I used to love school lunch.
My favorites included roast turkey with gravy, baked spaghetti and those square-shaped pizzas you’d only find in a public school cafeteria.
I’d check the lunch schedule religiously — more often than my daily assignments — to figure out what days I needed to ditch class a little earlier to beat the rush.
Turns out the days of actually enjoying school lunch may be coming to an unfortunate end.
In an attempt to combat childhood obesity, the U.S. Department of Agriculture revamped school lunch menus this August with Congress-approved calorie limits that have caused grumblings by both mouths and stomachs.
Kids are hungry; the lighter lunch fare — two baked fish nuggets, a cup of veggies, half a cup of mashed potatoes and a whole grain roll — just isn’t satisfying.
Check out this spoof of the new menus — and how they’re leaving kids starving all day.
There isn’t a simple solution to this. On the one hand, government is trying to do something to deal with rising obesity numbers among school children. But on the other hand, is this really the best way to combat a trend that isn’t solely the fault — or responsibility — of education?
I remember the days when, as kids, we could literally eat whatever we wanted. We rode our bikes, played soccer, and ran around the neighborhood — those calories were burned off in minutes. Even in college, I remembered eating at Taco Bell just about every day, no problem. (Of course, that ended once I turned 30. But that’s another blog.)
So what happened?
There were many times I daydreamed about school lunch, wishing we had something like that at our office. I could just walk downstairs, grab a tray and, for $1.50, get a well-balanced meal finished with a buttery sweet roll or shortbread cookies. What a deal.
But fish nuggets and a cup of veggies? Nah, I’ll pass.
What do you think about these new regulations? And what memories do you have of school lunch? Do you miss it as much as I do?
I used to like the baked spaghetti, pizza and used to get “double lunch” on taco day. I thought the food was great in elementary school. The entree, the cookie (or fruit cup), the rolls and especially when the milk was a bit icy. What a bargain for 45 cents!
This is going to gross some people out but my favorite school lunch was corned beef hash with a tomato sauce. Plus it only cost 25 cents back then.
I never ate school lunch, but my guess is that it may have actually been comprised of real food way back then. Today, most cafeteria lunches are unhealthy, overly processed, and just plain unappetizing. (Aside from our school lunch program, who in their right mind considers vegetables to be tomato sauce on a frozen pizza or a handful of greasy fries?) If schools could stick to basic, clean foods, you could pack a real punch for 500 calories — but that won’t get you anywhere when it’s chemically-laden junk, frozen out of a box. I’d be starving, too! Then again, considering the convenience foods many of us rely on at home, I bet a lot of kids don’t have the taste buds for natural, healthy things any longer.
I pack lunches for my kids every day. It’s cheaper and much healthier than the stuff masquerading as “food” at school.
I also loved those square pizzas. Didn’t they put one huge pepperoni on it? haha that was the best. I think the school lunch regulations are good. Everyone thinks they are too small because we are all so conditioned to super sized meals and fast food restaurants offering “value” meals. We’re all basically trained to looked for the most food for the least amount of money and when we don’t get it we think we are getting short changed. So what we think is a normal sized meal is really not and is way more food than we need. Anyway, I think it is good, but if will just take a while for the kids to get used to the portion sizes.
the hidden costs of school lunches are the bad eating habits that they instill in the kids. Cat, you said above that you weren’t averse to eating at the mexican phone company every day for a week (btw, have you tried the new fiesta bowls there? not bad, especially for five bucks, and much healthier than most other fast food options). the combination of good genes, and an otherwise healthy and active lifestyle have you still going and looking great as you got older, but what about those who didn’t have these advantages? there are too many people who think that a quarter pounder with cheese is a complete meal because it has (mystery) meat, (processed cheese) dairy, (bleached flour bun) grains and (ketchup and onions…no lie, I’ve heard people saying this) veggies.
not sure what the answer is because cost is always going to be the deciding factor.
fwiw, I loved school lunches, but I went to the school down nehoa from yours so our options were greater (as was the cost).
CAT: In my day, it was meat loaf, spanish rice, and succotash.
I liked the baked spaghetti and the spanish rice. I need to have my wife make a comment here, she can tell you first hand what’s going on with the school lunches, she’s a Food Service Manager at a school.
Shepard’s Pie @ Kamehameha!
Schools really need to increase “PE.” Have the kids get out and exercise. Because of the focus on academics, a lot of physical ed has been reduced or cut. It isn’t just diet…it’s the lack of exercise. I don’t know about the requirement of needing to pass two years of algebra to graduate high school, but I think requiring to walk/run a mile or two is probably more beneficial for the total student.
BTW my favorite part of school lunch was the shortbread cookies.
850-calorie lunches would never have made it at Farrington High School in my day.
Not only would us students have made food fight with the piddlings, Principals Stephen Kanda and Joshua Agsulad would have told the federal government, pre Pink Floyd, to “leave them kids alone.”
And, really really pre-Pink Floyd, Mr. Kanda and Mr. Agsalud would have told the federal government, “Obesity control? We don’t need no thought control.”
We can take plenty bricks out of the encroaching Pink Floydian government wall;
this coming election, remember that the Congress that approved Michelle Obama’s obesity plan was the lame duck, Harry Reid/Nancy Pelosi/Barrack Obama Congress of 2010.
My grandmother ran the school cafeteria… needless to say I ate well.
Hi Cat – Very interesting posts. Like M mentioned, I am a food service manager at an elementary school here in Hawaii. I have both likes and dislikes about the new policy. Basically I think it was created by some people who have never worked in a school cafeteria.
We follow a cycle menu so we really don’t have much say in what we are serving. 15 out of the 25 meals in the cycle are made from scratch. An elementary meal consist of 2 oz of meat or cheese, 3/4 cup vegetable, 1/2 cup fruit and 8-10 ounces of bread or rice spread throughout the week, and 1 cup of milk. 50 percent of the grains must be whole grain, next year it will be 100 percent whole grain. Part of the policy requires us to give a whole range of vegetables so the kids are getting the proper nutrients….That’s IF they eat it, which is a whole different subject. They get some good stuff like romaine lettuce and spinach. They get less canned fruits than we did back in the day. Some weeks they get apple, orange and banana so that’s fresh fruit 3 out of the 5 days. On a some days the fruit and vegetable portions are bigger, like today my kids each got a big banana which gave more than a 1/2 cup fruit. Middle and high school students get a little more food.
I think its too much food for the younger children. On some days I have to give 1/2 cup of lettuce, that’s a lot of lettuce, imagine lettuce being compacted into a 1/2 cup measure, that’s how much we have to give. Likewise, I don’t think the meat and starch portion is enough food for some of my 5th graders. I have a few that buy seconds.
At 2.20 the lunches are a great deal for the quality meal they get. You could make a cheaper home lunch but it won’t have the same nutritional value of a school lunch. When my kids were going to school they ate school lunch every day. It cost over 5 bucks to make a lunch, which is what the adults pay to eat lunch. The kitchen workers eat free so I enjoy filling up on all the salads. My favorite lunches back then and now are Oven baked chicken, spaghetti, lasagna, tacos, Pizza, Kalua pig, pig in the blanket, beef stew, teri chicken, and roast turkey. Some of the newer favorites are pork adobo, chow mein with egg roll, and BBQ pulled pork sandwich. I love the fresh bread, baked daily. What I miss most is those shortbread and peanut butter cookies…….
You didn’t mention that a lot of the kids don’t eat most of the veggies and it gets thrown away. The kids take a sip of milk and the rest gets tossed out. So much waste of our tax payers money.