "hot" sandwich? The bread doesn't look toasted. Melted cheese on untoasted bread wrapped in plastic?

  3. There's one additional benefit to Meatless Mondays:animal protein (while super yummy)creates a lot of pollution (more than transportation!), and also is incredibly inefficient when it comes to using food grown in the US, calorie and fuel wise. Meat and dairy used to be used sparingly, mostly because it wasn't efficient food wise, but it was probably also better for our waistlines that way. If you're eating less dairy and meat, you're eating more veggies and grains!

  4. Meatless Monday is not a bad idea. Most school lunch meat comes from the USDA commodity program, and that is 99.99% of the "parts is parts" ground up and/or breaded variety. A little break from that once a week can't hurt. Maybe if schools cut down on the number of days they serve meat, they could afford higher quality meat the rest of the time.

  5. I'm guessing you didn't get a lactose attack because this neon-colored splattered mass doesn't look like normal cheese at all to me. The sandwich seems to be spread with cheese whiz instead of real cheese. Or maybe they just went too far with the food coloring. In any case, the broccoli and apple look much more appetizing.

    Good luck with the project! I've been following it for a few weeks now, and I completely admire what you're doing. I'm from Bulgaria and would love to do a guest post on Bulgarian school lunches, but unfortunately we don't have those in high school – only from first to seventh grade, and they're optional because school only lasts from morning till noon, or from noon till dinner time.

  6. LOL, the cheese sandwich reminds me of what I make when I am at the end of the week and need to grocery shop. granted, we only have real cheese at our house, but I have been known to make "grilled" cheese sandwich with leftover hamburger buns, once with hot dog buns (it was a hit believe it or not!). BUT, my kids would be STARVING after just eating that. Where's the protein?? I would have at least added an additional fruit or veggie, maybe some roasted potatoes?

  7. The problem with meatless Monday is that for many of the kids who are on federal programs, school meals may be thier only opportunity to eat meat. Those are the kids I would be worried about.

  8. Love the broc and apple and milk, the sandwich could have been eliminated. It would have made me more hungry – really no nutrition there. An egg sandwich would have been great!!

  9. Your dialogue with the students reminded me of a story a family member told from her days as an elementary teacher in the South in the 1960s: she made the children finish their meals (many were poor and needed every bite), and one day they had stewed prunes. One poor little mite looked up with tears in his eyes and said, "Miss G., don't make me eat them big ole raisins!" 🙂

  10. I'm a former vegetarian turned "localvore" which means I now eat meat that was raised or hunted on my own farm or by someone I know. I did not eat any meat through two pregnancies, and because I knew about how nutrients like iron and calcium work against each other and how protein competes with calcium, I never had problems with anemia or protein deficiency. My children, now ages 3 and 5, eat meat at fewer than half of their meals. They are healthy and thriving because I make sure that most of what they eat is nutritionally balanced.

    The point is, if school nutritionists received their education from non-subsidized entities, they would be pleasantly surprised by how much more receptive and attentive kids would be after eating meals that are truly balanced. The protein in green vegetables is much easier for little stomachs to digest than the heavily processed, preservative- and dye-laden foods that they are served in public schools.

    …Getting off my soapbox now…
    Mrs. Q, thank you so much for taking a stand, as well as keeping us abreast of the issues and of the infrastructural changes that are already happening. I'm excited to see what's coming!

  11. I agree with your assessment of Meatless Mondays – it makes sense for NYC so that's great, but it might not be the best choice for everyone. On the other hand, tacomamama is right – most schools get their "meat" in the form of highly processed nastiness. If the school district near the ocean could replace the meat-like nuggets with real, fresh seafood, that would be awesome. Unfortunately the food industry subsidies favor the meat-like product makers and not the local fishermen, so they can't compete on cost…

  12. Hi Mrs. Q!
    I just found your blog!!! HOW AWESOME!! I really commend what you are doing and I, too, want to do similar work in my area!! I featured you on my blog – so feel free to check it out!! (
    I am looking forward to following you 🙂
    Have a great night!

  13. I think I may email you to see if I can guest contribute. I think that your readers can benefit from a more urban school lunch experience. NYC is often the pariah of the urban school districts but schools there run the gamut from ghetto to gorgeous.

  14. The sandwich doesn't look bad to me (the grilled cheeses I make at home look the same, how pretty can you make two pieces of bread and cheese). Plus Fresh fruit, green vegetables, and milk. Looks like a colorful, well-rounded lunch today! 🙂

  15. Dear Ms. Blogger,

    While a lot of your analysis and critique of the public school lunch program may be accurate, I hope you don't miss the context. I'm a university student. Browsing through the pictures of the foods, I can pretty much say that some of these kids are eating a better diet than the ones that most budget conscious university students. I can safely say that many on the strict Ramen Nooodle regiment would prefer any of the foods you characterize as 'yucky'.

