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Americans will eat garbage so long as you cover it with ketchup
November 22, 2013 2:32 PM   Subscribe

The Fed Up project has collected over 7000 student-submitted photos of school lunches from across the US. They'll be used to create a map and report to make a case for better school lunches.

About. Their Advocacy Kit (pdf).

Via: NPR: This is what America's School Lunches Really Look Like.

School Lunches, previously:
* Gimme Your Lunch Photos
* Metafilter: Part of a healthy breakfast
* Teaching a Lesson
* Square pizza slices have a permanent place in my heart
posted by zarq (87 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Stop eating crap? What are you, a commie?
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:42 PM on November 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't know about where y'all live, but public education funding is shitty, and way too much of it is spent on sports. What gets more support, a new modern food distribution system, or the football team?
posted by Brocktoon at 2:44 PM on November 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


The lunches at my high school cafeteria in Canada were awful, too. I have no memories of lineups at that counter, but when they set up a table that sold nothing but french fries (with or without gravy), that line stretched out into the hall.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:46 PM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's the opposite of nostalgia?

I'm having that.
posted by griphus at 2:47 PM on November 22, 2013 [22 favorites]


We had Taco Bell and Pizza Hut in my early-mid 90's high school, and if you think Taco Bell and Pizza Hut are barely-edible coming from Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, just wait until you try Taco Bell and Pizza Hut as prepared by public school employees.
posted by item at 2:48 PM on November 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


For you, item.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 2:50 PM on November 22, 2013


What's the opposite of nostalgia?

I'm having that.
posted by griphus at 5:47 PM on November 22 [+] [!]


Whatever industrial baking process used to thaw and reheat square pizza at my HS is also the same process used by subway to make their edible bread product so being downwind of one is like an instant, unwanted olfactory memory trigger. Do not want.
posted by The Whelk at 2:50 PM on November 22, 2013


Man, I loved school lunches when I was a kid. My friends were all "eww gross" but I just ate theirs too. Nom nom nom.

The lunches kids apparently get these days..... Even I'm not so sure about.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:51 PM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


The lunches were among the least objectionable aspects of my public school education. And as I recall, we got a lot of overcooked instant macaroni and cheese, and something that looked like Hamburger Helper, but didn't help anything.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 2:51 PM on November 22, 2013


On the other hand, that Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich looks better than anything I've eaten in weeks.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 2:51 PM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


School lunches have always been mediocre, even back in the 60's and 70's. If you really sit down and work it all out in your head, though...meeting minimum nutritional guidelines...serving several hundred kids each day...on a budget stretched thinner than a cosmic string...The meals aren't that bad. If you want better, start approving some school funding hikes.

That said, when my kids were in grade school, I made it a point to have lunch with them regularly, when it was square pizza day. That stuff rocked!
posted by Thorzdad at 2:51 PM on November 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is an important issue. Teaching kids how to select good healthy food is impossible if no good healthy food is available. But this could easily be photos of an empty classroom on a furlough day.
posted by munchingzombie at 2:52 PM on November 22, 2013


Oh and the fucking apples, the fucking sub-street vendor mushy brown tasteless zombie apples they made you get to fulfill the fruit requirement in some kabuki theatre of nutriion. It would've been easier to put them directly in the trash every morning.
posted by The Whelk at 2:53 PM on November 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


martha stewart is at it again, eh
posted by ninjew at 2:56 PM on November 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


Wait, raise your hand if your school also did breakfast for one period in the morning. Breakfast was pretty tolerable and they had chocolate blueberry muffins which are NOT cupcakes because of reasons.
posted by The Whelk at 2:58 PM on November 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lunches in elementary school were the worst. Everything was pre-cooked off site in aluminum containers (or cardboard boxes in the case of Friday's pizza squares) and then placed in a giant convection oven to warm it up prior to serving in the school's combination gymnasium-auditorium-cafeteria. Middle school was a little better because it had an actual cafeteria with an actual kitchen (also: actual pizza slices) but the food was still bland.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 3:06 PM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Public school employees are derpier than fast food workers, amirite?
posted by Brocktoon at 3:06 PM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


The National Gallery in D.C has one of the best cafeterias I've ever seen in public sector hands. I make a point of eating there if I'm near the Mall. It's great.*

So, yeah it can be done.

