Day 158: peanut butter & jelly "sandwich" !!

Today’s menu: peanut butter and jelly sandwich, juice, fruit cup




It’s baaaack!! I guess the universe decided to stick it to me one last time before 2010 ended. How appropriate that I’m eating this meal on the day that President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (Child Nutrition Act) into law! You can read all about it here and read the transcript too. Yippee!!

I felt physical nausea when I saw the packaging. If you have been reading since the beginning, you know that the first time I ate the sandwich, I came home and threw up. Handing over money for today’s lunch was hard.

Interestingly, I noticed that the packaging has completely changed since when I ate the sandwiches last year (twice). Last time it listed a brand name and the calories. Stupidly I didn’t take a picture of the nutritional information earlier this year. You’ll notice that today’s version doesn’t say anything. They scrubbed the packaging of any vital information. I wonder.. Is it because of my blog?

See? We do need the Child Nutrition Act!

The good news: it tasted better than any of the “sandwiches” I ate last year and it seemed thinner. So they may have redesigned the food and the packaging. Before the graham cracker was limp and crumbled when I tore into it. This time I have to say that there was a crunch! Little improvements, right? (Having two fruits in one lunch still meets the USDA guidelines, by the way.)

I ate half of the sandwich. I couldn’t physically eat anymore.


I had another sandwich left.


I quietly slipped it into my purse. I had to show my husband what the kids and I had for lunch.

The sandwich on my dirty counter next to the watering can

While I was making dinner (broiled mackerel, red quinoa, edamame), I tossed the sandwich non-chalantly onto the counter, exclaiming, “Here’s what I had for lunch!”

He was throwing something into the trash and turned. His reaction was immediate, “EWWWWW!!!”

He continued, “That looks like what I ate when I was in the Grand Canyon!” (Background: one spring break, he and his roommates drove to the Grand Canyon, hiked in and out, ate MREs)

Pensive he restated it, “No, that’s astronaut food!”

The sandwich is thinking, “This is not what I bargained for.”

I don’t know what to label this thing but it’s not a sandwich. Since I was at home and wasn’t constrained by lunch times or secrecy, my husband and I took our time dissecting our specimen (after our son went to sleep of course).

My husband opening the wrapper for inspection

My husband then declared, “I’m going to eat some and we’ll compare our thoughts about what it tastes like.” That sounded good because I’m a one-woman show and rarely get to compare notes with anyone.

His first couple bites

He said, “I’m disappointed at the lack of jelly. It’s all peanut butter. There is no way this is a ‘sandwich.’ It’s a peanut butter cracker.”

He pulled it apart and started peeling the layers of peanut butter down
The tiniest amount of jelly I have ever seen
We discovered that the peanut butter was layered on there with the teeniest dribble of jelly.
He smiles at me, “I’m going to eat the whole thing.”
I stare at him, “No, honey, please don’t.” I start jumping up and down because I know Mr. Q is a determined man and is totally not lying.
“No, No!! Remember how I got sick when I ate this before? Plus it’s been in my purse for more than eight hours!”
He replies, “This is fun and I don’t mind eating it.”
“Please don’t, you’re sick,” which is true as he is having an asthma flare-up. Meanwhile during our fun dissection, our massive black Lab has been patiently sitting, watching us and drooling.
“Ok, I’ll feed the rest of it to the dog so it’s not wasted.” (Ironic that he’s concerned about waste considering how many of theses the kids throw out)
Our dog gobbled it down, licking his chops!
No, this is not the golden ticket!

A couple random tidbits about these sandwiches: When I first posted that I ate them for lunch last year, some people inquired as to where they could buy them as they ate them at school as kids and were nostalgic for them. I was floored! Also, this summer a mom emailed me to say that she took her daughter to some kind of summer school program (out east, I think NY) and much to her shock these exact sandwiches were served. So they must not be completely regional. I had never encountered them until this year.

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45 thoughts on “Day 158: peanut butter & jelly "sandwich" !!

  1. we had those starting in 5th grade (must have been 1997, i think), and whenever "PB&J sandwich" was listed on the menu all through the rest of my public school years, this is what they served. the packaging waas different, but the contents was the same.

    the first time i ate one, i got sick an hour later, and was sick all the next day too. after that, i just didn't eat them, or packed my lunch that day.

    as i recall, they had MSG and HFC listed in the first 5 or 6 ingredients (i finally took a look in high school), and the only 'peanut' anything was 'artificial peanut flavoring' or some such crap.

    Mr. Q is right though, it's more a peanut butter cracker than a PB&J sandwich.


