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Square pizza slices have a permanent place in my heart
April 12, 2011 8:02 PM   Subscribe

Little Village Elementary Academy on Chicago's West Side has prohibited students from bringing packed lunches from home, unless they have a medical excuse. Despite stricter nutritional standards implemented by the Chicago Public Schools last year to help curb childhood obesity, some parents are not happy. (Tangentially, I watched this clip about the school food in France and got sort of jealous.)
posted by bayani (102 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nanny state! But seriously, if most of the kids are bringing pure junk food (suggested but not proven in the article), I'm ok with this.
posted by Forktine at 8:12 PM on April 12, 2011


Yeah, nanny states are bad but the freedom to eat coke and cheetos for lunch is worse.
posted by GuyZero at 8:13 PM on April 12, 2011


It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a Little Village to raise an uproar.
posted by George Clooney at 8:16 PM on April 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I remember one of my friends from elementary school bringing sandwiches made of white bread, butter and chocolate sprinkles. I was so jealous.
posted by telstar at 8:20 PM on April 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


The bullet points on the "stricter nutritional standards" page seem pretty damn sensible to me, so I reckon I'm okay with this too. Further, I did read these fast, but the "parents [who] are not happy" appear to be a single fast food industry shill. And finally, after 7 years of primary school meat pies, chips and mini-pizzas here in Oz, I am so damn jealous of those French kids..
posted by Ahab at 8:21 PM on April 12, 2011


My coworker was looking at links about this today at work and showed me a picture of a trash can filled to the brim with all the "healthy" lunches the children refused to eat. Not to mention the pics she showed me of the healthy lunches that looked like something we would be feeding the shop dog instead of children.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:23 PM on April 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


(ps thank you o government for caring about what the children eat but be reminded that the responsibility belongs to the PARENTS....)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:24 PM on April 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


From the third link:
"does the right to parenting your own way extend to parenting in a way that will physically harm, and perhaps eventually kill, your child?"

Yes.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:24 PM on April 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


Any school that bans homemade lunches also puts more money in the pockets of the district's food provider, Chartwells-Thompson. The federal government pays the district for each free or reduced-price lunch taken, and the caterer receives a set fee from the district per lunch.
So it's a subsidy for Chartwells-Thompson, and, depending on how much money the school skims off between that subsidy, additional money charged to parents, and the amount paid to the caterer.
posted by straw at 8:25 PM on April 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


a permanent place in my heart

I see what you did there.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:25 PM on April 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I teach in a very affluent (and conservative) part of CA, and for the most part, the children bring healthful snacks. I always have a couple of overweight children in my class, and they bring stuff that's stuffed with sugar and HFCS. They're usually, but not always, the less affluent children, because the HFCS stuff is cheaper.

One of the affluent parents started a fruit cart on Tuesday at lunch, and the students get tickets if they go to the cart and get fruit, and then she holds a lottery at assemblies and gives out prizes. It's very popular, and all the teachers play it up. Who's going to do that at a school in a poor area? Oh, yeah, no one.

Can't have a nanny state, though, that's bad...
posted by Huck500 at 8:26 PM on April 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


I was talking to a coworker about this last week (uh, we work in school nutrition) and I think if ALL student meals were paid for then I wouldn't have a problem with it. But forcing parents to pay for school meals (that are partially or completely subsidized) isn't right. You can make healthy meals at home for far less than $22 a week.

"Any child at a participating school may purchase a meal through the National School Lunch Program. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level are eligible for free meals. Those with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible for reduced‐price meals, for which students can be charged no more than 40 cents. (For the period July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011, 130 percent of the poverty level is $28,665 for a family of four; 185 percent is $40,793.)"

So if a family is over that, but still struggling--which is likely in an urban area such as Chicago--then they're not eligible for F/RP meals but they have no other option to feed their children.

(Note: This school is charging $2.25 for each meal. Depending on their F/RP enrollment, they're getting federal reimbursement of up to $2.92 for Reduced Price and $3.37 for Free meals -- as well as the fact that they're probably getting subsidized USDA commodity foods. Granted, healthy foods cost more and I'm sure they're not even breaking even on this venture.)

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for better nutrition in schools. It's all I see/read/talk about for 40 hours every week; but it's completely unfair to remove other meal options unless ALL students are provided a free meal.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:26 PM on April 12, 2011 [25 favorites]


trash can filled to the brim with all the "healthy" lunches the children refused to eat.

Yeah, if my first-graders tell me they don't like something in their lunch, I make them take it home and tell their parents they don't like it. No food gets thrown away.
posted by Huck500 at 8:28 PM on April 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Here's the USDA's Web page regarding the National School Lunch Program.

And the Chicago Public Schools Nutrition Support Services Web page.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:29 PM on April 12, 2011


From the third link: “does the right to parenting your own way extend to parenting in a way that will physically harm, and perhaps eventually kill, your child?”

ShutterBun: “Yes.”

Well, not in under United States law. But maybe somewhere. In the US, it's illegal to physically harm or kill your child.
posted by koeselitz at 8:31 PM on April 12, 2011


Part of the nutritional standards is that no sodium is added during meal preparation. Can anyone knowledgeable about industrial cooking clarify what that means?

If it means what I think, it sounds like the food is probably awful. If I was at that school and presented the choice of awful food or go hungry, I'd go hungry. And I'd probably learn to resent the supposedly "healthy" food they were attempting to make me eat.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:34 PM on April 12, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm totally having my parents arrested for giving me ice cream when I was a kid.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:35 PM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


If the school lunches at this place are anything like what I saw growing up, I'm pretty sure this violates some part of the laws regarding child abuse.

If kids are bringing crappy food to school, this is a parental issue. Who's packing these lunches? Forcing kids to eat whatever gruel passes government mandate is, again, treating the symptom and not the disease.
posted by GilloD at 8:35 PM on April 12, 2011


but it's completely unfair to remove other meal options unless ALL students are provided a free meal.

Even if they're all provided a free meal, this is still a bad idea.

I can't help but think that forcing students to eat food provided by a company that has a monopoly in the local market is a bad idea. Given the interview on last weeks Daily Show with Jamie Oliver, there appears to be some level of corruption by district supervisors involved in public school food meals.

With our country's current funding priorities on education, what do you think most public school food options are like? Not good. These are for-profit companies providing food to schools, not non-profits.
posted by formless at 8:36 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


It means you don't add salt when you're cooking.

The USDA is currently trying to enact sodium restrictions that are recommended for hypertensive people. It's all a bit absurd.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:37 PM on April 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


Government is supposed to help people. Providing lunch to children is part of that. If people don't trust the government to do that, they won't trust the government to do anything. Anarchy might be a reasonable belief system, but it's no way to run a government.
posted by koeselitz at 8:37 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Government is supposed to help people. Providing lunch to children is part of that.

