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What's That Disgusting Mess? Oh. It's Just School Lunches

What's That Disgusting Mess? Oh. It's Just School Lunches

So what are you fixing for dinner? Taco Patty perhaps? How about a Round Wedge Pizza or Chicken Fryz? That's what's on the menu in the Harrisonburg, VA, school system. They're so proud of their fare, the posted big ol' pictures of them in all their glory on their website. I was hungry — right up until the point I saw these pics. Count 'em 22 different meals, and I only saw one green thing in the whole lot. The saddest lunch? The Italian Dunkers. Or, Cut Up White Bread With Sugary Spaghetti Sauce.

No wonder we're facing a childhood obesity epidemic. What makes this all the more alarming, is that so many kids rely on these meals to combat hunger. In the 2006-2007 school year, 16.3 million kids got free or reduced-price lunches through the National School Lunch Program, a stat that's particularly poignant here in the midst of Summer. Reports show that Summer nutrition programs aren't meeting needs, and sponsors are backing out as rising food and fuel costs makes it impossible not to lose money.

The conundrum of course is what's cost effective and what will kids eat? For kids weaned on Cheetos and corn dogs, the goop in the pictures probably tastes fine. It's far from fine for them though.

To see which schools are combating the Italian Dunker,


In (my hero) Morgan Spurlock's movie SuperSize Me he profiled Appleton Central High School where kids are given fresh, wholesome, low-fat food through Natural Ovens, resulting in happier, more-focused students. Arkansas is hoping to be a "model state" in addressing childhood obesity, starting with banning vending machines. California has already banned trans fats in schools.

With poor communities getting the brunt of the Taco Patty (42 percent of Bronx elementary students are overweight) and school-lunch prices climbing even further (40 percent more in Des Moines) what's the solution? How can schools better serve our kids lunch?