  2. I wouldn't have guessed that this would be on your menu today. Sadly, I think that our food service department serves something similar to kids in our area (in the San Francisco Bay Area) when they go on field trips. I can understand that they are easy to pack. But um. Quality? Not so much. (We are working on that, by the way, which is awesome!)

  3. OMG, have you totally angered the "lunchroom gods" during this last week?? Can't believe you got both the bagel dog & this monstrosity!

    Now, I've eaten plenty of PB on graham crackers (sans jelly–ewww!, but unfortunately this looks nothing like that (or a sandwich) for that matter. You can tell that cracker is just not crunchy as it should be.

    I am a bit surprised that they still serve PB&J in schools. Wasn't there a bit of an uproar re: allergies to nuts?

    Now, for a good PB&J crackers try this low carb option. I make my own sunflower seed butter (just grind up roasted/salted seeds in the food processor–no need to pay the high price for seed butter at the market) and then spread it on Wasa bread crackers. Some times I add jelly (sugar-free for me). Now, that's good eatin'!

  4. In our cafeteria in elementary school, these things were served whenever we went on a field trip or whenever they ran out of food which by 8th grade (K-8 school) was at least once a week. They were nasty and yeah they had just the tiniest amount of jelly when I ate them too. They were gross but it was the only breakfast available.

  5. Mrs Q – I am going to miss your blog. I've actually stopped feeding my 7 year old chicken nuggets due to your blog… You have really pushed me to re-think what I feed my kid on a daily basis. Thank you for this past year!

  6. I have never seen one of those. If they're going to serve PBJ, Smucker's uncrustables might be more appetizing. They actually look like sandwiches rather than pressboard.

  7. Takes the cake for the nastiest, most fake, unbalanced meal you've eaten yet (what's the sugar content in that entire meal! ew). Talk about going out with a bang, er, bomb!

  8. Two "sandwiches", a fruit cup, and juice? That's a very sorry looking lunch. How were the kids this afternoon? Cranky, I'd bet.

    Out of curiosity, I did a little googling to find out where those things come from. I found this blog that lists the nutritional contents in one of the sandwiches:

    I also found a site for a food services company that looks like it might be the one your district uses…the packaging certainly matches!

    Their "Why Choose Us" page sums it up: it features a flow chart with the captions, "From our dedicated professionals -> to the freezer -> to the oven -> to your students". Apparently that's a perk?

  9. Uncrustables were a rare option in our school system but were used as a students hot lunch when their account was too far into negative numbers with an apple or orange and a carton of milk.

  10. My school district serves Smuckers Uncrustables as PB&J. (Surely they are paying more for the brand name. I wonder why)? Uncrustables look much better than that thing that you have, but they are still white bread, AND the big 5th graders just get one small sandwich just like the kindergarten kids. Our sides are pretty much the same except that we also have a "salad" bar that looks soooo gross (poor-quality iceburg, pale tomatoes, and some shredded carrots). I always feel sorry for the big kids on PB&J day because I think that they are certain to be hungry before school is out.

    The Uncrustables are frozen and thawed, too. They are often still icy when the kids have them. Yuck.

    Is the Healthy Kids act going to help any of this? I thought it was going to move funding from food stamps to more kid-targeted programs to provide more of the same, low-quality food for kids.

  11. Eeew. I'm with the others in terms of shock at trying to figure out what atrocious lunches you'd be forced to eat on your final days of this project. Gah! I forgot all about the PB&J. How could I? I felt so bad for you after you got sick. :'(

    You know what it reminds me of? An ice cream sandwich. EXACTLY like an ice cream sandwich… except… with peanut goo instead.

    But holy diabetic coma, batman! That's a lot of sugar in that meal!
    Peanut butter (read the labels. if it's not all natural PB, chances are sugar is one of the main ingredients)
    jelly (I use it in place of sugar to sweeten my hot tea)
    graham crackers (these were cookies in my family. We ate them for dessert.)
    Fruit cup.
    Honestly, I think every component of your lunch is something that contains more sugar than just about any other ingredient! :O

    How spazzed out were your kids after lunch today, I wonder?

  12. I would be furious if my kid came home and said that was what he'd had for lunch. No way was that satisfying or nutritious. Blargh! I can't believe they get away with serving those (or the bagel dogs…)

  13. They serve those for breakfast at my school. Yuck. Our lunches are marginally better this year (not as good as what you're eating, if that tells you anything), but breakfast is near-horrific.

  14. That is DISGUSTING!!!!

    I don't care what anyone says, a graham cracker is a cookie, not a cracker. You basically got served a peanut-butter-and-jelly-cookie for lunch!! OMG! I have totally lost all my faith at this point. I hate graham crackers and I don't keep them in the house. The one or two times that my boys have encountered them they dance around like it is crack. That is a cookie anyway you slice it.

