Day 100: peanut butter and jelly

Today’s menu: peanut butter and jelly, carrots, fruit juice, milk

I knew this meal was coming because there was an announcement stating that the menu was changed for today. If you remember what happened the last time I ate this meal (the one and only time I got sick), you know that I was looking forward to it… For the first time during the project I packed a more substantial snack (more than just my usual apple and granola bar — a veggie salad) so that I could eat something in case I didn’t want to eat the school lunch. When I saw the sandwich wrappers, I wasn’t prepared for my visceral reaction: No way. I just didn’t want to eat them again.

But I took them like a dutiful student and ate everything else first. When I finally took the wrapping off of the pb&j bars and the smell of commercial peanut butter wafted out. I could only take a nibble. (I know that I have some readers that love these sandwiches though)
I find it ironic that this is the school lunch I ate for number 100! How perfect, right?
Today I felt down. I’m saying goodbye to my coworkers for the summer. I include the lunchroom staff in that group. I hope that when/if my real identity comes out they don’t feel betrayed and angry, but I expect that would be how they would feel. I feel like a jerk for doing this project when I think about how they might react. At the very least they might feel a loss of trust in me as a person. Think about everything I have done on the blog while still looking them in the face during the day. I hope that they forgive me. Over the course of the project, I have gone through many cycles of doubt. Hopefully it will pass.
My husband reassured me that I haven’t done anything wrong, but I just feel like a crummy person today.

I certainly don’t view myself as a “hero” so don’t misread this, but I think I fit into the “reluctant hero archetype.” So much of me doesn’t really want to do this project, but I feel compelled to do it morally. I am the right person to do this (you’d have to know me to know this for sure), but I have to remind myself.

But it’s not all doom and gloom around here. Tomorrow is the last day of school for kids and the last day of lunches for me. Can I get a “hell yeah!?” Yippee!
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45 thoughts on “Day 100: peanut butter and jelly

  1. I feel so bad. I laughed really hard when "Peanut butter and jelly" came up on my Twitter feed. Sorry.

  2. I missed your first PB&J experience, so I have to ask – is it on bread? graham crackers? it looks almost like a PB&J "toaster pastry" from the picture! It certainly doesn't look like anything that would fortify a child for more learning, but neither does most of what you've shown us.

    Add my name to the long list of people grateful to you for doing this. It has been so eye-opening (and depressing) and makes me glad that I packed my kids' lunch during their elementary school years (no cafeteria at their Montessori school). Enjoy your summer!

  3. Oh sweet Elvis in the sky, not the "peanut butter and jelly sandwiches" again. The wrapper ought to read "Caution: contains no actual food product".

  4. I'm not a lunch lady, so I can't say for sure how they would react to finding out you were doing this blog, but in my opinion they shouldn't feel betrayed. None of your criticism was directed at them personally. After all, it wasn't their decision to swtich from scratch-made lunches to processed, individually wrapped dreck. They would probably love to go back to the "old days" of being lunch ladies, and maybe with the attention that you, Michelle Obama and others are bringing to the school lunch issue, they will be able to someday.

    Oh, and the PB&J sandwich looks truly dreadful!

  5. It's graham crackers not bread, but it qualifies as the grain, actually two grains! It's not crisp like a graham cracker from a box. Instead it's similar to a graham cracker that you left in an open box for maybe four days. Sorta bendy.

  6. *jumpin for joy for you*, the no more school part…I am a teacher and I TOTALLY understand the elation the last day of school brings along with the bittersweet (sometimes) "buhbyes".
    Bless you for doing this project, it has been a huge issue in my life since I was in school, I made my own lunches from 5th grade or so because I refused to eat the school food. *blech* still makes my tummy turn, most times.

  7. LOL! I have to confess to a taste for bendy graham crackers, but with milk, not fake PB&J prodcut.

  8. As a "lunch lady" I don't think I would be offended…well maybe not. I'm sure they know they are not to blame. They don't make the menu or the government requirements. They're just doing a job the way they're told to do it.