who_arexyou who_arexyou 9 years
At my school an entree lunch is up to $2.50 from $2.20 last year. Basically if you get an object of food it's an entree and a milk will be included as well as two sides. Sides could be soup or some small cup/bag of fruit or vegetables or possibly a mini-salad. The sides at lunch change each day. Besides the garden salads, bagels, and (usually) the pizza, there are generally no vegetarian options (you can get the taco salad without meat). What confuses me is how so many people skip the sides or milk that would be included and get chips or ice cream or a tall rosenberg iced tea or punch or one of the soda-like drinks available which costs additional money. Someone wondered about fresh fruit? Usually fresh fruit (sliced strawberries, watermelon) is more available at the beginning and end of the year and in limited amounts so if you want some you better grab it before it's gone for good. haha. Grapes aren't considered such a delicacy and are served more frequently and I've also seen actual bananas laid out next to the bagged carrots. A friend commented on how I'm the healthy one at the table b/c I always get at least one vegetable. This made me realize that the school does it's best to offer healthy foods but it's really up to the students to decide what to buy. I admit, sometimes I even have to force myself to get the carrots over the rice-krispies at checkout.
rabidmoon rabidmoon 9 years
:ROTFL: at the "taco patty". That's not even...I have no words for that, but the phrase "use up the leftovers" comes to mind. How much is a school lunch now? When I was a kid it was about..I think a dollar or so. In truth I can't remember. We had a snack bar and a proper cafeteria and I usually just got a sandwich and a drink in the snack bar. I remember being mad because they banned Cokes as being "unhealthy" (but somehow Twinkies, fried potatoes and Hawaiian Punch were okay..). However if school lunches are up to 2-3 bucks a day - that's 15 dollars a week or so, and how hard is it to prepare a sandwich for kids to take, or a healthier "from home" option like spaghetti and meatballs or suchlike? Maybe its just uncool to bring food from home, I guess as a kid I would have preferred NOT to, but then again my friend (who was Thai) had the most awesome homemade spring rolls, I always always envied her school lunches.
christie christie 9 years
Those pictures made me sick. I love my kids school, the breakfasts are whole wheat and turkey sausage. His lunches always have one serving of fruit and one serving of vegetables, and they only have the choice of milk, regular lowfat milk. And once they are in 1st grade and up, they have two vegetables.
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
School cafeteria pizza is bizarre--I've never seen anything like it outside of school. Rectangles of fairly thin yet strangely soggy crust with an odd wet rippling across the top, the stingiest smear of sauce and some substance that bears little resemblance to actual cheese... Strangely, I liked it as a kid.
Rancher'sGirl Rancher'sGirl 9 years
Back when we rode dinosaurs to school, the food served at my elementary school was actually healthy and tasty. However, I only could buy lunch one day a week so Friday Fish Sticks it was.:) The middle school was the opposite...a lot of "mystery meat", mushy spaghetti, canned chow mein and something known as "Pizza or Taco Snack". I worked in the high school cafeteria to cut lunch costs and we were allowed to make salads from the "salad bar." At least we had access to lettuce and shredded carrots, which a lot of schools in our district didn't, and the cafeteria staff did their best to give us healthier lunches. The local high school where I live now doesn't have a cafeteria (very small town) so the students brown bag or eat at the local Burger King or drink coffee or smoothies for lunch. School district says they can't justify the expense of building, outfitting and staffing a cafeteria for the 100 or so students that "might" buy lunch each day. And we wonder why our youngsters have such weird food habits. Grrr!
chrisTyyy chrisTyyy 9 years
How come schools don't serve fresh veggies? I hate can veggies, they're so mushy and doesn't taste the same. I don't know how I lived through middle-high school eating junk every day. I never ate the lunch menu, I just had unhealthy snacks with my friends.
milosmommy milosmommy 9 years's almost dinner time and I'm starving...and I'm not eating anything nearly as yummy as the pics harmony posted. My high school didn't even have lunch when I went there, you either brought your own or went to the store/restaurants off campus since we had open campus this worked. Two years after I left they closed it and built a new cafeteria, but I have no idea what the food is like. When I worked at an elementary school the food actually was pretty healthy and the kids always had the option of a green salad if they didn't like the "hot" lunch option.
cassedy04 cassedy04 9 years
j2e1n9 - funny you should mention JMU... one of my friends from high school went there and their food is awesome! the school is consistently ranked every year as one of the colleges with the best food. i find it to be so ironic that the k-12 district in harrisonburg comes up with this garbage, while the (publicly funded) university has amazing options! here's the link to the campus food website: just look at some of those pictures on the front page! and here's the link to an article about their ranking:
amybdk amybdk 9 years
Martini: Baked sesame ginger tofuBaked sesame ginger tofu This is one of my favorite tofu dishes -- baked sesame ginger tofu. I'll PM you with the recipe! It's perfect for snacks, to put in sandwiches, throw in a salad. YUM!
ilanac13 ilanac13 9 years
i remember when i was in school and the foods that were available to us don't compare at all to what the kids have now. i think that there's this fear that you need to give kids more options cause they are picky and that they won't eat if it's not something familiar - but in reality - their palates are changing, and if all they had were salads and veggies and more healthy dishes - they would eat them. i'm sure of it. in the UK, they're trying to make really large steps in how the food service is managed in schools and it's slowly making a difference. we can only hope that change is on the horizon for us as well. my kids won't get to eat school lunches if this is what they eat. i don't' think that it's sending the right message to have pizza and 'fryz' and things like that.
TidalWave TidalWave 9 years
lol @ Taco Patty
lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
My school actually served fairly healthy, well-rounded meals. In elementary school all of the proper elements were there. (Although, we had these bizarre milk bags. Has anyone else heard of them? They were supposed to cut down on waste.) Anyway, when I got to junior high and high school, I tended to be a little less healthy in my eating, just because there were so many more choices and I seemed to not always make the healthy ones.
j2e1n9 j2e1n9 9 years
Now that I see that this is from Harrisonburg, VA, I am wondering if they are actually pictures from James Madison University. I went to camp there once and I remember their dining hall as being out of control, but kinda in a good way as far as kid fare goes. Maybe they were at camp and not pictures from a public school lunch?
j2e1n9 j2e1n9 9 years
Has anyone ever heard of this? I thought it had some pretty good ideas.
Shadowcat14 Shadowcat14 9 years
The best way to combat it is through education. Teaching kids how to eat healthy. One of my friends is a PE (gym) teacher to middle schoolers in a rough area of Jersey and he had them watch "Supersize Me". It had a huge impact on them.
kastarte2 kastarte2 9 years
My school was in an affluent area and the still served glop and tator tots. Gross. I brought my lunch. It's sad that this is all some kids have or that some don't even realize the low quality of school food. My college res cafe was better but not by much. With the prices we paid for meal tickets, you would expect more appetizing choices.
Twinkle1 Twinkle1 9 years
Hmmm I wonder what the US could do to combat childhood obesity? :ponder:
Miaomiaochan Miaomiaochan 9 years
My parents had just made our own tofu yesterday night. It's actually really easy to make. As for school lunches, my old high school (over 4 years ago) did have some fresh sliced vegetables for placing into hamburgers and the like, but rarely if ever were vegetables featured on the main course. It was usually broccoli and cheese (which I admit to liking). I stopped eating the school lunches after a short while, though.
bluesarahlou bluesarahlou 9 years
I think I'm gonna have Thai food for lunch tomorrow :)
MartiniLush MartiniLush 9 years
It is one of my favorite desserts! MMMMMM! :feedme:
harmonyfrance harmonyfrance 9 years
YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!! It's gorgeous. and YUUUUUUUUUM :drool: :hug:
MartiniLush MartiniLush 9 years
Well, as you can see, I tried to do another way, and that totally failed! Your way works! Syako can laugh at both of us! :P
harmonyfrance harmonyfrance 9 years
Syako would make fun of me if she knew I was still doing that. She tried to teach me the real way, but I still do it this way. :oops:
MartiniLush MartiniLush 9 years
Woohoo! Thanks, Harmony! :hug:
MartiniLush MartiniLush 9 years
Lava cakeLava cake :fingerscrossed:
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