  15. This is supposed to be a "hot" lunch. So do they actually put these things in the oven and serve them hot/warm? I guess that is one of the things that makes them so gross. If they were just served unheated and assuming the graham cracker was crunchy and not soggy, then they would be no worse than peanut butter cookies, but still completely unacceptable for "lunch"; they should be considered as a (sugary unhealthy) snack.

    I wonder what the kids with nut allergies had to eat?

  16. Wow! That is an amazing amount of sugar in one lunch!

    Also, as the parent of a peanut/tree-nut allergic kid, I'd be pissed off that those were being served in the cafeteria. Peanut butter spreads easily, but especially when the item is meant to be eaten with hands. There could be peanut butter all over the classroom after that lunch!

  17. You should set it out on the counter, open, and see how long it takes for mold to grow on it. Like the experiment the lady is doing on the McDonalds hamburger and fries!

    As a previous child nutrition employee, seeing that packaged "lunch" is embarrassing. I know kitchen staff talk about the lack of time to prepare some foods but this is ridiculous, I guess they are ready for Christmas break like everyone else…..

  18. I think these PB&J's are neck-in-neck with the bagel dogs for the worst main dish. The head of your district's food services dept. should be completely ashamed that kids were served this lunch. There's no excuse for serving something this bad. It's especially awful for the many kids whose only hope for one decent meal a day is this. It's utterly unconscionable.

    Every school superintendent, every head of school food services, and every principal should be required to eat school lunch every school day. I bet we'd see some improvements if they had to eat this crap.

  19. I have to say. I like the concept of this PB & J but not as a lunch but a snack but defiantly not with that quantity of peanut butter and just a bit more of jelly. And, of course, homemade. Fortunately for me, my elementary school actually made their own sandwiches even if it was the worst peanut butter that they could find that they put in them. When I first saw that picture I thought they had served the kids ice cream sandwiches!

  20. P.S. Mrs Q, you said last time you forgot to take a photo of the nutritional information, but in fact you do have a picture, from the first time, Jan 26, showing all the information. I guess it is the same product in the link someone posted above, 318.09 calories per serving.

  21. I remember these from when I was in elementary and junior high. They weren't too horrible since they were just peanut butter "sandwiches" – no mention of jelly. They weren't the least bit filling though.

    I still question the existence of Mr Q considering you are always saying how you are telling him what he can and cannot do – I tend to believe he's fake since you would have been sitting on the curb instead of writing a blog last night. If he is real and if he wanted to it, why not? It wasn't going to kill him.

  22. Don't you think that since break is just a few days away they are scraping the bottom of the barrel or the back of the freezer to get the older food out? Like they did at the end of the school year.
    Or maybe they do read your blog and they are giving you a not so great send off.

    The amount of sugar in this meal is just amazing combined with any treats the teachers are giving out or parties that are planned…gee whizz the kids must be a buzzing.
    A peppermint stick here a peanut butter cracker/sandwich there, juice pack and fruit packed in sugar…wild things…
    Kudos for the inside scoop on the inside of that cracker sandwich.

  23. Those wouldn't be allowed in our school due to peanut allergies. Instead our grade school has a cheese sandwich – american cheese on white bread – if the kids don't like the hot lunch offerings (or don't have a lunch.)

  24. Costco sells something like that in the refrigerated/freezer section. I always shudder when I see them because I associated them with that first post when you got sick from eating them!

    I laughed at your "dissection" photos. I once smuggled home an Uncrustable from my son's class and performed a similar experiment. I took pics too! LOL I've never posted them on my blog though. I'm afraid they'll sue me. 😉

  25. Uck! Just looking at that makes me gag! There is no way peanut butter and crackers will fill a kid up for the rest of the day.

  26. Twinsanity–I read the nutritional info on the link you sent for the peanut butter "sandwich"

    Shelf life (room temperature): Two weeks




    I feel bad admitting this because I know Mrs. Q had to eat it, but that made me start laughing (in that sad "what can you do but laugh at the absurdity of this" sort of way)

  27. From someone who also follows a low carb live, and someone who LOVES all kind of nuts, it is still amazing that the protein element of this meal is so miniscule and proprotionally non-existant. I also agree that part of the need to serve these must be in limiting purchasing additional products that will not survive the vacation days ahead. Nothing in this meal could be considered fresh- there isn't even milk here!

  28. anonymous 9:42:

    Maybe the logic is that milk is the vegetable. *nod* See, cows eat grass, and then they take some of those nutrients to turn it into milk, ergo, milk = vegetable.

    Ah, you may laugh, but it's not much worse than the logic behind half the crap they're feeding kids every day.

