Day 82: popcorn chicken

Today’s menu: popcorn chicken, tater tots, bread, banana, milk

The words “popcorn chicken” should never be written together. When is chicken like popcorn? It’s unnatural. Anyway so they tasted salty. I slathered everyone of them with bbq sauce and the tater tots got smeared with ketchup too. I then got out my own stash of peanut butter and spread it on the bread.


One of my students who always brings his lunch said to me, “Today I’m hungry after lunch.”
I must have looked puzzled because he added, “I didn’t eat my sandwich.”
I asked, “What did you eat today?”
“Popcorn chicken.”
Mrs. Q: “How did you get popcorn chicken?”
“I traded for it.”
Mrs. Q: “So you traded your sandwich for popcorn chicken?”
“No, a fruit roll-up.”

Mrs. Q: “What did the other kid eat for lunch?”
“The fruit roll-up and the rest of his lunch.”
Mrs. Q: “So like the tater tots, bread, and banana?”
“Um, yeah, but not the banana.”
Mrs. Q: “What happened to the banana?”
“He threw it out.”

Mrs. Q: “So what did you eat then?”
“Popcorn chicken, juice box (from home), and chips.”
Mrs. Q: “Just curious, what kind of chips?”
“My favorite: Funyuns.”

I had to laugh because otherwise I might have gotten sad.

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25 thoughts on “Day 82: popcorn chicken

  1. that is sad.. and i can't believe how BLAND the plate looks! everything is a shade of brown… disgusting!

  2. I see that lunch and I want to apologize in that sympathetic way — "I'm so sorry you have to eat that'" and I want to beg the school to never serve it again. What a horrible thing. At least you got a banana. But those poor kids, starting out with crap and trading it for other someone else's crap? Gaw.

  3. Color(s) present: Yellow, golden brown, light brown, dark brown.

    Color(s) missing: Any of the neon variety.

  4. Except for the banana your lunch was sort of beige and square. That's sad. I think I would have traded for the fruit roll up and had a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

  5. I think that this is one of the most depressing looking lunches in the rotation. Why the tater tots when they look almost exactly like the "chicken"? And everything looks the same color… I've been following you since the beginning, and as sick as I'm getting of seeing the same icky food over and over again, I am feeling even worse for you eating it!

  6. Those look like weird rocks. And the tater tots should be browned if they're going to taste good.
    Also, I noticed that you put your bread right on the tray. I wonder how well the cafeteria workers clean the trays? (I'm sorry if that just grossed you out…)

  7. we actually had

    -peanut butter and (syrup?) not jelly sandwiches
    -celery and peanut butter
    -graham crackers
    -apple sauce
    -optional banana

    for lunch this week.
    Popcorn chicken looks heavenly compared to that.

  8. Are kids allowed to "trade" in your lunch room? In ours, it's not allowed. Granted, with 2-3 teachers or assistants in with 75 kids, it can be overlooked. But because of food allergies and safety reasons our kids aren't allowed to trade.

  9. I am loving these narratives! This is great insight to the impact these lunches are having on our children . . .

  10. oh my god….why is the bread on the try, is that how it is served??

  11. I don't know many kids (or adults) who would eat just a plain slice of whole wheat bread. Wonder how many slices ended up in the garbage? Such a monochromatic lunch :o(

  12. Ugh. Popcorn chicken is another way to serve teeny tiny bits of parts (a la Jamie Oliver's blender) in a lot of deep-fat-fried breading. Who knows what that's made of! And tater tots. What are they? Reconstituted potato flakes? Or bits and ends that were substandard for fries or hash browns, perhaps? Also deep fried. No wonder the nation's children are obese.

  13. The school should look into ways to reuse uneaten food. Can they set up a table to place uneaten bananas (for example)? No reason to throw good food out. Also, I wonder what the rules are for donating uneaten food to the local homeless shelter.

  14. At least the kid knew that he was hungry because he didn't eat his sandwich. Maybe he learned something and won't make the same mistake in the future.

