Day 106: pasta

Today’s menu: pasta with meat sauce, peas and carrots, apple, goldfish crackers (milk not pictured – lactose -intolerant)
So the pasta wasn’t terrible (I have always said that I enjoy pasta). Taste is not the best judge of quality sometimes (do you agree with that statement?). I just wonder, “What am I eating?” If you look closely, you can see that the “beef” is rectangular/square in shape. I’m guessing it’s those beef crumbles with texturized soy flour/protein. Not that appetizing when you think about it. And that’s what I’m doing: thinking about what my students and I eat every day.
Carrots, peas, apple!? Yes! Goldfish? Not my thing, but there’s your second grain (pasta was the first grain).
I still haven’t told too many people about the project. I hope friends don’t hate me when I confess all this to them. I did recently bring in a friend who asked, “Why didn’t you tell me?” I felt bad. I didn’t think it would hurt anyone’s feelings. Thankfully she forgave me.
I have shared things with my dad along the way and that has been funny. When I first told a few family members, the reaction was positive. My dad took it in stride with a “eh?” and went on with his day. He doesn’t understand blogging and doesn’t care about nutrition. Basically he didn’t care one way or another about my project.
But recently he has taken a little more interest. What follows is an excerpted email I got from him today. It made me smile and I knew I had to blog it:

…very interesting. To be the devil’s advocate I think all the children from the poor [sic]…are lucky to be getting what they do!! It is partially a matter of cost that they receive the prepackaged and frozen foods that they do. It would cost me and you and all taxpayers much more to supply fresh stuff year round. The taxpayer is already supporting so many people in so many ways.
Love Dad
Here’s what I’m going to email my dad now that he’s engaging in this debate. I want him on “Team Q:”

Hi Dad,
I just want you know that part of why I’m advocating for better school lunches. You know, we are already paying for these lunches that aren’t doing much for the kids. There is so much waste in the system. Kids don’t want to eat the food and throw much of it out. I believe if school lunches could be made better, it would end up costing around the same amount. What happened to lower cost items like soup? Doesn’t the packaging cost something too? What about making fresh food onsite that all kids want to buy and eat? Teachers and students from greater means could purchase the lunches instead of packing lunches from home, thereby putting cash into the system. I personally would pay a substantial lunch fee to eat better food with my students and for your grandson to eat a good school lunch with his friends (when he grows up).

If we think strictly about cost, we also have to factor in the costs of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other serious illnesses that students like mine have a good chance of developing since they have no good food model in their life. If the school doesn’t provide a fresh school lunch, nutrition education or recess, my students learn that food is meaningless and that exercise has no place in school.

If we fix school lunch, we might just fix our nation’s schools. When Jamie Oliver changed to fresh food in the UK, science grades went up (8%), English grades went up (6%), and so did attendance (improved 15%). At my school reading scores are the ones that are the lowest (as compared to math). How many schools would make AYP if their student’s scores went up by 6-8%? I would venture many, many schools.

So in sum, Dad, we need to toss out the processed food and bring in salad bars. It’s an investment in children and their health. Extend the lunch period, throw in recess, a little nutrition education and we’d be cooking with gas (pun intended)!

Daughter Q

Anything you would like to add in my email to my father?
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30 thoughts on “Day 106: pasta

  1. Interesting, will you share your dad's response too?

    I wouldn't have guessed pasta, it looks sort of like a cross between a beef stew and a veggie lentil soup. I would think a nice breadstick or piece of garlic bread would go better than Goldfish, plus you could mop up the sauce with it.

  2. I would just emphasize what you already said:

    The food is not actually free, we are paying for it. Why are we paying for junk food?

    If you were having difficulty making ends meet and you asked your dad for grocery money, wouldn't he be upset if he found out you spent it all on fast food value menu items, lucky charms and frozen chicken nuggets? What would he say if you defended that decision by saying your kids wouldn't eat anything else?

    This is what is happening with the money provided for school food. Not because districts want it that way but because they are wedded to big food suppliers and the commodity system, and they are afraid to take the risk that kids won't buy the food if it is healthier.

  3. That pasta looks…hellish. D: The lasagna I had for lunch here where I live looked and tasted edible…And Goldfish, ugh, heard it's one of the worst snacks health-wise. Glad they don't ship here.

    And go, Team Q! More success to the blog! 😀

  4. AND, we're already paying for more than the cost of the food (that's tied to the commodities). Maybe you've already made this point.