We should get rid of the food stamp program and have mandatory food deliveries, if we can't trust parents to make lunch how can we trust them to make dinner?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:40 PM on April 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


School lunches are "healthy" but you can do healthier at home, often for cheaper. I eat the school lunches every school board meeting -- reheated, even; they bring us whatever the main hot dish for the high schools was that day and reheat it, plus a salad on the side. It's not awful, really, I usually passably enjoy it. But it's a pretty limited menu and the hot vegetables come from a narrow family of veggies (green beans, mashed potatoes, etc.) and the salad is always made with iceberg lettuce. They have to meet very strict nutritional standards -- not too much fat, not too much salt, enough but not too many calories -- but there aren't rules for freshness or tastiness or anything.

I mean really, it isn't awful. I had worse in college where I was paying a ton for a meal plan. (I had better, too.) But I wouldn't want to eat it every day, and I can't imagine it's a varied enough diet to be fully nutritious over time ... not enough vegetable variety, not enough whole grains, and fruits are limited to apple/orange/pear/banana hand fruits, no berries or anything.

Last night's offering was some sort of pressed meat concoction (Salisbury steak, someone said), which was no worse than a McRib; mashed potatoes (no skins) with gravy; iceberg lettuce salad with green peppers, hard boiled eggs, carrot shreds, and cucumber slices; assorted fruit; and small (i.e., properly portioned) cookies. I didn't have any cookies and I confess I picked out the cuke slices. I hate cucumbers. :) Some sort of low-fat honey-mustard dressing, pretty decent. No grains at all, though, I guess because we had the mashed potatoes. A lot of the time we get that "white-wheat" bread which I am not a fan of.

I wouldn't mind my kid eating it a couple times a week, but I'd be pretty pissed if I was mandated to eat it (or have my child eat it) every day when I WANTED to prepare a lunch at home. Of course, a big part of the problem is that for some of our students, the ten meals a week they get at school (breakfast and lunch) is the bulk of the food they get AT ALL because nobody's really bothering to feed them at home, not even soda and fries.

we get lots of parent calls about, "Would YOU eat that slop they feed our children?" "Well, yes, I eat it every time we have a board meeting, it's actually not that bad, though here's how it could improve ..." Adults are always shocked I've actually eaten it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:43 PM on April 12, 2011 [9 favorites]


Chicago is also requiring all public elementary school students to be served free breakfast in school.

(Key points: the overwhelming majority of CPS students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Some parents object because it takes time away from an already-short school day. The policy is not good for kids with food allergies. Kids who eat breakfast do better in school. And the free breakfast program is going to make massive amounts of money for the school district, because the Federal government subsidizes them a lot more than they pay for the food.)
posted by craichead at 8:44 PM on April 12, 2011


Koeselitz - there's considerable daylight in the political spectrum between mandating government lunches for all and anarchy.

Personally, I'd argue for government that does some things well, not all things poorly.
posted by slab_lizard at 8:45 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Government is supposed to help people. Providing lunch to children is part of that. If people don't trust the government to do that, they won't trust the government to do anything.

no, you've got it backwards - it's the government not trusting me to give a decent lunch for my kid to pack to school - and why the hell should i trust a government that doesn't trust me?

my mom packed peanut butter - or baloney or turkey sandwiches - and it was understood i would be having school milk with that

a junk food lunch was out of the question

i was not a fat kid or an unhealthy kid

and yet this school would not have allowed this - no, they would have made my folks pay 2 or 3 times more for food that, in my experience, was of questionable edibility

this is just a private business prying people's pockets open using a governmental crowbar in the name of "health"

i suspect this will be a common occurance in the soon to come corporate age - where business uses government to make money from us, for our own "good" - and both parties will be bought and paid for so it can happen
posted by pyramid termite at 8:48 PM on April 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


Facts about the School Breakfast Program:

Most of the support USDA provides to schools in the School Breakfast Program comes in the form of a cash reimbursement for each breakfast served.

The current (July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011) basic cash reimbursement rates for non‐severe need are:

Free breakfasts $1.48
Reduced-price breakfasts $1.18
Paid breakfasts $0.26

Schools may qualify for higher "severe need" reimbursements if 40% of their lunches are served free or at a reduced price in the second preceding year. Severe need payments are up to 28 cents higher than the normal reimbursements for free and reduced ‐price breakfasts. About 74 percent of the breakfasts served in the School Breakfast Program receive severe need payments. Higher reimbursement rates are in effect for Alaska and Hawaii.

Schools may charge no more than 30 cents for a reduced‐price breakfast. Schools set their own prices for breakfasts served to students who pay the full meal price (paid), though they must operate their meal services as non‐profit programs.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:50 PM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


furiousxgeorge: “We should get rid of the food stamp program and have mandatory food deliveries, if we can't trust parents to make lunch how can we trust them to make dinner?”

Okay, I was being a little snarky, but I think it's more complicated than we're giving seeing here. I've talked to teachers that have tried this and other school food programs (such as a flagship school breakfast program here in Colorado) and the difficulties are numerous.

For example, poor children can't afford school lunches, but more wealthy children can. And yet the wealthy children are much more likely to bring food from home. The poor children often end up somewhat ostracized from the rest in this model, but there's not much you can do about that. You can mandate that children sit together, but the woman in the wonderful video describing French school lunches has it right when she points out that eating together is a central and important act. It's an equalizing thing, eating together. It erases boundaries of class and race and brings people together.

School is about these important distinctions. And I'm not saying we should go into every child's home and change everything because parents are doing it wrong; I only think that, while kids are at school, they deserve every transformational experience of togetherness we can afford them, as well as every bit of healthy food we can give them.

A lot of people are assuming the lunches are awful, but I don't think that's fair. This is an ideal worth pursuing, I think: children should have good lunches, and they should have them in common. A better society demands it.
posted by koeselitz at 8:50 PM on April 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


@craichead, the article says profits will be used to pay existing deficits in the school lunch program ... I know our program used to make money and now runs a consistent deficit, much of which is due to ever-increasing compliance costs for food preparation and participation in the federal program. We outsource it to a for-profit company because they actually do the compliance far, far cheaper than we can manage it in-house. We don't make a profit, but we lose less money than if we did it ourselves. Some of that is their economy of scale in doing compliance work for dozens of districts. (Some of it, I'm sure, is wage-and-benefits savings, although the rank-and-file workers are ours and they're unionized. Only the management is theirs.)

None of the compliance requirements are actually unreasonable on their own, but all together they become very onerous and expensive. Which is actually the case with a LOT of state and federal compliance stuff we have to do. One of these days I'll count up the number of administrators we've had to add for state and federal compliance in the last decade and their salaries ... we have a guy who does nothing but testing compliance and has a staff of three under him; a FOIA compliance officer; the food stuff (outsourced); health-life-safety, which is all done by outside firms/auditors but required by law; Medicaid compliance (staff of four) ... I know there's more.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:53 PM on April 12, 2011


And, what's more, I don't think parents should be forced to have their kids eat the same thing. Force always disrupts community. But it would be nice if parents could be convinced to support children eating food in common. I know that's hard for a lot of parents who really don't trust it, but that just means we have to come together and make sure it works well.
posted by koeselitz at 8:53 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


growing up in the primitive wilderness of Toronto, our junior schools weren't even equipt to serve food - I would have loved school lunches, but we ate in the gym. the most we had was milk on sale.

