Guest/Mrs. Q: School Lunches and Why They Matter

| May 5, 2010

A big THANK YOU to our guest contributor, Mrs. Q, not only for her insightful post, but for taking on a challenge few of us are brave enough to do and raising awareness of this all too urgent crisis. Follow Mrs. Q on her eye-openingĀ blog.

My name is Mrs. Q and I’m an educator in the Midwest. I decided to eat school lunch every day in 2010, take a picture of the lunch, and blog about it: Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project. My goal was to raise awareness of school lunch. In particular I wanted parents to know that school lunches have gotten worse since when they were kids. The quality has decreased as more processed food products are offered to kids.

School districts aren’t cooking onsite anymore – they are bringing food in frozen and then heating it up in large ovens. Lunch ladies who know how to cook are losing their jobs and being replaced by people who don’t have training and don’t cost as much. Kids are getting fat, but even the skinny kids are not eating right. It’s not an issue of obesity, which seems to draw people in: “Let’s fight fat!” It’s not the fat kids. Instead it’s more of the dull issue of nutrition, which effects children of all sizes. American kids are malnourished; they are eating the wrong foods.

Packing lunch for your own kid is a great alternative for you, but for the kid “Joe” living in poverty who depends on the school for his best meal of the day? Joe is not getting a fresh, healthy meal. Instead Joe is getting some perversion of the USDA guidelines that specify among other things that fries are a veggie and fruit juice is a fruit. Combine daily tater tots with a fruit jello and chicken nuggets (50% chicken of less) and a piece of bread (the grain component) and his school is paving his path straight to the local fast food joint. And Joe, you only get 20 minutes in which to eat including the time you spend in line.

Oh. I forgot to say that Joe no longer gets recess in school (at my school there is no recess). Recess was cut not by the budget (recess is free after all), but instead by administrators looking to cram in more education in an already short day. And there you have Joe’s daily reality in school. No wonder he can’t sit in his chair and pay attention to his teacher.

We have to do better. We have to question everything. We owe it to Joe and every American child regardless of family income.

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Category: Featured Articles: Food Politics, Food Politics, Kids & Food

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Comments (6)

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  1. I was pleased to see that in my daughter’s school cafeteria, they really do focus on balanced and relatively healthy foods. and we send extra healthy snacks for the teachers to give to some kids that may not afford to bring them every day.

  2. Kat says:

    Thank you Mrs. Q in raising awareness about this crucial issue!

  3. Ann says:

    I can’t believe it took this long for this issue to finally come about- I remember being in gradeschool knowing that the food was nasty and unhealthy and only bringing packed lunches (I started young…31 now) – I’m excited that this movement WILL make a change in the future of our childrens’ school food- especially those who cannot afford a choice. I’m also excited to get involved when my son actually starts school! Let’s not stop talking about it just because Jamie Oliver’s show is over!!! :)

  4. Katherine says:

    Thank you for eating school lunches for a year to help parents understand the severity of the issue. Our children are eating empty calories, full of all the wrong ingredients. We need to feed with the purpose of norishment!

  5. Tonija says:

    Thanks Mrs. Q. My daughter is about to finish her 1st year of pre-school and lunch was a challenge as she’s already a picky eater. I packed a lunch for her for the first semester but eventually she wanted to eat the school lunch, so for the last month or so I haven’t been sending her lunch. All kids get lunch regardless of income (it’s a Title I DC Public school). Today she came home ASKING for carrots because she had eaten them in school. Uh. Ok! So I can’t be mad about that!!

  6. Simply Life says:

    Wow, what a great project!