Lunch visit

Inspiration— read about where it all began

Today I visited the school cafeteria to see what I could see. I went up to the lunch window to greet the food service attendants, and they asked if I was Jennifer. I guess they knew I was coming!

Oh boy. So much of what I found mirrored what we saw on Jamie’s Food Revolution shows.

  • Not a single person in the salad bar line
  • Line wrapped around the corner for pizza and fries
  • Chocolate milk containing 25 grams of sugar to the white milk’s 11 grams
  • Most kids taking only a piece of pizza (guess they’re not required to take the fries), eating a roll with butter, or simply a mound of cheese with no fruit or veg on their plates whatsoever
  • Even the kids who brought packed lunches were a bit shocking to me–who breaks a regular-sized Hershey bar in half, puts it in a baggie and gives it to their 7 year for lunch? Or 3 Pepperidge Farm cookies, 1 1/2 times an adult-sized serving?
  • My son pre-chose the turkey hot dog this morning while in class, but because mom was hovering over him in the milk line he picked the white milk and put some carrots, cucumber and apple slices on his plate. Good boy. (he actually eats fresh fruit & veg off the line because we’ve coached him to. The chocolate milk, though, is a bad habit he just can’t seem to break. He’s been getting free milk since Kgarten. I assumed they were only offered white milk. Only recently did I know to even ASK about chocolate or strawberry milk. I hate that he’s 6 and expected to make good choices when there are much more kid-appealing but not-so-healthy options being offered to him…)

I, on the other hand, opted for the salad bar. Partly because Liam had the hot dog, so I could see that, the lady forming the lunch lines warned me that the ham, egg & cheese muffin sandwich was blech, and I could tell the pizza didn’t look appetizing. And it must not have been, not a single child finished their piece and most ate only about 5-10 bites.

I was amazed that two women seemed to be serving the entire lunchroom, and have to give small props because I did see fresh apples, oranges, cucumber, broccoli, carrot sticks, lettuce, and 100% juice being offered. The lettuce looked and tasted like it was from a bag (you know that chemically, waxy taste that stuff has?)

The kids have 20 minutes to get and eat their lunches, and there’s not a clock to be found in the lunchroom. Most have no idea how long ’til lunch is over until they are hustled out of the lunchroom. I witnessed quite a few kids who had taken no more than 2-3 bites of their sandwiches, pizzas, or lunches for that matter. How are they supposed to make it 3-4 more hourse on so little nutrition? Especially the little guy sitting next to me who took 3 mouse-sized bites of pizza and drank an entire (25 grams sugar) chocolate milk as his entire meal?

I got a few kids to add some more carrots to their plates and try a few nibbles, I asked kids who packed their lunches from home and had them show me what was in it, I asked if kids ever got hungry throughout the day and what their parents had packed them for snack (lots of “fruit snacks” and “gushers”), as well as if they ever felt jittery or wound up after drinking the chocolate milk that had more sugar that most sodas in etc. One little boy admitted that he chooses the white milk because the chocolate milk does affect him.

I did a LOT of observing and definitely know there are some positive changes that could easily be made.

I hope to meet with the principal soon, and am working to set up a meeting with the diretor of the food service as well as a dietician to go through the big binder containing food labels from all of the foods served via the food service. The fact that there is a big binder has me pre-concerned. I mostly buy, prepare, serve and eat foods that don’t come with labels…

Being quite honest, this family of 6 qualifies for a few government assistance programs, one being free school lunches. With one in school and three more little ones getting set to go through the school system, this mom of four definitely has a vested interest in seeing some positive changes happen. I serve my kids freshly prepared, often hot lunches at home. I would like them to be able to continue to receive the same at school. Cold bagged lunches can only go so far, no matter how healthily you pack them, and cost and waste become a big issue. I’d rather see the hot lunches healthed up and more kids opting for them and benefitting from the better nutrition to boost their brain and body development and give them every advantage to be better learners and have a healthy future.

My kids are fine because of how much nutrition they are receiving at home, but what about the fast food for breakfast & dinner kids? Their only chance at a decent meal is the school lunch. Someone has to advocate for those too young to advocate for themselves. Thanks for all your enouragement and the bollocks to be a trailblazer, JO!

Click here to sign a petition that will help bring better foods to the schools.

The adventure continues:
Principal visit–the second step I took in the process
Food service meeting–where some real information comes to light


8 thoughts on “Lunch visit”

  1. GASP! Go you! Thanks for updating us, and wow. With Lil Miss headed to KG next year….this gives me a lot to think about. How in the world can these kids concentrate the rest of the day!

  2. Jenna, FYI — the 100% juice is only available to students who have a dairy allergy/sensitivity — I had to send a note with 1 of my kiddo’s who had a dairy sensitivity.
    I remember drinking white milk in the carton as a kid — the girls say the same thing now that I did then — it doesn’t taste good. My girls said they choose chocolate b/c the white tastes so bad — if you go again, I wonder if you’d be willing to try the white and see what you think? Thanks for your post.
    My experience in the lunch room is similar to what yours was, but I have seen kids at the salad bar — just not a ton. Keep up the good work — let me know if I can help with anything.

  3. I go have lunch with my 2nd grader about once a month. The waste of food is incredible. And you’re right, the assortment of flavored milks, all quite sugary, is something I never thought I would see in an elementary school cafeteria. Our district makes healthy food choices available, so that is not an issue. The good food is there, very few select it.

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