    I've commented before (not that I expect you to remember), but I work at a Jewish school and we have a "kosher style" kitchen. We use kosher meat which is super expensive, so we only have real meat about once a week. So our main source of protein is dairy. We're also fairly carb heavy. As an employee, it is not my choice to maintain this particular diet. I just make the food that will fit in the parameters of what's required.
    I actually started a blog documenting our school lunches…for an entirely different reason then your blog, but this is what 2.5 people can cook for 350 people per day with a proper kitchen.

    I will add that our building was under construction, so we were cooking at a catholic school down the road and transporting the food up the big hill to our school.

  9. That looks like clear the shelves and freezer, it's the end of the school year and we're not spending any more money lunch. It is to weep.

  10. Okay, that is pretty darned bad. Looks like a gross new kind of pop tart or something.

    As far as your coworkers are concerned, I freely admit that I don't know you or them, so I could be way off base – but maybe they will be appreciative that you are shedding light on this issue. I would imagine at least a few other people in your school feel the same way about the lunches. It's not like you've been blogging – "here's what I ate for lunch today and I had to sit next to that jerk that teaches 3rd grade." So – chin up, and eat lots of fresh veggies this summer.

  11. Lighten up love. You are doing the kitchen staff a huge favor and I'm confident they will support you if you are found out.

    But don't worry. You've done your district and the country a great service by keeping the awareness in our conciousness.

    Good luck and have a great summer!

  12. I am so sorry. I love PBJ sandwiches, but real ones with yummy thick PB, homemade jam and multigrain bread. I'm not entirely sure what that is, but they are insulting PBJ by calling it that.

  13. I haven't read all of your posts, so you may have addressed this earlier. Since you go in to the cafeteria and eat the school lunches "prepared" by the cafe. staff, do they think that you actually like them and that is why you eat them everyday? We don't have one teacher that eats the school lunches EVERYDAY, but if there was one, I would guess it was because they liked them.
    So, if this is the case, if they truly think you like the lunches (because of your daily consumption of them) I can understand why you're feeling a little crummy about them finding out.
    Anyway, just wondering what the cafe. staff thinks of you eating there everyday.

  14. That's peanut butter & jelly? I'm so confused. My mom used to make me peanut butter & jelly every day for years. It was my favorite but it was all natural peanut butter on whole grain bread. Your lunch is definitely not pb&j 😉
    I feel horrible for these kids

  15. I also don't see any reason why the people working in the cafeteria (I have trouble calling them lunch ladies, when they don't actually cook any lunches) would be upset with you. You haven't singled them out in any way that is unkind –you've only singled out the food, and made it obvious that they have nothing to do with it except heating.

    Of all the lunches I've seen on your blog, that PB&J looks the least like actual food. How very odd, and I wonder if the kids like it.

    Have a nice summer!

  16. Ugh! I cringed when I saw the PB sandwich. Although it really is ironic that it was #100!

    With PB's severe allergy issues I am surprised this is even an option in the National School Lunch Program.

  17. When I saw it on Twitter, I said "No! Not again. She almost got out of school without another one. Dang!" I remembered how badly you hated this weird version of PB&J last time. Well, look at it this way. . .it'll be a LONG time before you have to see it again. It does look truly dreadful.

  18. I haven't read your blog in a bit, but this….this is not a sandwich. I loved my school lunches as a kid and PB&J was always an alternative option at my poor, private school in a bad part of town. It was handmade on white bread (eh, I still liked white bread then) and cut into two pieces for us little ones to enjoy. I don't think your experience with lunch would of been so bad if you would of had food prepped and cooked by hardworking ladies (and one guy, from my life exp.) starting at 7am to have it ready for us by 11 (we had recess after so the entire break period was an hour). I mean…it makes me sad that THIS is what is fed to kids now.

    On a lighter note congrats on completing another year 🙂 and I hope you don't feel bad about this blog or what you've been doing. This has been such good PR on the entire school food issue.