That said, what my mother packed me (juice or milk, cheese or peanut butter sandwich, apple, 1-2 small homemade brownies) was much healthier than anything battered or deep-fried, and probably cheaper than $2.25 (she skimped on cocoa in the brownies). Which is why I would have loved to have school lunch - more variety than what my mom packed, and probably fattier and saltier, yum.
posted by jb at 8:54 PM on April 12, 2011


Salisbury steak would have been awesome.
posted by jb at 8:56 PM on April 12, 2011


I wonder if there's a robust exercise program as well, or if they've at least not yet canceled recess? I tend to think childhood obesity is 20% diet and 80% sedentary lifestyle, and I wouldn't be surprised if this program for 'healthy' eating isn't backed up with any kind of activity. That would actually be a good way to see if it's a handout for the local caterer or not.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:56 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if there's a robust exercise program as well, or if they've at least not yet canceled recess?
I'm fairly certain that Chicago public schools don't have recess and that there's a plan to bring it back.

(I have a couple of Facebook friends who are CPS parents, so I get a lot of random CPS news.)
posted by craichead at 8:57 PM on April 12, 2011


craichead: I'm fairly certain that Chicago public schools don't have recess and that there's a plan to bring it back.

That's how you can tell the people in charge don't actually care about kids.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:00 PM on April 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


(I mean, that they would eliminate it in the first place.)
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:00 PM on April 12, 2011



School is about these important distinctions. And I'm not saying we should go into every child's home and change everything because parents are doing it wrong; I only think that, while kids are at school, they deserve every transformational experience of togetherness we can afford them, as well as every bit of healthy food we can give them.

A lot of people are assuming the lunches are awful, but I don't think that's fair. This is an ideal worth pursuing, I think: children should have good lunches, and they should have them in common. A better society demands it.


This honestly sounds like wishy-washy-weirdness to me. Is there like a study that says eating the same thing is good for kids? Healthy food is obviously good but the rest seems kind of a stretch.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:01 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


they should have them in common

So when you go out to dinner with your friends, you all order the same thing so that you'll have a more transformational experience of togetherness? Really?
posted by enn at 9:05 PM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry, found the article. It's here. Chicago schools are permitted to have recess, but most CPS elementary schools abolished recess in 1973. There's a proposal to bring it back. It would involve lengthening the school day and making teachers stay for longer, but the teachers union has said it's on board.
posted by craichead at 9:05 PM on April 12, 2011


"That's how you can tell the people in charge don't actually care about kids."

It's interesting; a lot of parents get very, very upset if you try to bring back recess, because it's "wasting time" when kids "should be in the classroom learning." I also feel like I've explained play-based curricula for kindergarten students until I'm blue in the face without making much of a dent; it's often the wealthy parents who are the strongest advocates for developmentally-inappropriate kindergartens that are focused on "academic achievement" and arranged as you'd arrange a fourth grade. You can tell then 600 times that PLAYING for 5-year-olds leads to academic achievement later on, show them the studies, they say they get it, but they FLIP OUT when the kids aren't sitting in their desks reading and doing math because they're not being "prepared."

Creating developmentally appropriate curricula (at all levels) will require not just getting rid of the "bubble in the test as an adequate substitute for actual learning" mentality of NCLB, but educating parents and communities (and students, too) about what developmentally-appropriate classes actually LOOK like and what learning actually should focus on. (Hint: Not bubble-filling.) But that's not the debate we're having; the debate we're having is WHY SO MANY SCHOOLS FAIL THEIR STUDENTS AT FILLING IN BUBBLES!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:06 PM on April 12, 2011 [12 favorites]


This whole issue is so perfect as a stalking horse for Presidential aspirant Mitt Romney (or whoever) vs. perennial Chicagoland dissapointment Barack Obama. You got school choice/vouchers/home schooling, parenting responsibilities vs. overreaching administrators, health vs. money, "do it for the children" and, inevitably, some flavor of evangelism sticking its dick into government once again. The perfect tabula rasa for annoying-yet-ineffectual politicking. Bankster children eat whatever they want, after all.

Mark my words, aspects of this story will snowball. If I had money, I'd bet.
posted by rhizome at 9:10 PM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


me: “School is about these important distinctions. And I'm not saying we should go into every child's home and change everything because parents are doing it wrong; I only think that, while kids are at school, they deserve every transformational experience of togetherness we can afford them, as well as every bit of healthy food we can give them... A lot of people are assuming the lunches are awful, but I don't think that's fair. This is an ideal worth pursuing, I think: children should have good lunches, and they should have them in common. A better society demands it.”

furiousxgeorge: “This honestly sounds like wishy-washy-weirdness to me. Is there like a study that says eating the same thing is good for kids? Healthy food is obviously good but the rest seems kind of a stretch.”

Well, I may be totally wrong, and I guess I'm a bit of a hippie, but the people I know who teach school say that a huge part of their job is trying to erase those distinctions like class and race and size and keep certain kids from lording those things over other kids. Fostering a nascent sense of community is what it's all about, and everything that helps that is good for education. But, again, maybe I'm wrong about this.

enn: “So when you go out to dinner with your friends, you all order the same thing so that you'll have a more transformational experience of togetherness? Really?”

No. But I don't bring my dinner from home, either.
posted by koeselitz at 9:11 PM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, I may be totally wrong, and I guess I'm a bit of a hippie, but the people I know who teach school say that a huge part of their job is trying to erase those distinctions like class and race and size and keep certain kids from lording those things over other kids. Fostering a nascent sense of community is what it's all about, and everything that helps that is good for education. But, again, maybe I'm wrong about this.

Yeah, I glossed over the class and race issue in your comment before. My experience as a kid was in a pretty well to do private school and lots of kids ate school lunches so I didn't really see that type of separation.

I can see where you are coming from but I still think mandatory school lunches are taking it a bit far. The food quality disparity is a symptom of such a larger problem it just seems like a weird place to try and address it.

This whole issue is so perfect as a stalking horse for Presidential aspirant Mitt Romney (or whoever) vs. perennial Chicagoland dissapointment Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, in Boston...
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:15 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can't (some/many/most) of the kids (of parents) who don't like the school lunches go home (or elsewhere) for lunch? I used to go home (actually to my babysitter's) for lunch and I went through a stage in grade one where I was insanely jealous of kids who stayed for lunch. I had a royal fit and said I wanted to start staying for lunch until my babysitter gave in and packed me a lunch. Well one day of eating a sandwich for lunch was enough for me. No thank you. Home for lunch it was.