    The school food is "cheap" because of cheap corn. And corn is cheap because of the farm subsidies. From that we get HFCS, cattle feed, chicken feed, etc. Which the taxpayer foots the bill for.

  5. I love that you are including your Dad. I am working on mine too. Our generations are so different in terms of our outlook on social responsibility and nutrition, to just mention a few things.

    I would also ask your Dad about healthcare. In 2009 the federal government spent about 19% of it's total budget (or 676 billion dollars according to Wikipedia) on Medicare and Medicaid alone. That DOES NOT include Social Security. If we could get our kids on the right track nutritionally we could cut obesity off at the neck and reclaim some of those lost dollars. Also remind your father that children today have (for the first time in our nation's history) a shorter life expectancy than their parents, all because of obesity.

    I argue with my hubs all the time about entitlement programs and whether they really are 'entitled'. My hubs is against them like your dad and I am torn. My feeling is, you can either spend your money on public housing, or you can spend the same amount on homeless shelters and extra police. If it costs the same amount, ask yourself what is the better solution for the whole? When it comes to nutrition, I'd rather spend public money on food than healthcare.

  6. That "pasta" dish looks ghastly! Sight is as much a part of eating as smell and taste. Shouldn't it actually LOOK like a pasta dish? At least the peas and carrots look nice and I love apples. I agree with the Goldfish being a poor choice for the other grain. A slice of garlic bread is much better with pasta. 🙂

    Taste is not always an indicator of quality. There are lots of manufactured/processed foods that taste wonderful but are very unhealthy. However, quality food can taste even better. Not only taste better but LOOK better, too. My husband always says that foods have to pass the "look" and "smell" test before they ever get to the "taste" test.

    Keep up the great work!

  7. If children are better fed and get a better education, they have a better chance of not growing up to need money from the government for survival. I know there are stats somewhere on it (can't find them right now) but if you walk into ANY low-income neighbourhood, anywhere in the world, you'll see GENERATIONS of people. If a parent is on welfare, then the children have a higher chance of being on welfare as adults themselves. If a parent had children very young (teen pregnancy) then the child is at a higher risk of teen pregnancy as well. And do you know that better education levels are linked with lower birth rates?

    He shouldn't be considering school lunches a fee so much as an investment. Wouldn't he rather pay money so that, when he's older and retired and needs to be supported and so on, there are more people paying into the system to help him? School lunches and indeed the entire education system is an investment into HIS future. Wouldn't he rather his money were spent on a quality product?

  8. I come from a pretty liberal family, and I'm marrying into a pretty conservative one. If I showed this to my sister in law, I could promise you all the cookies in the world that her response would be as such:

    "It's not the government's job to take care of the poor. They should just be happy they're getting a free lunch."

    So, she would echo the sentiments of your father.

    I'm unsure where I fall on the issue to be truthful, but I do agree with Mrs. Q that if we're going to give reduced lunches (or, as my in laws would probably say, 'handouts') then we should absolutely be making the best of that money spent, meaning healthy choices, and as little waste as possible.

    Above, other posters mentioned that it was a generational issue, but I'm not sure about this. My SIL is only a few years older than I am.

    What would you say to someone who stated that it isn't the government's job to take care of people, that it is the individual responsibility of each person?

    PS — I'm really not trying to be argumentative. As I said, I'm from one view point, marrying into another, and basically … riding a confused fence. I am really interested in what a good response to that would be, because when I'm presented with that statement, I usually just fumble around with my words.

  9. It looks more like meat sauce with pasta to me. I'd really like schools go meatless at least once a week. Meat is expensive and not really that healthy, and we really don't require as much protein as most people tend to think we do.

    I love what you're doing, and I hope that your dad sees the merit to your points. Why spend money on junk food? Plus, you have to take into account the long terms costs to our nation. We're raising a generation of children on unhealthy food and causing them to develop poor eating habits. How does that even make sense?

    I just wrote a blog post last night about school breakfast, and I'd really love to hear your thoughts on the matter!

  10. I'm trying hard to see any actual pasta in that dish 🙂

    I think your point about how saving money now by feeding kids crap costs us lots of money later in both healthcare and welfare is a really important one. Kids who don't get nutritionally sound meals end up lacking both brain development and healthy bodies –both of those things cost society in so many ways and for so many years. A little investment now can save us so much later.