  19. This meal makes me very sad. This was one of my favorite lunches when I was in school. It was peanut butter on white bread with an apple and milk. I later found out that they would put honey in with the peanut butter, yum!! That is how I now make my peanut butter sandwiches. I would not eat what you have in the pictures.

  20. thats it? thats all they fed the children for lunch? Im appalled. thats not food… sorry i really dont have the words for how shocked i am. Please, never doubt what you are doing – if we live in a society where feeding that… stuff… is acceptable, you have every moral right to fight against it.

  21. Since when does a poptart get considered a "sandwich"? I don't think I could have even nibbled that…

  22. The school that I work at gets their food from Chartwells. Every day they feature a "triple decker peanut butter and jelly sandwich" as a lunch option. It is what it sounds like- three pieces of bread, maybe a quarter cup of peanut butter between the bottom two slices, jelly between the top two. Every day, there's at least one kindergartner who chokes on their sandwich. I never knew you could screw up PB&J but there it is. Still, it looks better than what your kids had to eat!

  23. Doesn't pb already being on the crackers make them soggy? gross.

    I started reading late but I have to say I do not think anyone has any reason for thinking you are a 'jerk'. I believe you only stated what a large percentage of parents were already thinking. Someone has to be brave enough to stand up for what they believe in, that was you. I Lead a board for Kids Eating Healthy on which I started along with my Mods. I can assure you, you are not alone in your opinions.

  24. I've been following your blog for a few months now, reading bits out loud to my husband along the way and both of us have been surprised, shocked (my husband couldn't believe recess had been deleted from the school day), revolted and angered by what's been put on your lunch tray. We're the parents of a toddler who will be school age soon and you've given us things to think about that we never considered before becoming parents.

    So, thanks Mrs Q and I hope you have a great summer . . .with no faux PB&J's!

  25. I don't understand how a peanut butter and jelly sandwich could be given to a growing child, and expect that to last them all day.

  26. How sad that even the PB&J comes prepackaged. It takes 30 seconds to slap together a PB&J. Even an understaffed kitchen should have enough time and experience to handle that one. I shudder to think at how long those things have been sitting around in a freezer or a shelf in a warehouse waiting to be served. Yuck!

  27. All nutrition arguments aside, I think it's a sad state of affairs when our school lunch programs can't even handle making PBJ "from scratch." Seriously. 🙁

    …and let's just pair it randomly with carrots since we have an extra can lying around. Talk about an obvious "clean out the pantry" lunch.

  28. Mrs Q,
    I am a "lunch lady" of a jr high school which serves approximately 1000 meals a day. I would never feel betrayed by your comments or your project. Most of us who work in school food service want to keep improving what we serve. unfortunately, we need to serve what is available to us. In the district I work in you would never see lunches like what you are served. We make a minimum of two lunches a week from scratch- homemade tacos, spaghetti sauce, lasagna, chicken fajitas with fresh peppers and onions, etc. We still do scratch baking- dinner rolls, french bread, etc. We serve 2-3 FRESH fruits and vegetables a day- watermelon, mangoes, kiwi, apples, the list goes on. Although I feel very proud of what we do compared to what you are being served, I know there is so much more that we could be doing. The job we have is how to keep finding those things within all of our budget constraints. I would have to believe that the food service staff in your school also know there is so much more they can do- but they feel their hands are tied. Just a thank you to them for at least trying to make a good meal will go a long way.
    I love your blog- keep up the good work. I really love that you always give a good comment when warranted, along with anything else you have to say.
    Have a great and relaxing summer- look forward to see what you will be eating in the fall!

  29. That is a sad, sorry, abomination of the sanctity of the wholesome, innocent peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Really, how can whatever company that makes it call it a pb&j in good conscience? For shame!

  30. You know what might be helpful for your cause (and eye opening to most)? Take a photo of nutritional information on the label. I bet that PB&J has a list of ingredients that's a mile long!

  31. our school doesn't even have real peanut butter sandwiches….they have a soy butter & jelly sandwich so as to not inadvertantly give one to a child who is allergic!! But either way, that doesn't look appealing.

