Friday, August 13, 2010

School lunches, orientation and then some

I want to be here more. I really do. I have plenty of things to show you still (lots of redecorating happening), but many days I am just so BLAH. Maybe if the heat ever breaks. Or maybe when Jack starts kindergarten next week. (?!?! Crazy, but cool.)

We had kindy orientation yesterday. I have already moaned about it* on facebook (dumping a fundraiser on us on open house day? gag), but I thought I would bring up the school lunch menu here, since we had already discussed lunches during Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.

Here's a sample of what they are feeding kids** at our elementary school. In a pretty solid middle/upper middle class suburb in one Money magazine's ten best cities to live in (raise a family in maybe?) a few years back.

The kids get a choice of two main dishes, which they must choose at 9 am and then they MUST stick to that choice at lunchtime or there will not be enough food for the bigger children later in the day. According the principal at orientation that is.

Lunch costs $1.95 and milk is $.60

Corn Dog
Fish Munchies (?)
Raw veggies
Chocolate Pudding
Icy Fruit Bar

Popcorn chicken
BBQ Rib sandwich
French Fries

Chicken Rings
Cheese quesadilla
Tater Tots
Frozen blueberries with whipped cream

Chicken Nuggets
BBQ Rib Sandwich
Whipped Potatoes with Gravy

There are plenty of days with pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, etc.

The breakfast choices were equally appalling. What the hell is a "breakfast gravy pizza" anyway? Or a "sausage pancake on a stick"?

Potatoes as the "vegetable" nearly every day??? (Jack won't even touch potatoes most of the time.)
Where are the real vegetables?
Icy fruit bar as "fruit"?
Whipped Cream on the berries?
BBQ Rib sandwiches for kindergartners?
Where are the whole grains??
No beans anywhere?
Nothing like lettuce or spinach?
Hell, no celery even?
And this one kills me, there is NO rice. At all. In two months worth of menus. Rice (brown) is SUCH an easy grain for kids!

The whole thing was seriously depressing. I think you might be better off eating McDonalds every single day for lunch.

I called my girlfriend, who lives in a much more rural district than we do, and her menu is slightly better. There was rice and broccoli (with chicken) and whole grain breads,etc. They still had crap, but slightly better. They have a fairly high percentage of kids on the free lunch program, and I am not sure if that works into funding or not.

Have you seen a new lunch menu yet? What was it like? I am really curious.

BE SURE TO READ THE COMMENTS! An interesting discussion usually ensues on these topics and I respond there. :-)

*I often wonder if I have unrealistic expectations for Jack. I mean, he is nearly 6 years old and I DO NOT refer to "hand sanitizer" as "soapy soap", which is what is printed on all the dispensers at school. I was kind of mortified when they automatically opened his milk and cookies for him when they gave them a snack. He CAN do it himself! Even if we put aside all issues of academics, I don't really think a 6 year old needs a grouchy bear as "discipline" for not following the rules. At home we tell Jack that his behavior is inappropriate, using those words. I really felt like they treat them like babies.

** If it matters, the lunch thing is not an issue for us this year. I have opted to have Jack in the ONLY half day classroom in the entire district, and he will not be eating at school.


  1. School lunch doesn't have to be a problem if you send it with him. :) One of the good things about James allergies is that I know he's getting good stuff 99% of the time. I think I will pack one for Ruby, too, when it's time. It gets old but I also get into a routine and don't usually mind.

    The stuff you mentioned does sound baby-ish but maybe his teacher will rise above that. Public School has to reach many kids at many levels so I think they set the bar low at first to head off discouragement. At James' school they ended up breaking certain kids out for more advanced reading & math work. I'm sure they'll come up with something for Jack. Maybe he could teach part time? :) (kidding you in a loving way...he sounds like such a little smartie!)

  2. That's some crappy lunch! Our district's is a bit better -- unlimited salad and fruit bar is an option, though some fruits end up being limited. At the 5th & 6th grade level, they start selling candy bars and chips. Why the hell do they need to offer those?! If they only sold pretzels and yogurt, kids would eat those things. It's not rocket science! We still have the stoopid entrees -- chicken nuggets and corn dogs and such. But the serving sizes are small (I think four nuggets?) due to the high fat and calorie content. 4 chicken nuggets and a pile of salad do not satisfy my 5'6.5" 11 year old son. If you want to double your nuggets, you have to pay for an entire second meal. When all the other kids were having hot lunches, Carsten begged for and got permission to have hot lunch a couple days a week, but quickly realized that it's not nearly enough nutrition and prefers to pack a lunch. What annoys me about the craptastic quality of the lunches is that the school has banned all treats and food rewards in an effort to be more health conscious. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think doing extra hard math problems to earn a few skittles is infinitely better for a kid than eating pizza and nuggets and candy bars every day. Literally penny-wise and pound foolish.

