Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Back to (gross) school lunches

School finally started back in session today. I know many of you have students that started weeks ago, but we are the post-Labor Day crowd. Since my kids' lunchboxes are getting kind of worn (but still usable for a couple months) I wanted to make sure they had back-ups that were PVC and lead free, so I ordered some from Lands End. It's much worse to wait until you need them in a hurry and have to buy some off-gassing PVC product because you don't have time.

Buying their back-up lunchboxes reminded me of the crappy school lunches that are offered through our public schools. They certainly aren't as bad as in some areas, but they aren't good either. The times that I've visited the kids during lunch have always ended in me feeling sorry for those students who were eating the school lunch. I don't know if it's because they like them or because their parents don't have time to pack a lunch every day, but I'm always depressed watching them eat this, how to I put this delicately? Crap. And, I'm not the only parent.

Our school doesn't have a regular kitchen. It's staffed by nice folks who basically reheat frozen meals encased in plastic, covered with a plastic film and, no doubt, zapped in the microwave, potentially dripping yummy plastics back into the food. The food offerings are less than creative and, all told, it's just gross.

Where's Jamie Oliver when you need him? If you haven't heard of his Food Revolution to get better food in schools, now's a good time to learn about it. Not that I expect a celebrity chef to make much of a dent, but hopefully his focus on awareness will push parents into getting their local schools and districts into making better choices when it comes to the food offered in their schools.

If you are concerned about the lunches offered in your schools, please complete this survey hosted by Healthy Child, Healthy World in collaboration with Jamie Oliver.

What's the state of your kid's cafeteria? Do they eat the food there or do they pack a lunch?


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

The school lunches when I were a kid were OK. They had monthly menus so we didn't have any of the same two weeks of meals in Food Revolution. They did do processed and canned food in part because budget cuts made them get rid of a few lunch ladies. They had less hands to make real food. The sad thing is that the number of kids that qualify for reduce or free lunch is up in our city due to the crappy economy. :(

Anonymous said...

I deleted my first post because commenting after my bed time is not a smart thing to do. In a nutshell...

Its not a mystery why kids feel like garbage all afternoon after eating white bread, mashed potatoes, chicken and noodles and canned corn for lunch. I would need a nap too.

I signed Jamie Oliver's petition awhile back and almost blogged this very topic today. Perhaps tomorrow.

Well said!

Aimee said...

my kids will eat home packed lunches 4 days out of five and I'll let them buy cafeteria crap the fifth day. Sad that they clamor for "pizza" which isn't even anything like pizza and for "nuggets" and other totally unidentifiable and overprocessed food-like-products over things like homegrown carrots and tomatoes and homemade bread with homemade chevre on it. But what can a mother do? This is not the hill I'm prepared to die on.

Anna @ Blue Dirt said...

Getting ready to send my youngest to kindergarten and facing a tough choice. I have to pack his meals due to numerous allergies. His older brother has been eating the horrible cafeteria food all along. While I feel strongly about good food, I just can't pack him a lunch cheaper than that. Lets face it, money matters. I'm spending a fortune on allergy friendly foods, and if I don't spend more money to feed my older son well he will feel like his health doesn't matter. Ugh.

We will pack him lunches and have money in the account for when something on the menu sounds tasty. Our kitchen will be stuffed with 2 different kinds of everything. Let the fun begin!

knutty knitter said...

Youngest son (year 7) doesn't have a cafeteria but they do make the occasional lunch on their wood stove (he took an egg carefully packed in a jar and a frying pan and some bread to toast today as well as the usual apple). Otherwise its what is packed for him here mostly by him as he has to eat it - I do keep only healthy options apart from cheap bread.

Eldest son (year 9) has only a tuck shop with limited bad stuff due to parental pressure some years back. Everybody mostly brings their own so he gets what he packs. Unless he chooses to spend some rare pocket money.

There is a very cheap lunch available for primary age kids which is made with mostly donated produce and usually consists of a piece of fruit. two sandwiches and a milk thing in a pottle - yoghurt or instant pudding usually and a home made cake.

One or two schools do order in takeaway foods when there is one locally but that is only a once a week thing. High school kids have been known to go buy their own at lunchtime too (there is no policy that states they have to stay at school at lunch time).

viv in nz

GeekGirl said...

While I think some parents just don't care what their children eat (see: fast food), I would think that some of them eat lunch at school due to cost. Does your school not offer reduced or free lunch to lower income students?

It's hard to have an opinion when I don't know the background of these children.

Spice said...

Smidgeon is in Kindergarten. She started yesterday. After several meetings with the school lunch program, nurse, principal and superintendant she brings her own lunch.
They would not guarentee a lunch free of artificial colors and preseratives as well as plastic free.

She's the only kid in the lower four grades k-3 bringing her lunch in a stainless steel lunchbox (with tinker bell on the front) and a stainless steel water bottle. She feels lonely but I'm not budging on the issue.

The lunch menu they showed me and ingredient lists were just dusgusting. (But they do offer a salad bar complete with wilted iceberg lettuce, slimy baby carrots and luke warm ranch dressing)


Kerry said...

I live in rural Nova Scotia, in a farming community, still full of composite family farms. Its an economically depressed place. We not only have a school garden, we have a lunch program that utilizes local meats as well.