  11. Kate, I presume the "personal responsibility" issue your in-laws advocate applies to adults, not kids. I'm not exactly sure how a 5 year old is supposed to earn money and go to the grocery store to buy his or her own food. I always think the best argument in those situations is somewhere along the lines of, "We shouldn't punish kids because of their parents." Poor kids shouldn't be punished by eating crap food that is setting them up for a lifetime of health problems because their parents are poor.

  12. Blended- thanks for sharing that link! Did you happen to read the comments after the article? Wow! There are alot of angry parents about taking cupcakes away! What a reaction! I applaud the school for having the courage to stand up to the parents!

  13. Mrs. Q – In your approximation, about what percentage of the hot lunches served in your school end up in the trash?

  14. Reading what your dad said was like a real kick in my face today. My children get free lunch. It doesn't make them worthless.

    I have a child in the gifted program. I have a child that is an excellent baseball player. I have a child that is an amazing artist.

    Just because my husband and I have not achieved monetary success by society's standards, it doesn't mean that my children are less valuable than anyone else's.


  15. So many commenters have made good points about why we should care about providing school lunch for kids who otherwise can't afford it and I agree with all of them. For me, the most compelling argument is that it's the right thing to do. Am I happy about paying for it? Of course not, but I am thankful beyond words that I am the one who has to pay for some kids' lunches and that I am not a child who needs someone to do that for me.

  16. I think you make a great point! I personally would rather have to pay higher taxes and know that my money is going to pay for food that kids actually eat, than have to live with the fact that most of the food I'm already paying for goes directly in the trash.

  17. Jennifer, Mrs. Q's quote of her dad's email must have been edited since you posted your comment, cuz I don't see anything that even comes close to implying that he thinks kids who get free lunch are worthless. Where are you getting that?

  18. Blended, I'm sorry but I don't see how depriving kids of cupcakes on birthdays does anyone any good. I feel sorry for your kids if that's how you think. You're supposed to have cake on birthdays!

  19. Jennifer,
    First off, Mrs. Q's Dad said he was being the "devil's advocate" He was trying to express an opposing point of view for her…I saw nothing in his comments that should have been a slap in your face at all. You must have been reading whole paragraphs between his few lines.

    As for school food…If we are providing food in the schools for children(and in the USA we are), in my opinion it should be Good Food, REAL Food. Not faux food, not reheated frozen dinners like Mrs. Q. eats 5 days a week during the school year.

    There is one school of thought that proclaims that school lunch should be Free For All…(Janet Poppendieck)I don't know about that…But it would certainly level the playing field if Everyone could eat for free, I'm just not sure if I like the idea.

    See Everyone would have to buy into the whole idea, Everyone would have to participate in order for it to work, and I'm just not sure.

    First:with the food allergies in the family that I'm willing to hand over the responsibility.
    Second: I admit I haven't read the book, but it sounds so, well…It reminds me of the kids book A Wrinkle in Time when they are on the planet that is run by that huge brain and everyone does everything at the same time…all the boys bounce the balls at the same time all the girls jump rope at the same time…
    and I'm laughing now,
    because I KNOW that there is no way that a lunchroom in America will have all the little kids raising their sporks in unison.

    Everytime I think of EVERYONE in public school in America buying into the idea, I think of that book and all the kids being in unison and I think, it will never happen.

    Gosh Can you tell I'm TIRED!
    Now I have to go read Janet's book. Really.
    I've talked myself into it.

  20. Viki – you crack me up!

    Jennifer – I'm sorry. I certainly don't think like my dad and that is why I'm doing this blog. Wishing you the best.

  21. Goldfish? With pasta? I know they needed an extra grain, but wouldn't a roll with which to mop up leftover sauce be the no-brainer option? Even the bread and butter you sometimes get would have made more sense. Or an oatmeal cookie for dessert. :\ But goldfish? Goldfish? Sheesh.

  22. Our school does not do birthday treats. They were phased out a few years ago due to allergy issues. I'm actually glad. The kids were starting to get competitive about it. One parent brought in cupcakes, the next week one brought Frosties for everyone, then bigger cupcakes. The same year we had a student living in a shelter that couldn't afford it and was purposely absent to avoid the competition.