    But that it a good question. Why all this fruit but no veggies? :\

  29. I still can't make a PBJ as delicious as the one my high school used to sell in its cafeteria. Not sure if they were made on the premises or purchased, since they came wrapped in clear plastic wrap with no official-looking package, branding or nutritional info. They were always on wonderfully fresh, soft white bread that was sliced very very thinly, with a massive amount of peanut butter (surprisingly, I think it was the non-hydrogenated kind) and a generous glob of sweet sweet grape jelly. I think the peanut butter and jelly were both portioned out with ice cream scoops. Within the snug plastic wrap binding, the dark purple jelly would turn the bread just a little translucent; you'd bite into the sandwich, and it was moist, gooey, lovely, squelchy and just about as pleasurable an eating experience one could have with PBJ and ice cold milk. Sigh.

  30. I don't think I've ever seen anything so disgusting as that. I don't think I could even choke down one bite.

    I'm an adult and I had a homemade PB&J for lunch today. That's the way PB&J should be! With real bread and real PB and J!

    Not to mention I live in Western NY and I have never seen that product before. (when I went to school or when I student taught in the mid 90s)

  31. First of all, thanks for taking one for the team… really – this is awesome and you are amazing! (I clearly just found you.) — Second, this lunch is disgusting. It is not a lunch. Third, I think we should begin comparing school lunch menus to prison menus. I am almost positive that the prison food would be better. Does anyone know the cost comparison?

  32. It's ironic that you fed the PBJ to the dog. Most dog food truly comes from the bottom of the barrel, filled with grain, "by-product" and sometimes other pets. So your PBJ sandwich is pretty good in comparison. Improving kid's meals will have to come first though… dogs can wait.

  33. these peanut butter and jellies are the food my old school gave to kids who FORGOT their money…, that is all they would get with some milk…and if they didn't eventually pay the school back i don't know what other bad things happened…
    i just found out about this blog and i plan on reading every last entry!

    i came from a school where we had "good" food… this appears to be the stuff they served in the large city public school where I didn't my student teaching… <3

  34. You know its funny..

    My father worked for the school system many years a go. He has gone beyond the rim, on to the next life. So its probaly safe to talk about this. He would bring home boxes of the Peanut butter and jellies bars.. Im betting there the same kind as the ones you had, if not there close kin.

    In times of hard ship, they got us buy. There weren't bad, from what i remembered, but then again, at the hardest point there was little to eat, so we made do with what we had.

    Now grant it, they where not all that great either, Milk helps them a lot.. dump the thing in and it soaks up milk.. and the cracker dosn't fall apart till about twenty mintues later. Serioulsy.

    If i remember right, they didn't have to be frozen or refrigerated. Thought we did keep them in the ice box.

    I can picture some one finding the stock pile of them in the post apocalyptic world right next to the mystical sponge cake treats that never go bad.

    With the amount of soy in the school lunches back when i was in school and I'm sure in those bar is probably one of the reasons i am allergic to soy to this day.

    Thank you for your hard work, and for bloging and bringing this to light. If you go forward, would you mind tracking if you can the amount of soy are in the lunches? I'm curious as to how much is there.

  35. I just started reading your blog from the beginning and I just cant beleive that you were able to last this long I remember when I was in school I hated eating the school lunches. We had something called a snack bar that served everything from ice cream and candies to pizza, hamburgers, and chicken strips that were made when you ordered them but you had to pay alot more for that then when you would go through the regular line. My school also had a salad bar option for us which I took advantage of in high school eating that most of the time. The food at my school I have to say was alot better looking and more appealing than yours at your school looks and those pb&j sandwich thingies are just disgusting looking I have never heard of or seen them in my life they look like ice cream sandwichs but made w/ graham cracker and pb&j (does not look good at all)… good luck and I love what your doing your almost done with the year!!!!!!

  36. :-O. I swear, I truly swear – that final picture when Mr. Q peeled back the PB to reveal the minimal amount of jelly?

    Look at it. REALLY look at it.

    IT'S THE RIB-B-CUE!!!!

    It IS! They save money by making it in bulk and serving it with some form of bizarre hypnotic suggestion in order to persuade the kids it tastes different!

  37. It’s not food if you dump a bunch of packages out onto a counter…

    That looks like a gas station lunch.

  38. Currently im a lunch lady at a high school in Monterey County and our kids enjoy eating these PB& J things but they are not served for lunch at all. They serve them mainly for second chance which is a brunch served when students dont get to school in the early a.m. before class. Also they were used as an after school snack. Recently the high school stopped using them and the students still request them to this day. I dont know if the writer had a bad one or was just exagerating. I personally like the taste of them also and as a child my grandma made them for me. So my advice to you all is dont knock them til you try them

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