  32. Ewww, ewwww, ewwww!! That's not what I expected from the title "peanut butter and jelly." By the way, our school is so nut-phobic (we have lots of nut allergies) that there is NEVER any kind of nut product available for purchase. If students want to bring PBJ for lunch, they have to sit at the "peanut butter table" to eat. Thanks, Mrs. Q, for your great insights this school year! And thank you for sacrificing your taste buds in the interest of our kids.

  33. You know… WHY has peanut butter and jelly gotten SO complicated that it now must appear shrink-wrapped between two graham crackers? Really. Fine if your school doesn't have a stove. Fine if you only have a couple of lunch staff. But PB&J is SO easy that I'm pretty sure while the carrots bake in their plastic wrap, three women can line up a few hundred slices of bread and assembly-line some fresh sandwiches. I'm sorry. It's not rocket science. PB&J does not need a corporation to manufacture them in advance any more than a box full of peaches need to be cut up into micro-cubes and drowned in liquid lead.

    wow. that may be the angriest rant I've ever posted here. :O

  34. I would never eat carrots with a PP&J sandwich. That just seems like an odd paring? How about a banana. Also, is the juice box considered the fruit? Why juice box and milk?

  35. It almost looks like a giant fig newton and a glycemic nightmare. When I saw that the first thing I heard in my head was my inner child screaming that that was not a pbj but an imposter.

    The carrots threw me for a loop. I try not to read the title before I look at the picture. I try to see if I can figure out what the meal is on my own. I wouldn't have ever guessed pbj.

  36. I can't believe you have made it 100 days and lived! I rarely ate school lunch at my school. I used to eat it a lot more, but the quaality has gotten worse over the years. We have die-hard lunch eaters at school who will eat lunch there almost daily. They complain about it, but do nothing to change it.

    I stand with my kids in line daily and watch them get their lunches. What they eat is pathetic. I have to admit that I think the food they eat looks better than what you have most of the time, but it doesn't mean it tastes any better. My kids have always chosen their milk first – normally chocolate, strawberry or root beer flavored milk. Next year, I am going to try to get them to drink only white milk. I did start making them get 2 things from the salad bar, but I don't know if they truly ate them. I may have to sit with my new group of kids next year and watch.

    I have challenged myself to help my students make healtheir choices next year. I don't know how that will go, but I will try my best.

    Enjoy your summer off of school lunch! I have already been out for 2 weeks, so we will be starting back a lot earlier than you will (We go back Aug. 11…ugh!). I need to start gearing up soon for the new year!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  37. Congratulations on ending the year alive after eating all the school food. I am amazed that more students do not go home sick everyday after lunch. I always know when they have served bean burritos by the number of kids who go to the nurse or run out to go to the bathroom!

    Enjoy your summer vacation, as I am enjoying mine. I will getting ready to go back sooner than you, with a renewed spirit about helping my students eat healthier! Here's to the headache with that and all the kicking and screaming my kids will be doing when I tell them white milk only!

  38. I still don't care how horrible they are, I'd give my left arm for a chance to eat one of those sandwiches again.

    (I may have said this before but) Those sandwiches were reserved for kids who either forgot their lunch/money or couldn't eat the regular meal for whatever reason. They were never on the normal menu. I got to have one maybe once or twice, and I loved it.

    However, I'd probably be wicked grossed out if I actually had one as an adult, though…

  39. Neither of my kids are old enough for school lunches yet. First one enters kindergarten in the fall. But I'm surprised that PB&J is on the menu with so many "nut-free" zones in schools. I'm more tuned into that now since my son, 19 months, was diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy.

  40. Root beer flavored milk?!?!?! (dry heaves)

    As far as the PB and J goes, I may be wrong here, but I think that they may be REQUIRED to be pre-packaged. Because of the whole allergy issue. Still, that looks like one sorry excuse for a PB and J. I like the Uncrustables…they may not be that much healthier than the graham cracker ones, but at least they are palatable.

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