My kids get roasted veggie sandwiches, hodge podge (fresh veggies cooked in milk and butter, salt and pepper), oven roasted fries with their local beef patty, cobs of corn. I think the least healthy thing on the menu would be a grilled cheese option one day. Milk is local dairy cooperative .35 a container. No pop or drink machines in the schools. They drink tapwater (deep well) and are expected to bring a refillable water bottle to school.

The head of Slow Foods Nova Scotia has a restaurant, Tempest, one town over and he's active in the school system helping to establish lunch programs that gets kids involved in growing and preparing their healthy lunches.

Katy said...

My daughter buys her lunch everday mainly due to cost. She gets a reduced lunch so she eats every day for 50 cents.

I will say that I think our school district does a decent job at providing a varity of lunches as their menu is on is on a four week rotation. Fresh fruit and vegies are offered every day a long with a vegitarian choice.

It could be better. We still have days of nuggets and hamburgers, but at least they make the french fries gross enough that my daughter will chose the apple as her side insead. :o)

Rosa said...

My kid is going to a public school that has a garden, and moderately OK school lunches - he is on his 5th day and he is still just enamored of the concept of going through the line and choosing food.

If he gets tired of school lunch, I'll pack him one, but he gets to choose. I did check to make sure they were using reusable trays & silverware - if it were styrofoam & plastic, I'd convince him his lunch box is better.

It looks like about 1/3 to 1/2 of the kids bring their lunches, and most of them have reusable lunch boxes & water bottles.

Sarah said...

Both my kids (1st grade and preschool) pack their lunches. The preschool my youngest attends twice a week has a full kitchen with a chef/cook (it is a Jewish school so the kitchen is kosher) who makes really good food and good snacks. But, I am cheap so I pack the lunch anyway and she enjoys the snacks.

My first grader wants the same thing every day (jelly sandwich and fruit or carrot sticks with water) so that is easy.

The problem I have found at public school the past year and a month is the snacks. In kindergarten families took turns bringing in snacks four days a week. I usually brought in cut up fruit or cheese and crackers or something. Many families brought in gummy bears and juice or chocolate granola was awful. Everyday when I asked what she had for snack she said "you won't like it."

The cafeteria food looks awful but there is an after school program on the campus that serves green salads and fresh bread and fruit for snacks and that is so nice to see.

The Nurturing Pirate said...

I pack both kids' (preschool & 1st grade)lunches. Only once or twice did the oldest mention wanting to buy lunch. But the shear amount of waste involved with the school lunch is rather depressing. The lunch itself is not too bad. Not stuff I'd feed the kids, but there are healthy choices (salad, fruit), but it's pretty carb and cheese-heavy.

Rachel B. said...

When I was is high school the lunches were horrible and 1/3 of the kids just got ala carte items such as pretzels, cookies, and iced tea. Horrible. Although I don't have children yet I do have a niece and three nephews. One is in school so I care about what he is having for lunch. The school district posts menus online. Are they serious? Cinnamon glazed french toast a meal?
Last week i did a guest blog on Fed Up With Lunch with lunch packing ideas. Check it out. What I've found is that some people lack the creativity to pack a great lunch that isn't boring.
As for Jamie Oliver, I love what he's doing. Heck, I get a little hot and bothered when I hear his name. LOL

Robj98168 said...

Like Lisa at Condo Blues we had monthly lunch menus. For 40 cents you could get stroganoff, or spaghetti with salad, or my favorite pizza. Would kill to learn how to make school cafeteria pizza. But I digress. With the 80's and Reagan and his Ketchup is a vegetable philosophy we down sized our school kitchens and their ability to make delicious nutritious lunches for our kids. INHO We have just been cheap when it comes to our school age kids in this country. They (School boards and superintendants) actually should listen to Jaime Oliver and get their collective asses in gear before our kids revolt. LOL Revolt over their Revolting lunches! Hee Hee:P

Surviving and thriving on pennies said...

Here in Oregon they have some healthy options but still way behind.
The only times my girls have ever had school lunches is when my oldest was in grade school and they could not tell her "no go get your lunch box". Instead they let her eat their crappy food all while her lunch was packed and back in the classroom. I had to talk to them many times. Frustrating.
I make bread each night for the next day school lunches. Each day I pack 1 sandwich of their choice, fruit of some sort, and snack of choice. Usually this will be tortilla chips or crackers. If I make any baked goods, I throw one of those in too. And of course water in a reusable water bottle.

Not only are they getting healthy food but also its saving me lots of money. Oh forgot to mention my girls all have their own fabric snack/sandwich bags so there is NO WASTE!

Tigerlily said...

There were no school lunches when I was a kid. You had to bring a bag lunch. If you were unlucky enough to forget your lunch you had to rely on your classmates to share. (I don't think sharing is even allowed anymore due to allergies) It wasn't until I was in High School that we had a cafeteria. I 95% of the time brought my own lunch as a money saver, but really enjoyed my cafe bought french fries from time to time.

Lisa said...

My mom always packed my lunch and I was only in public school until 4th grade but I do remember you always tried to end up at a table with only kids that brought their own lunches because the school ones smelled so bad. You also hurried because the whole room would start to smell.

I forgot my lunch once and all I ate of the school lunch was a roll. That was the only thing that seemed okay.