    With that bit of factiousness out the way, there is a logic intended with my madness-of-a-post, and it is not to trivialize your work or devalue your cause. I just want to pose this simple question of whether or not the schools are doing what they can given the budgetary constraints and how much or how extensive should the reform be for you to stop blogging and consider this a 'mission accomplished'? I guess what I'm asking is, do you have a goal? Is there a policy agenda? Are there concrete goals which you, through this blog, hope to achieve? Are these goals feasible or do you feel like you're asking for the moon?

  16. Hi, I have been reading your blog with interest since the article about Jamie Oliver and American school lunches appeared in the Australian Weekend Newspaper. I am amazed at the school lunches that are served in your school. Are nutritionalists involved in the planning of the menus?

  17. Agree with most of the above commenters in one respect: Cheap junk is subsidized, so that's what you get. Eliminate those subsidies, let prices reflect the true actual costs, and real food suddenly isn't that much more expensive.

    You can't cheat reality — all you can do is prolong the day of reckoning. And in the meantime, every peaceful, honest person suffers for it.

  18. This was one of my favorite posts yet, Mrs Q! Hear Hear! I really appreciate that you emphasized the fact that "Meatless" days are more of an environmental issue than a nutrition one.

    I also want to throw out there that "Meatless" days can serve as an effective budgeting tool. We continue to discuss how to realize the additional needed funding to improve our country's food programs. A part of the solution could be menu-ing less expensive, but still high quality plant based proteins once or twice a week. This would allow for the purchase of either higher quality ingredients, additional labor cost and/or locally grown, antibiotic free meats. Its not the whole answer the issues, of course, but it can certainly help.

  19. Just wanted to throw out the fact that cheese is different than milk. If I drink milk, I get cramps, but no pain from eating cheese.

    As for Meatless Mondays– contrary to what the USDA would have you believe, meat is not necessary for our health. We should all be eating less of it. As for poor kids not getting meat at home, I find that highly unlikely. I'd be more worried that they aren't getting fresh fruits and vegetables, which growing bodies do need.

  20. University students wouldn't have to eat ramen if public schools taught them how to prepare healthy meals on a budget. I was lucky when I got to college because my parents taught me these things and I think I've only had ramen once (I didn't like how salty it was).

  21. Mrs. Q or other posters, how shall we go about changing the marketing, sales, delivery and such of products to allow local farmers to get a fair price and get the products the schools? Do we need to change society before we can change the schools? If most are not willing to give up the variety we are used to seeing in the grocery stores, how to we convince children?

    How do we write the rules to encourage local usage without limiting the variety that we enjoy with products from other areas of the country.

  22. apple and broccoli hooray too bad about the "mystery sandwich" ooh my favorite yellow flavored sandwich!

  23. It would be nice to have more vegetarian options at your school that didn't rely on processed cheese as its meat substitute.

    It actually reminds me of when my little sister when through a vegetarian phase. She ended up anemic because she was a "junkfood vegetarian" and eliminated meat from her diet without adding in other good sources of protien. I think she also gained a bit of weight as well.

    Grilled cheese sandwiches and cheese pizza sounds like "junkfood vegetarian" fare to me. I guess my point is that just because something is vegetarian doesn't make it healthier.

    On the other had, looking at the meat options there too… well, I really can't decide if mystery meat is better than processed cheese. I would want my hypothetical kid eating any of it.

  24. How do you eat bison? I've never heard of this before, do you eat it like a steak or slow cook it?

  25. Watch a school try to use tofu or seitan instead of an animal. The TeaBagger parents would erupt and claim that The Establishment was trying to turn their kids into liberal-hippy-faries (as Rush Limbaugh calls them). I think it is interesting that tofu never seems to make it on any school menu in the US.

  26. I have been going through and reading all your posts (I've really been enjoying it!). But I just wanted to comment (as someone from Montana), that yes, there is bison here, but no, you won't see it at most of the supermarkets/Wal-mart. It is not that readily available in my area of the state. You will see it at farmer's markets, but it is extremely expensive, though also extremely tasty! I would like to add to Kate – bison can come in steak or other cuts, it can also be ground like hamburger.

  27. *sigh.* I’ve been back-reading the blog from its early days and I’ve loved this early content! However, for the first time, I am disappointed enough to comment. I was so happy that you posted a guest blog about Meatless Monday and then immediately the next day you basically went back on it. I can’t believe that it is such a big deal to have ONE day a week of vegetarian food. People think that if they go a day without meat they will be nutritionally deficient but this is absurd. I also saw other comments about people being concerned that school lunch is the only time when some students have meat. I would argue that for many students, school lunch might be the only time of day that they eat vegetables and fresh fruit. Meat and dairy are subsidized heavily by the government and are subsequently comparatively cheap compared to fresh fruits and vegetables. There are so many benefits to a vegetarian diet that it isn’t worth getting into it here, but I can’t believe that you wouldn’t endorse a single day of vegetables and plant-based protein. Maybe a vegetarian diet isn’t right for everyone, but is it really so bad to show kids (ONCE per week) what that could be like? Or how easy it is?

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