Also, there's a cultural angle here too: The food served in the cafeteria is surely white-bread all-american etc. etc. food. Is that what these kids are used to eating at home? Surely many of them are immigrants and have other kinds of foods/flavours that they're used to and prefer. I remember learning about how when Italian immigrants arrived in North America and things like spaghetti were seen as strange and foreign that part of the point of home ec classes was "teach" people to stop cooking their traditional foods and start cooking what the locals established population ate. Isn't this having the same kind of forced assimilation effect?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:20 PM on April 12, 2011


they should have them in common

I'm assuming the "in common" here meant sharing the same eating space at the same time, not necessarily the same food.

Because if there's one thing I remember about school lunch, it's the transformational experience of trading Fruit Rollups for Capri Sun that brought kids together.
posted by formless at 9:25 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Notice how the story never mentions what the school lunches actually are?
posted by Ideefixe at 9:27 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can't (some/many/most) of the kids (of parents) who don't like the school lunches go home (or elsewhere) for lunch?

I really doubt it. Maybe there are a few, but for most kids, going home for lunch is just not an option, even when they're older than the kids affected by this policy. School lunch breaks are simply too short, and homes too far away.

Kids this young would also probably need supervision, and it's not every family that has an adult free during working hours.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:29 PM on April 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Can't (some/many/most) of the kids (of parents) who don't like the school lunches go home (or elsewhere) for lunch?"

No. Our district is "closed campus" and elementary school students sure as hell aren't released from the building midday without a parent signing them out. This is pretty common policy these days. Also few children have a parent at home during the day any more.

"The food served in the cafeteria is surely white-bread all-american etc. etc. food. Is that what these kids are used to eating at home?"

I guess? On our menu we have fake Italian food, fake Mexican food, fake Chinese food, fake fast food, fake Southern food ... it's kind-of equal-opportunity industrialized food, I don't think it's particularly "all-American" unless you consider bland industrialized food to be all-American.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:30 PM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


will children who have religious based food restrictions be accommodated as well? where i grew up (texas), meals are pretty meat-heavy and are still today from what i understand according to my friends with children. i hardly see them adopting kosher, halal, etc standards.
posted by nancydrew at 9:33 PM on April 12, 2011


On our menu we have fake Italian food, fake Mexican food, fake Chinese food, fake fast food, fake Southern food ... it's kind-of equal-opportunity industrialized food,

I would consider all of those pretty much all-american at this point, since they've largely been incorporated into fast food culture. What about somali food, ethiopian food, indian food, persian food, south american food, greek food, jamaican food, portuguese food, polish food etc. etc.

Yeah, I guess I do consider bland industrialized food to be all-american.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:35 PM on April 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


"We don't spend anywhere close to that on my son's daily intake of a sandwich (lovingly cut into the shape of a Star Wars ship), Goldfish crackers and milk," education policy professor Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach wrote in an email.
Dear Ms. Schanzenbach:

Please adopt me.

Love,

Your future son, age forty-six going on forty-seven.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:35 PM on April 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's an equalizing thing, eating together. It erases boundaries of class and race and brings people together.

I have a problem with this statement even when pulled out it's context. One is personal, which is not very relevant but leds to my point.

I have read to many instances were the state has mandated communal dining-cooking. Extreme in this case, sure, it is about choice. Ok, I saw a kid eat a box of Jiffy mix (brownies) on a bus he recieved gratis from the factory tour but that is not the same.

my point, it is about choice.

On a personal note, I never ate lunch at school in grade school. I recieved permission to leave school for lunch and by the 3rd grade on, I made my own lunch on most days. But that was so long ago, things have changed and not all children have that option.
posted by clavdivs at 9:35 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


(ps thank you o government for caring about what the children eat but be reminded that the responsibility belongs to the PARENTS....)

But what do you do when the parents don't handle that responsibility well, and you have the $$ to do so.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:37 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


will children who have religious based food restrictions be accommodated as well? where i grew up (texas), meals are pretty meat-heavy and are still today from what i understand according to my friends with children. i hardly see them adopting kosher, halal, etc standards.

I can't find that detail in the article but I have to assume they will make an exception or provide proper meals on their own. It would be a slam dunk lawsuit if they didn't.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:40 PM on April 12, 2011


But what do you do when the parents don't handle that responsibility well, and you have the $$ to do so.

Provide those kids with a meal.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:42 PM on April 12, 2011


will children who have religious based food restrictions be accommodated as well?
I imagine they'd have to. It would kind of suck to have to explain your medical issues or religious views to everyone at your lunch table, though.

(I bet that the religious thing would be more of an issue at some other schools than at this one, and it's probably one reason that this isn't likely to become a blanket CPS policy.)
posted by craichead at 9:42 PM on April 12, 2011


I don't understand the support for this idea on this thread. If my kid's school mandated that I was not allowed to send his lunch, much less buy a school lunch, I would be irate. If he doesn't eat what I give him...well that's my problem, isn't it? I expect schools to give my kid opportunities to eat better/exercise, but not to get between me and my kid when it comes to what I will feed him. My kid happens to like the healthy food we give him, but will just go hungry when presented with bland thawed industrial foods, especially meats. A program like this would be likely to mean he'd go hungry more often than not. Or end up sneaking his own food in. Which I would completely assist him in doing.

I would also falsely claim he had an allergy, if that's what it took. Because he's my kid and I am not going to let someone force him to eat crappy food every day.
posted by emjaybee at 9:44 PM on April 12, 2011 [10 favorites]


I can see a lot of pain here for the picky eaters.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:52 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can see the logic behind this idea. It's pretty hard to get your kid to eat his healthy lunch when all his other friends get Doritos. So one solution is to just make everyone eat the same food.

I'd worry that families would get into the habit of relying on cafeteria food, which is then often much worse or not available at all in middle school or high school. It might be a good idea to couple this with a few lessons in healthy lunch-making, maybe in an evening session with the parents.
posted by miyabo at 9:54 PM on April 12, 2011


I was all fired up about the lunch issue--then I learned that these kids don't have recess, and all my ire has been suddenly redirected. These kids don't have recess? As an adult, I have government mandated rest periods in the middle of my workday. We don't give these to children? Children who are less able to focus and have more energy to burn off than nearly every adult I know?

WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

OK, as someone who doesn't have kids and has no plans of having kids, clearly I should chill the fuck out. Uhhh, and maybe log out for the night.
posted by mollymayhem at 9:55 PM on April 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


I also think rhizome is dead-on about this possibly turning into a campaign issue. Like he said, it's got all the key talking points and pushbutton issues built in. Parental responsiblity, personal choice, public schools, etc.

Plus, it neatly ties into the Michelle Obama / Sarah Palin childhood obesity fight that flared up a few weeks ago.