  3. We are nowhere near kindergarten yet so I haven’t thought about lunch. But what is chicken rings? Are they really any different than nuggets? And why call hand sanitizer soapy soap? It’s not soapy at all! It should be unsoapy soap.

  4. I packed my son's lunch every singe day starting the very first day of Kindergarten. Non meat eating and "clean your plate" policies did not mix.

    It has been my experience that the teachers will quickly learn the abilities of each child and help them in the right direction. When my son started Kindergarten, there was a boy in the class that was reading Magic Schoolhouse books (sound familiar?) when most of the kids were starting to learn how to read. He could do all the Math sheets and everything else quickly. He was just allowed to read at the table or do other bookwork while the kids finished up. Every child is different. My son was reading at a 13+ level in Second Grade, so they just opted him out of Reading and any Reading requirements so he had more time to work on Spelling or Math or whatever he needed to do. I'm sure Jack will flourish and have fun going to school. And, you might not want him to be treated like a baby, but trust me, they expect a lot out of kids in 1st grade and beyond. It is nice for them to be "babied" just a bit.

  5. I was shocked when I sent my son to pre-K last year and saw the menu. Much like what you are describing. I packed my sons' lunch nearly every day last year and intend on doing it again this year too. I do allow him to buy lunch as a special treat, especially if they are serving something he loves. At this point, he doesn't much care where his lunch comes from as long as there is food! I pack his healthy lunch in a bento style so he is pretty excited about the way it looks (and I think it makes it easier to get him to try new things, too). The breakfast is just as bad, too. I am amazed that an elementary school allows kids to choose between white, chocolate, and strawberry flavored milk!

  6. Lisa, a chicken ring IS a chicken nugget! (Said sarcastically, of course. There is no damn difference.)

    Hope, the Principal himself mentioned something yesterday that I just barely heard about a la carte items like ice cream. He only mentioned it because apparently children can end up buying themselves an $8 lunch. Money issue aside, why the hell is it an option? Clearly the principal was struggling to discourage his own children (who attend THAT school) from doing that.

    I think in any discussion like this it is inevitable that most of us assume this is a non issue b/c we CAN and DO and WILL pack our children's lunches. BUT, packing lunches is sort of an issue of priviledge if you really look at it. We have food available to pack. We have money available to buy better food choices. Many of us are at home with our children and have the time/energy/kitchens with which to make/prepare/pack healthy lunches.

    Those things are simply not available to every child and I firmly believe that EVERY child should be able to eat an apple with his/her lunch.

    The school lunch program was instituted in the 1940's by President Truman in order to combat malnutrition.

    Are we really still doing that?

    Food for thought.

  7. I complained about something like this when my youngest was in daycare and I WAS NOT ALLOWED to bring in food from home once he was eating solids UNLESS IT WAS MANUFACTURE SEALED. I made my own babyfood etc. I came in and fed/nursed him during my lunch hour. Then when he was to people food, same thing and they served crap. I was told that the kids wouldn't eat healthy food so parents REQUESTED this shit and the majority ruled. Now, of course, at home, I'm far from perfect...we do eat out and we do eat crap more than we probably should. :(

  8. school lunches are this bad almost everywhere. i pack my girls' lunches every day. do i think it's acceptable? not at all, but my choice is to pack something that i approve of beforehand.

  9. school lunches are this bad almost everywhere. i pack my girls' lunches every day. do i think it's acceptable? not at all, but my choice is to pack something that i approve of beforehand.

  10. that is one of the reasons we choose to homeschool. the public school is a socialistic entity that teaches kids everyone should have the same, like the same, do the same. we teach our kids personal responsibility. if you think lunches suck wait until you provide your school supplies for Jack & they dump them all into a community pile & everyone shares them.
    the lady who said her kid was reading on a 13+ level in 2nd grade was very lucky that she was able to have her child's needs met. children in public school either keep up with the masses or get labeled or either are dumbed down. i have 5 kids & am having a 6th in Nov. I homeschool a 15 yr.old in 10th grade, a 11 yr. old in the 3rd/4th grade (with a severe learning disorder who was in school & the special a high/middle income district - one of the best in the state - didnt help her much at all), & a 5 yr old on a 1st/2nd grade level who we started teaching early and is super, hyper intelligent. then i have a 3 1/2 yr old doing preschool & a 15 month old. It is a huge sacrifice...but i would rather cut off my left arm then send my kids to public school.
    i hope it's a good experience for Jack & for you.
    i feel badly for the teachers as their hands are way child left behind is a JOKE! and it only gets worse with the federal government's nose in it! but this is all my humble opinion.