    I think when I was in elementary school I even knew that if I didn't eat most of my lunch, I'd be hungry later. But it might have been because I was taught that. I think we had lunch monitors that made sure we ate.

  15. I learned from someone who paralegaled for a major litigation case involving a frozen potato company that tater tots are made from the bits of potato that fall or are trimmed off the potatoes when they are processed into fries/etc. Trays sit underneath the conveyor belts and collect whatever would otherwise land on the floor.

    yum yum.

    (I have to confess, I used to love tater tots.)

  16. This kid's sack/home lunch didn't sound all that nutritious either. Hmmm…how are we gonna mandate what parents serve their kids because school lunches are only a small part of the overall problem?

  17. How do you explain kids who are obese or have weight issues and aren't even in school yet?

  18. Like I've said on a few postings: Being one of those kids a few years back…all fruits and vegetables pretty much went automatically in the trash without a thought.

    You can serve all of the "color veggies" you want. Look at a trash can after the lunch bell…it's very "colorful".

  19. I laughed at the kid eating popcorn chicken, a juicebox, and funyuns, but on a more serious note: Kids REALLY need to be taught about nutrition and how a balanced meal will make and keep you fuller throughout the day. :/

  20. I thought the chicken was tater tots at first glance, but then I saw the tater tots and had to do a double take. LOL

    Curious – do the lunch ladies in your school cafeteria walk around encouraging the kids to eat the healthier foods? At our school they make sure the kids eat the good stuff before they the treaty stuff.

  21. Just thinking about tacomamama's post about the origin of tater tot ingredients. I think I understand that some parts of the potato would need to be trimmed to create french fries. So, would this mean that those parts are "bad"? And if they are not, would it be better to waste those parts, or use them for something else?

    A bit off the topic probably, but, in general, have we moved away from using "everything but the squeal" in the foods we choose? If everyone wants only best parts of everything, what happens to the rest? Are the other parts truly "bad", or just something we feel is unacceptable due to culture?

  22. @Maggie, I'm with you. There are some food processing by-products that are "bad" IMO because they are unhealthy (skin and fat trimmed from meat). Things like peels and tops of veggies are not "bad" unless they are bruised or contaminated with bacteria or mold. We save clean veggie trimmings at home and use them to make veggie or chicken stock all the time. It's food that otherwise would be wasted and it makes the stock more flavorful. No brainer but I'm sure the squeamish would say "She uses trash to make soup! Disgusting!"

    I personally don't eat tater tots because I don't use many processed foods and I also don't really care for white potatoes. But I don't find scraps from clean, undamaged potatoes objectionable in and of themselves. At home I try to find ways to use up odds & ends all the time rather than waste food. Is it better to capture and salvage potato bits that are too small to be cut into fries or to throw away pounds of perfectly healthy, safe food? I think the fat and salt content of the meal is more concerning than the fact that chopped up potato scraps are used to make a ball of chopped up potato scraps!

    In the US our relative wealth and abundance allows to be squeamish about food that is perfectly edible but not beautiful. I was once chastised for sending "brown" apple slices to preschool; my kids have only ever eaten brown apple slices and don't like them treated w/sour lemon juice. The other kids threw the apples away because they were "yucky". A hungry kid (or ones not trained to think cut apples should be white) would have eaten the apples.

  23. Maggie, you have a good point. And I would completely agree (and have actually made that point to my husband–who is the person with the no tater tots shall pass policy after I told him that story) however, it's just so easy for what should be a good thing (not being wasteful) to turn really, really disgusting in the hands of the factory food industry. Using all the parts of a potato? Good. Collecting all the parts from wherever they happen to fall and pulling them all together from multiple rooms in multiple plants in multiple places? Possibly, a little scary. I'm not saying that's how it's done, I don't know the true scale of tater tot creation, but since it's done that way with ground beef and other products of mystery origin, I wonder if that's the case.

    A french fry on the other hand probably did come from just one potato.

    Ultimately, nobody really needs tater tots, so I never really looked into it further. You could just eat natural cut fries and be just as thrifty with your potato parts.

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