I hope to god the Democrats don't bite.
posted by formless at 10:00 PM on April 12, 2011


Hooray for Pizza Day!

A sizable number of those lunches are going to end up dumped in the trash, untasted.

It would be nice if the folks responsible for this policy were the ones who had to mop up all the low-blood-sugar meltdowns that are going to happen every afternoon.
posted by corey flood at 10:40 PM on April 12, 2011


True, corey flood. Nobody's taking into account what kids will actually eat. We should just give the kids happy meals and be done with it, since that way kids will be sure to eat the food.
posted by koeselitz at 10:42 PM on April 12, 2011


That's a bit of a strawman.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:53 PM on April 12, 2011


I see that the school has created a perfect black market economy. Way to teach the kids real world skills.

P.S. Fruit pies are a gateway drug!
posted by psycho-alchemy at 10:57 PM on April 12, 2011


P.S. Fruit pies are a gateway drug!

To honey buns.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:58 PM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


>Nobody's taking into account what kids will actually eat. We should just give the kids happy meals and be done with it, since that way kids will be sure to eat the food.

Well, if you must go there, Happy Meals are better than the crap I got in schools.

I can't see how this is a good idea. Just, no.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:05 PM on April 12, 2011


My nutcase home-schooler friends preached at Mrs. RKS and I, long before we had children, about what a socialist experiment public education was and how we'd be failing our Christian Duty if we enrolled our kids there.

Well, I still think my friends were nutcases, and our kids are in public schools, but I'm beginning to wonder about that socialist experiment idea. All this time I thought it was about getting an education; now I'm starting to understand both from the problem raised in the original post and from some of the comments in this thread how much time "educators" spend worrying about how they're going to protect children from their parents, even at the cost of taking any semblance of control away from ALL parents.

I wish more people were worrying about how they're going to protect children from the government.
posted by randomkeystrike at 1:14 AM on April 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


I work at a French high school. Yesterday for lunch I had beet salad and grated carrots in dijon mustard vinaigrette, seemingly reheated/fried chicken cordon bleu (still pretty good) with side of pasta and chopped veggies. I put 2 kiwis and a banana on my tray and headed over to the cheese table so I would have something to top my organic baguette. Then I grabbed a chocolate mousse for dessert. I sat down in the teacher's room and poured myself a small glass of cider so wash it all down.

All for the grand price of 2.50Euros. Omm Nomm Nomm Nomm.

(Note: I work in a public school that also has boarding students, so many of these kids will have the school meals M-F, breakfast, lunch and dinner, though they have the freedom to go out and eat in town as well.)

My high school lunches in NJ consisted of the same thing every single day. Pasta in a red or cheese sauce (not unlike nacho sauce) or domino's pizza. There were also many snacks to supplement it all.
posted by raccoon409 at 3:43 AM on April 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


I wish more people were worrying about how they're going to protect children from the government

Your government isn't making kids fat. The parents are.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:43 AM on April 13, 2011


God, I wish I hadn't said that. Can everyone please ignore that? I don't want it to be a stupid derail.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:46 AM on April 13, 2011


If you support this, then surely you also support a government organization dictating what adults eat, no?
posted by blue_beetle at 5:27 AM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you support this, then surely you also support a government organization dictating what adults eat, no?
I don't support this, but that's a bad analogy. I wouldn't support mandatory school attendance laws for adults, either. We tolerate state intervention into kids' lives that would not be permitted if the people we were talking about were adults.
posted by craichead at 5:29 AM on April 13, 2011


I was all fired up about the lunch issue--then I learned that these kids don't have recess, and all my ire has been suddenly redirected. These kids don't have recess?

The last time I had recess in elementary/middle school was in the third grade... this would have been about 1984. They also cancelled gym and, by the 8th grade, there were 45 kids in my "homeroom" class. Then, I got a scholarship to go to a private school where we had 'free' periods.

This is about Ronald Reagan and the slow dismantling of the US as a functioning 20th century state.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:38 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is about Ronald Reagan and the slow dismantling of the US as a functioning 20th century state.
I don't exactly disagree with you, but most Chicago elementary schools stopped having recess in 1973.
posted by craichead at 5:39 AM on April 13, 2011


I don't exactly disagree with you, but most Chicago elementary schools stopped having recess in 1973.

yes, I was being simplistic. It's not literally about Ronald Reagan, but the evil miasma he was spawned out of. but still, it is about money in the end, the reluctance of people in the US to pay for public anything:
About 25 years ago, the school day for Chicago elementary children ran from 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. and students had 45 minutes to go home for lunch, said Margaret M. Harrigan, a professor of education at DePaul University who served, among other things, as a principal and administrator in the public school system for 44 years.

Schools began closing their campuses after residents in Austin complained about children walking across their lawns and fighting, Harrigan recalled.

That meant the teachers had to monitor students’ lunch periods and move their own lunches to 2:30 p.m., effectively ending the day 45 minutes earlier and eliminating much of the time children had to socialize and play. Today, most schools allow students 20 minutes to eat inside the building, school officials said.

Harrigan said the change hurt kids. “Schools have decided that the way to deal with predominantly poor, minority populations is to lock them up. What they are doing is simulating prison conditions.”

But not all schools have dropped recess, the Reporter found. Schools with the lowest percent of poor and minority children are the most likely to still get recess, according to the Reporter’s survey of 485 of the 495 schools for which racial data are available; 22 declined to participate. Thirty of the 59 schools with a student enrollment at least 30 percent white still have recess, compared to only 40 of the 318 schools that are less than 5 percent white.

The numbers are even more striking at schools with a high percentage of low-income students, defined as those who have signed up for free or reduced-price lunches. Recess is available in only about 10 percent of schools that are at least 95 percent low-income. That proportion climbs as the poverty rate declines: At 14 schools with less than 30 percent low-income students, 12 enjoy recess.

A principal’s decision to eliminate or curtail recess “has nothing to do with race or poverty,” said Cozette M. Buckney, chief education officer for the Chicago Public Schools. The Illinois School Code does not include a policy on recess.

“They make those determinations based on what academic concerns they have for the school, or what safety and health concerns recess may cause.”

of course, it might not be about Ronald Reagan at all, it could be about those money-grubbing public employee unions, and wilding black kids with their welfare queen moms:
Chicago schools did away with recess in the late 1970s, as most public schools adopted a “closed campus” policy after the Chicago Teachers Union won that option in its 1973 contract.

Schools eliminated a 10-minute morning recess, a 10-minute afternoon recess and a lengthy student lunch period. Lunch for teachers then was pushed to the end of the day, allowing them to leave early if they wanted.

But the self-interest of teachers was hardly the only reason for the move to closed campuses. Principals of schools in more dangerous neighborhoods had legitimate worries that kids who went home during the longer lunch break would never come back or — worse — would run into trouble on the street.

posted by ennui.bz at 5:53 AM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]



Schools began closing their campuses after residents in Austin complained about children walking across their lawns and fighting, Harrigan recalled.