  11. Tin Roof, what about the kids whose parents don't have the means to provide healthful lunches as Sarah pointed out. Should those kids be penalized? What about the kids whose parents don't have funds for or simply don't prioritize top of the line school supplies? Should they be singled out to use stubby leftover crayons or whatever scraps they can get? Perhaps they don't deserve school supplies at all. Taking umbrage at the impulse to give kids an equivalent start in life seems like missing the entire point: kids aren't responsible for the families they were brought into. I think every child deserves opportunities to fully realize their potential. (No, I don't think NCLB is a good way to do that.)
    Now -- perhaps your point is that schools should provide school supplies to all kids. (I'd guess those would be the same for everyone. Is that socialistic, too?) In any case, I agree that schools can do a better job budgeting, prioritizing resources and utilizing classroom teaching time.

  12. You mothers need to go have a "Let's Discuss" at the school. Those lunches sound like garbage!!!
    Who in the world is the Dietician???? Minnie Mouse?
    I'd be up in arms!
    Where's Bob Greene when you want him?

  13. Hope, ummm no I dont think children should be penalized for their parents' poor choices. But I do think if a child in my child's class has needs, then I would gladly provide extra - without having to know that child. It's not fun for me to have to hear from my child how the highlighters she personally picked out got dumped into a community pile & she never got to use it. That's petty but it has been done every year down to the stupid notebook paper. & school supplies arent cheap.
    I do think that the school should provide school supplies considering the taxes I pay & that the public school is suppose to be "free". I think the schools are poorly managed & the unions should be disbanded. I think bad teachers should be fired. I think the federal government should not be invovled in our schools & I think that each school in every district should have their own standard of learning. I dont think the schools should be teaching to a test but actually teaching. The same standards of learning in the heart of NYC is not the same standards of learning needed to be taught in the rural districts of Idaho in regards to their cultural needs.
    I dont think they should offer icecream for sell at lunch time. & surely pizza & hamburgers shouldnt be on the list either in regards to lunch. The schools do not help the underprivileged by feeding them fatty, junk food. I realize everyone cant provide lunches for their child, but the school system can do a better job.
    and regardless, my point wasnt, originally, wasnt about penalizing children. I was agreeing with Sarah that the school lacks and I was stating ways in which I had seen lack and faced it here.
    But we no longer have that I said we homeschool & will never look back. It's a sacrifice my husband & I are willing to make. but just because we homeschool, we still pay taxes, we still vote, we are still involved & we still have a voice concerning the deterioration of the public school system.

  14. wow, the lunch choices are terrible!! Here the kids get all kinds of veggie choices and salad bar, it has come along way.This has just happened in the last 5 years

  15. First of all, what so many said about teachers starting out with setting the bar low until they get to know each kid - very true. You get this in every school setting, public and private.
    About lunches - They follow USDA guidelines. I have been involved with getting better lunches for our kids in our school and what it boils down to is USDA guidelines and the amount of free lunch kids you have.
    I get up and make my child a hot breakfast every morning and while she is eating, I pack her a lunch. On Fridays she has an option of getting ice cream for lunch and sometimes we let her. She won't buy milk there however, as they don't sell organic (again, the amount of free lunch kids factors into this, and our school has so few, we don't qualify for any federal funding to offset these costs.) and she has pointed out that the flavored milk has HFCS in it. Thanks again to the wonderful USDA.
    Change has to start at the top, unfortunately.
    One advantage of the public school system is that it forces our children to see all the different walks of life people come from out there. It helps them develop things like tolerance and social skills. I don't agree with NCLB, I hate that they teach for the test, BUT, my kid has learned some life lessons I could have never taught her had I chosen to home school.

  16. yeah, i would definitely pack a lunch - and did when it was an issue here (obviously not anymore).

    at the same time, if those concerned just pack lunches to opt out - will things ever change?

    pack lunches AND bug the school district? who has the energy for that?

  17. Can't he pack a lunch? My kids are grown now, but they took their lunches to school because the stuff served was so fattening.

  18. The stuff at our schools are whole grain (pizza crust for example) and they have veggies along with their burgers or whatever. While I wish my kids would eat healthier, I know if they were given a salad for lunch, or grilled fish or something, they wouldnt eat it, and they would be hungry all day. Im sure it's pretty impossible for these school districts to please everyone. A sausage pancake on a stick is basically a corn dog, but with sausage & pancake instead of hot dog & cornbread.

    But didnt we all eat this stuff when we were kids?


Hi there. What say you?