    Instead of treats, now the kids bring in a "birthday book" new or gently used book to donate to the classroom library. Generally the kids pick one of their favorite books and they get really excited about it. It is nice that everyone can participate and there is no competition

  23. Here are my thoughts on this. I really hate the argument about poor people being a "drain" on the system. Because, let's face it, there are people who drain the system at all income levels. Is it wrong to subsidize a school lunch for a poor child versus subsidize a rich guy who cheats on his taxes so that he can be more rich? It's funny how this argument is only used against the poor and least powerful citizens, it's never used against the middle-to-high income people who don't pay their share, thereby draining the system.

    But, I digress. . . .

    Here's how I view this issue. Students who qualify for free school lunches are sometimes the victim of a situation where their parent(s) work full-time, two jobs, etc. . . But, they are low income jobs. Let's say that their parent work at walmart. Their parent doesn't make a lot of money, often is worked just enough hours to not qualify for health benefits, and has to pay for child care because of the late/weekend hours that they have to work. This happens because "we" aren't willing to pay fair market price for our goods and services. So, I see this as the government stepping in to make up the difference from what we are willing to do.

    I don't know your father, and in your later posts he seems like he's coming around. But, I would venture that most people who think like that, would NEVER be willing to pay $1 more for a box of cereal or 8-pack of toilet paper in order to get more wages/benefits into the store personnel (or even manufacturing personnel) hands. It's a definite problem this our country has, in that we're only worried about "ME," and everyone else in the world seems to be an impediment to what "I" want.

  24. Mrs. Q, I think both your dad and yourself have valid points. Indeed, I might be a bit of a middle of the roader here. I agree with your Dad that gratefulness on part of the recipient; in this case the parent not the child, is warranted. I also take his point of tax costs into consideration and agree with you that waste is not a good thing. I think we could save tax money and provide better lunches for all with two simple steps. One, make meals on site. Let the district order the food, for saving and have it distributed to the sites with kitchens. Prepare the foods in those kitchens, eliminating the food service providers.

    Accept government provided products that are proven to be consumed in the district. ‘The horrible ham’ might well be tasty in a soup or in a potato-vegetable medley. Cheese is not only edible in nearly every form by kids, (your sister and Vel*veeta), but is a great cover for items kids don’t always like.

    Hire more ‘lunch ladies,’ let them cook and serve the hot items, involve older students in both some serving, prep and clean-up for credit in science, PE nutrition requirements, and service hours. They gain food and nutrition knowledge, responsibility, and believe it or not, an item for their work resumes in high school or college!

  25. I’m a bit over a year late reading this post, though I’ve read the guest blogs that went before. I think the lunch ladies do have a point. Mrs. Q admits that while her adult palate favors the choices of pasta, beans, and fresh fruit, her students often, (mostly) do not agree with her. The lunch ladies know that.

    Regarding low fat chocolate milk. The kid will drink it. Remember back when, school milk in those wax cartons regardless of whether white or chocolate were not ‘cold’ enough. Chocolate could be choked down. White? No.

    I went to parochial school until 7th grade, we were lucky enough to have a high school affiliated with it, so, we could buy ‘hot lunch.’ I’ll admit to no knowledge of cost to student and cost of plate, but it was cooked on site. My mom always made real mashed potatoes, I never liked mashed potatoes. I learned to love the flakes at that school. LOL! Dished out with ice cream scooper and a pond of gravy in the middle. Much of the food was not little kid friendly, but just like today, the potatoes and jello/pudding got us through. That was it for dessert though, no cakes, no pie, no cookies. Sadly, my mom mostly made our lunches, she was pretty strong on the ideas still in place today. While we had white bread sandwiches, it was always with lettuce and tomato. She’d often pack soup or stew in thermos. Few treats, lots of fruits and veggies. No dips. This was in the 60’s!

    Middle school I went to public. Then it was cafeteria all the way. The food was good and there was a salad bar. It included cottage cheese and fresh fruit.

    High school? OMG! The lunch ladies/chefs ruled! Seriously, the food was fab and the baked goods were to die for! Granted, the baked goods were probably not the best of a low fat diet, but most of us did not have such at home. I think Mr. Q put this in perspective when he said that regarding health, one meal a day isn’t a health breaker. Yeah, I know, I know. The mantra of ‘it’s the only meal these kids are getting…’ Maybe. Unlikely and those saying that know it.

    No, I don’t for a moment think that most low income folks are making the same meals outside of lunch that Mr/Mrs Q are speaking about. However, I also doubt that the majority are feeding their kids Ping*les and kool*ade. Indeed, I’ve confidence that most kids qualifying for free lunches have parent(s) that care about them and give more.

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