That meant the teachers had to monitor students’ lunch periods and move their own lunches to 2:30 p.m., effectively ending the day 45 minutes earlier and eliminating much of the time children had to socialize and play. Today, most schools allow students 20 minutes to eat inside the building, school officials said.


I hate to sound like a tea partier, but that sounds like one of those weird union agreements that benefits pretty much nobody.

The elementary school I went to had a "closed campus" (meaning no going home for lunch), and we had three recess periods per day (morning, right after lunch, and mid-afternoon, plus gym, which was maybe three days per week? Sure, we probably didn't learn anything, and I'm sure the number of recess periods had to do with the number of times the average teacher wanted to take a smoke break, but it meant a lot of running around during the day.
posted by Forktine at 6:10 AM on April 13, 2011


I don't know what the big deal is. I don't think we were allowed to bring lunches from home to my middle school either. Socialism did not destroy the world in the process. But whatever. I guess as a parent I'd like to have the option to pack a lunch for my son. But I'd prefer it if they just served better quality food. Honestly, I'd prefer the school provides the lunch--that saves us time and money ($1.25 is a pretty damn cheap meal). As it is, our son's day care won't feed him anything we put in his lunch box that they consider candy. I hadn't realized this was socialism, but now I'm ready to join up with the Birchers. Oh wait--they're a private center.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:26 AM on April 13, 2011


I'm surprised that so many people think this is a good idea, even assuming that the school lunch isn't gross. (The only consistently non-gross cafeteria food I ever experienced was when I worked in the cafeteria of a very posh private college and got free meals.)

It seems like there's a lot of suspicion of poor parents and parents of color in this initiative - the school sounds like it's low income with a number of Latin@ students. Would this same thing fly in an UMC school in the suburbs?

This post goes nicely with the Charles Murray/Bell Curve one yesterday afternoon which quotes Murray saying that the lower classes are no longer capable of full citizenship. I think there's this desire to 1. keep working class people underpaid while selling them lots of cheap crap 2. turn them into good little workers by regimented schooling and 3. take away as many choices as possible in order to compensate for the cheap crap. Like, we don't actually want to stop selling Flaming Cheetos, or to pay working class people enough to easily afford and prepare tasty healthy food, but we do want a minimally healthy class of worker drones, so we have to simultaneously sell and criminalize unhealthy food.

It's like "capitalism gives poor people bad choices which imperil their ability to serve, so let's take away as many of their choices as possible while maintaining them as workers and consumers at a minimal level".
posted by Frowner at 6:46 AM on April 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


As noted, guys, school lunches are not the same as they were in the 80s or even the 90s. The pizza we had in junior high would absolutely not pass the nutritional guidelines today -- far too greasy. The guidelines are strict, and while many districts do serve some "staples" that the kids can get every day, the main dish typically rotates on at least a month-long schedule. If you're saying "School lunch is disgusting," based on the fact that you have not eaten a school lunch since 1984, you are talking out of your ass. As I said, it's not great, but it's not awful. If you want to make statements about nutrition and school lunches, the information and guidelines are easy to locate and most districts post menus on the websites.

@Forktine re: recess: "Sure, we probably didn't learn anything"

Incorrect! Free play/recess is crucially important for student learning in the elementary grades (and the younger they are, the more important free play is). Students learn social and emotional skills on the playground -- negotiation, self-regulation -- and the imagination and social negotiation required to set up a game of "storm the castle" or "kickball" without adult direction is very important. These skills are what create good students later on. Students who start on academics early but never have the social/emotional learning (best gained through play) don't do as well academically as students who get that social/emotional learning. Students need to learn to self-manage, to negotiate interpersonal relationships, etc., and if they don't, they become the students who can't cope with adversity, or who need constant adult direction (such as helicopter parents), or who become very entitled, etc. When people say "Kids today are so coddled!" a lot of what they're complaining about is actually the lack of play.

Moreover, boys, in particular, have better achievement and fewer discipline problems in early elementary school if they have recess and get to run off their excess energy a couple of times a day. (Girls do too, but it's more notable in boys that age, who mature into self-control a little more slowly.)

But again, as noted, recess does not appear to be training children to fill in correct bubbles, funding is tied to ability to choose one bubble from among many bubbles, and schools, teachers, and students are judged based on bubble-filling. Trying to explain to communities that struggling readers don't need more reading time (or don't JUST need more reading time), they need more fresh air and running-around time is something of a losing battle.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:52 AM on April 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


BTW, in case it wasn't clear, as a school board member, I think mandating all students eat school lunches is probably the stupidest possible solution to the problem in question. While the food is much improved from the 90s (though still not great), this strikes me as a really bad solution and a dramatic overreach. I actually sighed with relief when I read the article, saying to myself, "Thank God nobody has brought this particular brand of crazy to our district yet."

We've tried to combat bad student nutrition at home with various programs, including partnering with local chefs to teach basic cooking skills to students (it's a special occasion and a break for the routine so the kids adore it), nutritional classes and ongoing nutritional outreach with local hospitals and via the school nurses, nutritional and cooking classes for parents, school gardens in partnership with various community agencies that go with a curriculum that teaches not just botanical science but 'why tomatoes are good for you,' etc. We are a very impoverished school district, so these aren't "wealthy district with a lot of resources" solutions.

I wouldn't even have a huge problem with saying "No chips in lunches from home" or "No soda until junior high" or whatever, if those are big problems in student nutrition. We've had PTOs put together guidelines for age-appropriate nutrition and what sorts of lunches to pack your child to fit into those guidelines. ("Kids need protein for energy so they don't fall asleep in class in the afternoon ...") I think these are great because they take into account the economic and cultural background of the particular school, offering suggestions of lunches to pack that use the "food culture" of the students who actually go to school there, not just PB&J. Parents usually like them because busy parents may not have the time to think, "Crap, how much fruit for a lunch? Shoot, will this yogurt get warm too fast?" Many parents appreciate some guidance, so I suspect that "no chips" in the school handbook (or "chips only on Friday" or whatever) would be something most parents would agree with and have no problem with. But "no lunches from home at all" is crazy to me.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:02 AM on April 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Am I the only weirdo who longed to eat the school lunch as a child? My mom thought the school lunch was too expensive so I always brown bagged it. And I used to beg to be allowed to buy the school lunch. Especially on Friday when they served that fabulously greasy square pizza mentioned in the fpp.

But yes, my mother would have had a fit if the school told her she couldn't pack my lunch.
posted by interplanetjanet at 7:02 AM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised that so many people think this is a good idea, even assuming that the school lunch isn't gross.

For the record, I don't necessarily think it's a good idea; I'm just surprised how much passionate feeling this subject stirs up. It seems like such a petty little thing to me. But I'd be okay with no outside lunches if the schools provided really high-quality meals (which they could, if the political will existed to make it happen).

It's not fair the poor kids parents never pack them the really cool snacks like organic squeeze yogurt or whatever's fashionable these days. Schools should promote an environment that's as immune to the effects of socioeconomic inequality and class discrimination as possible. So for all the same reasons people argue for school uniforms, mandatory school lunches would have a socio-economically equalizing effect as well.

But the food served shouldn't be gruel; it should be the highest-quality, healthiest foods the kids eat all week, and it should be free to all students.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:36 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


school lunches are another corporate subsidy.

imagine we as a government gave parents who buy shitty cheap food money in the form of food stamps they get to use in farmers' markets or health food stores to buy more fruit and vegetables?

ahhh yes, we can't have that. we can't give food stamps to struggling working poor and working class parents. that would be socialism.

but forcing them to pay school lunches on subsidized food that lines the pockets of food companies and agricomglomerates? oh well, now, that's the free market.
posted by liza at 8:01 AM on April 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd assume that in the French system the failure to accommodate/effective exclusion of kids with religious dietary restrictions is considered a feature and not a bug...

If we want uniformity AND inclusion in diets I think we should go for a vegan gluten and peanut free diet. I bet that would be really healthy too.
posted by Salamandrous at 9:00 AM on April 13, 2011


I would be "OK with this" in theory, but in reality, I hear the SF school lunch menu on KALW, and I'll be damned if 100% (literally) the non-meat option is grilled cheese, cheese burritos, or some other variation of cheese. Today is cheese ravioli. So vegetarian kids get cheese or the salad bar. Fun.

If I can demonstrate that my lunch is more nutritious than the school lunch, then there is a pretty big problem with the rule of not letting my kid bring her own lunch for reasons of nutrition and health.

I agree with the notion of eating together as a community, but my daughter eats at a table with her daycare friends and they all have their own lunches. They can still share.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:07 AM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


furiousxgeorge: “That's a bit of a strawman.”

That's my whole point; this whole "this is a bad idea because school lunches are inherently bad" thing may be an immediate concern, but it misses the core problem. It's like rejecting health care because poor people are just going to die of awful diseases anyway.
posted by koeselitz at 9:18 AM on April 13, 2011


HTWRT, I'll take the bait, because I don't think it's a derail, it seems to be among the main points of the discussion:

I wish more people were worrying about how they're going to protect children from the government

Your government isn't making kids fat. The parents are.


Respectfully, I disagree on at least three levels:

- It's just the wrong assumption altogether. It's not the government's problem whether my kids are fat. This is probably so fundamental we'll just have to agree to disagree here, but I don't think historically it has worked out well when the state has tried to fix everything for everybody. The government can refrain from doing things which are bad for the public (subsidizing tobacco and creating state lotteries), and I have no problem with public health laws like inspecting meat plants and requiring nutrition labels, but now we're reaching in and TAKING CHOICES AWAY, no doubt to be ultimately justified by "the nanny state will have to pay for these people's health care." I've got a simple solution there, but that's yet another argument. Because if we go along with this - it. will. never. end. Religion, how many kids we can have, what we can tell them at home about any subject, how we can discipline them - the nanny state can have a say in all of it. And you don't have to be some kind of religious square to be concerned about this. You could also be a pagan who wants to be supportive of your daughter's desire to be out as a lesbian. Once you give the state the controls over your life, you're just along for the ride. The state waffles back and forth between nutty liberal and conservative extremes; I'd like to be free to make my own mistakes, thanks. We've paid a lot in blood and treasure to have the right.


- school lunches just suck nutritionally. For the record, our kids are athletic and not fat, thanks. We let them eat school lunches sometimes, but we pack healthier, more delicious lunches for our kids than what the cafeteria serves. I'm aware this varies by region (and parent), but our better-than-average public school has lousy food. How you manage to fix greasy pseudo pizza/mexican meat dishes and MAKE THEM TASTE BAD is beyond me, but there it is.

- finally, and this may just be an elaboration of point #1, but goddamn, we're struggling in schools to keep the doors open and graduate kids who can read and write, and we've got school administrators who have the time to fuck with this?
posted by randomkeystrike at 9:26 AM on April 13, 2011 [3 favorites]



For example, poor children can't afford school lunches, but more wealthy children can. And yet the wealthy children are much more likely to bring food from home. The poor children often end up somewhat ostracized from the rest in this model, but there's not much you can do about that.


At my public junior high school, the kids that bought lunches were almost exclusively lower income. The wealthier kids brought lunch from home. If you brought lunch from home, you could eat outside in the courtyard, whereas cafeteria food had to stay in the cafeteria. As this particular school's population drew almost exclusively from lower income black neighborhoods and upper income white neighborhoods, this basically amounted to lunchtime segregation. The cafeteria kids were basically not allowed outside if they were still eating. The courtyard kids found the cafeteria smelly and weird and circulated rumors that it was violent and dangerous. They would sooner skip lunch than eat in the cafeteria. And, though I'm not proud to admit it, on the days my newly single mom would forget to buy groceries for a bagged lunch, I'd pocket the lunch money she gave and pretend to be dieting instead of eating in the cafeteria.

A year later I ended up at a private school that required sit-down lunches every day. You didn't get to opt out or pick your own seat. You were assigned a seat at a table. And everybody pretty much ate the same thing (or the vegetarian option). I actually made friends over meals as opposed to volleying for position in some imaginary lunchtime hierarchy.

Food issues aside, I think these sorts of policies might be a net positive for a whole lot of reasons.
posted by thivaia at 9:57 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am surprised that there is not much reference to Chartwells-Thompson in this or any other article. When I was in college I wrote an essay about the issue of students being forced to buy a meal plan with our room and board. It was common knowledge that something wasn't 'right' with the food at most of the dining halls. I remember a student comic-strip where a student is relaxing after a huge full meal at one of the dining halls and suddenly an alien bursts out of his stomach - Simply titled, "Freshmen's Mistake". Many students had done research on the MSG level in one dining hall that had poisonous levels. Symptoms included: headaches, nausea, IBS, mood swings, heart palpitations, etc.. all of which I got my first year on a constant basis until finally I decided to double-pay for the meal plan (which I was required to pay), and buying my own groceries and meals. I instantly started feeling better and hardly ever returned to the dining halls.
Now this brings me back to this story... if this company which was known to commonly poison college students (at my University) is now to be forced onto to children, I would raise bloody hell as a parent. Maybe it's my personal vendetta with the company, but I think we need to look instead on claims of health improvements and see where the flow of the money is going...
posted by hillabeans at 10:07 AM on April 13, 2011


Am I the only weirdo who longed to eat the school lunch as a child?

Nope, same here, but for me it was the gigantic deep-fried cheese logs ("mozarella sticks") which were about an inch wide and like 6 inches long. I think there were limits on how many you could buy, so if someone else didn't want them, I'd sometimes have them buy more for me. I didn't even have the option of hot lunch until high school and even then it was an out-of-pocket expense.

Speaking of school lunches, who here ate weird shit for money? There was always someone that put a bunch of random food together (usually in a milk carton) and there was always someone who ate it for money.
posted by nTeleKy at 10:26 AM on April 13, 2011


we're struggling in schools to keep the doors open and graduate kids who can read and write, and we've got school administrators who have the time to fuck with this?

I'm a writer, but I'll always prioritize eating and sleeping (and fucking) above reading and writing. Maybe that's just me.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:41 AM on April 13, 2011


Speaking of school lunches, who here ate weird shit for money? There was always someone that put a bunch of random food together (usually in a milk carton) and there was always someone who ate it for money.

That would be me, both as instigator and payee. My specialty was the dirtier or spicier stuff, e.g. licking up some diner jelly packet that someone had spilled on a car bumper, or eating a golfball=sized wad of wasabi.

I had more trouble with the really, really "gross" stuff (e.g. some school-food mash combined with loads of salt plus snot plus milk, and yes, usually all stuffed in a milk carton). Then I'd start the money pool going ("who wants to chip in a buck to see Skippy eat this?").

I was also big on food challenges/bets. One of the funniest things I've ever seen was someone trying to eat a dozen krispy kreme glazed in a minute and a half. NO WAY. I think he got 5 down.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:00 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


loads of salt plus snot plus milk

Snot?!?
posted by bayani at 11:03 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, I believe the final concoction (one of the grossest I can remember) indeed had some mucus (and yes, someone certainly made a point about communicable diseases). It all ended with a small taste and maybe a partial payment, but everyone was weirded out and there was a unsettling feeling left upon the afternoon.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:40 PM on April 13, 2011


My opinions on this, in no particular order:

1) Incensed that the school would tell the parents what their kids can eat.
2) Amused that schools actually think they can prevent kids from eating junk food.
3) ROFL'ing at the school making it easier for kids to skip lunch and have guaranteed weed money.
4) Saddened that we probably actually need something like this if we hope to force people to eat healthy foods.
5) Disgusted that they would rather let kids waste food than eat Doritos.

And one more for good measure - Do any of you actually remember school cafeteria food? Healthy or not, that shit tasted NASTY! They could make your all-time favorite food resemble greasy cardboard with ketchup as the sole seasoning.
posted by pla at 6:03 PM on April 13, 2011


furiousxgeorge: “That's a bit of a strawman.”

That's my whole point; this whole "this is a bad idea because school lunches are inherently bad" thing may be an immediate concern, but it misses the core problem. It's like rejecting health care because poor people are just going to die of awful diseases anyway.


My point is there is a wide variety of options between mandatory healthy lunches provided by the school and mandatory Happy Meals that can make sure good food is available for everyone while maintaining choice.

I, for one, never minded cafeteria food from elementary school all the way up to college dining hall. I have a pretty good palate for enjoying the gourmet and the common for what they are, which I think more people should strive for rather than being either a foodie or a fast foodie.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:59 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


randomkeystrike, it wasn't meant to be troll bait - I just violated my 'think before I type' rule, and regretted immediately.

You slippery slope argument is not invalid. The price of freedom...etc. I agree.

I am going to use the socialised healthcare argument. It has some merit. I live in a country with a well developed socialised healthcare system. Accordingly, your personal health choices will have a knock on effect on society - you screw up your health, the medical system spends money to fix you up, tax dollars are unavailable for other things. In that scenario, it is the government's problem if your kids are fat.

But, as you say, the extreme end result of that path is an unacceptable regulation of personal choice (unacceptable to me, anyway), unless you are able to trust your government to be restrained.

It's worth noting that, in this instance, we are not talking about a government, but a school - it's the Principal making the decision, not the Department of Education. There's no risk of the school trying to control your sexuality, or your procreation.

Arguably, the school is trying to look out for the well being of the kids - they have concluded that many (if not all) parents are feeding their kids badly, and that the school can do better. Maybe they can - I have no data on that point. If so, there may be a net benefit to the kids. But that kind of one size fits all approach assumes that everyone is an incapable and/or uncaring parent (which is insulting to everyone, especially those who are not), and does not address the systemic issues (which is that some parents can't or (much less likely) won't feed their kids properly).

It's an approach that I have seen governments (especially my own) take before - "Some of you have done wrong, and were not prevented from doing so. Therefore, we shall assume that all of you will do wrong unless prevented". No one would take that well. Because it's stupid. And it makes it very difficult to trust the government, because they so clearly don't trust you.



I've got a simple solution there, but that's yet another argument.

I would be extremely interested to hear it. Memail?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:11 PM on April 13, 2011


I, for one, never minded cafeteria food from elementary school all the way up to college dining hall. I have a pretty good palate for enjoying the gourmet and the common for what they are, which I think more people should strive for rather than being either a foodie or a fast foodie.

Seconded. The food at my college cafeteria was so good I became vegetarian. The food throughout primary education wasn't as varied, but it was still quality nutrition.

The "school food is gross" meme was usually something forced upon the students by a handful of "too cool for school" kids.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:04 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


i remember the day they served some kind of sloppy joes or bbq pork or something at my school - thank god i brown bagged it

the meat was some kind of brownish kibble - like a soft version of gerbil food - the buns were stale and yellowish and when you separated them this odd, spider string like substance could be seen coming out of the two halves of the bun - and it was NOT cheese

it was the most vile, mysterious and ugly food i'd ever seen

i'll admit, most of the time, the food was merely bland - but i've seen some awful looking stuff served to my classmates

the food at college was reasonably good
posted by pyramid termite at 2:18 PM on April 14, 2011


mrgrimm : The food at my college cafeteria was so good I became vegetarian.

Funny, me too - Though I wouldn't choose the word "good" in that sentence. "Scary" perhaps, or "grey", or "greasy" at best. But it sure did a world of good in getting me to give up meat. ;)

About the best I can say for my college food service - They could make a hell of a sausage, egg, and cheese McMuffin-like thing. I'd nab an entire tray of them and eat 'em cold for the rest of the week (about the only thing they made that I would eat, other than their passably-fresh fruit and the bagels - And believe me, I by no means count as a picky eater; in my youth, I'd try just about anything that stayed still long enough to bite down on it, and even a few that didn't).
posted by pla at 7:55 PM on April 14, 2011


mrgrimm : The food at my college cafeteria was so good I became vegetarian.

...

Funny, me too ... They could make a hell of a sausage, egg, and cheese McMuffin-like thing. I'd nab an entire tray of them and eat 'em cold for the rest of the week

Huh?

My implication was that the cafeteria made such good-tasting and varied (i.e. non-cheese-based) vegetarian options that I quickly wised up to the fact that vegetarians have a lot of tasty options (although 95% of them are side dishes).
posted by mrgrimm at 1:08 PM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


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