* plus you get to go through a crazy LED art installation!
posted by The Whelk at 3:08 PM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Next story in the "school" tags category?

county_name[n] High School in state_name[i] Bans Cell Phones, Cameras in Lunch Room
posted by clarknova at 3:11 PM on November 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


The National Gallery in D.C has one of the best cafeterias I've ever seen in public sector hands.

Hell yes, I had the pleasure of eating this Russian meal at the National Gallery cafe and it was great.
posted by scose at 3:14 PM on November 22, 2013


I'm not really okay with referring to food as garbage, but I totally am down with improving school lunches, and I suspect some better funding might help with that.

School lunches for me were kind of dismal and drab, and yet weirdly comforting and also maybe challenging in a good way at times. I had to deal with non-ideal food and still figure out how to get fed, and I think that made me a more flexible eater overall. But I don't think having better-quality, better-tasting and more varied food would have been a bad thing, at all.

There is so much room for improvement. Just, sadly, in recent years the urge toward that kind of improvement has hinged a little too much on weirdly rigid and class-based ideas of nutritional purity and too little on just having tasty, nourishing food for kids to navigate.
posted by Ouisch at 3:21 PM on November 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


A lot of these actually look substantially better than the stuff we were served for most of my K-12 experience.

That shouldn't be read as an endorsement. We routinely got, like, eight green beans and a barely-thawed hamburger patty.
posted by brennen at 3:22 PM on November 22, 2013


Being asked to choose daily between two largely unappealing options prepares children to take part in American democracy.
posted by ckape at 3:28 PM on November 22, 2013 [46 favorites]


Ouisch: "I'm not really okay with referring to food as garbage,"

FWIW, it's a paraphrase of a quote from Henry Miller: "Americans can eat garbage, provided you sprinkle it liberally with ketchup, mustard, chili sauce, tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper, or any other condiment which destroys the original flavor of the dish."

The full thing wouldn't fit in the title field.
posted by zarq at 3:29 PM on November 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


The kids I know that like school lunch eat like shit at home. The kids that hate school lunch eat healthily at home. Gee, I wonder what this means.
posted by thorny at 3:29 PM on November 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


After my daughter was diagnosed with the world's weirdest food intolerance, I suddenly had to become intimately familiar with the ingredients and nutritional profile of the school lunches. Like, I had to have the dietician mail me the ingredients labels. For everything. I was very pleased to find out that apart from the ketchup, jam, and pancake syrup, there is high fructose corn syrup in almost nothing, and the overall sugar content of the menu is much lower than I expected. The ingredients lists were largely composed of FOOD and certainly seemed in line with meals that I might prepare myself most of the time. I know it is worse in other districts, but in mine, I was really impressed.
posted by KathrynT at 3:32 PM on November 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


The nutritional intake of our children is a national security issue, these are the future solders of democracy, no? Therefore they should get just as much funding.
posted by The Whelk at 3:35 PM on November 22, 2013


How many here know what it is like to cook for several hundred people, if not a thousand or two, multiple times per day? Just saying, if you want good food in schools, you're going to have to pay for it.
posted by efalk at 3:35 PM on November 22, 2013 [14 favorites]


Oh and the fucking apples...

Ours were always Red Delicious. They looked great-- deep red with four prominent feet at the base like something from a still life.

But they were obviously a few seasons old, with leathery skin, mealy flesh and flatly over-sweet flavor, lacking the tart complexity that makes you crave an apple. I have avoided Red Delicious apples ever since. I had one under a few years ago and it was actually deserving of its name, but something inside still tells me that every Red Delicious is a trap.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:37 PM on November 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


I mostly remember from high school that the two constants for what seemed like every lunch was that strange slightly rectangular pizza or french fries. I'm sure there were other options but those are the only ones that stick out in my mind.
posted by Kitteh at 3:39 PM on November 22, 2013


Mayor Curley: "But they were obviously a few seasons old, with leathery skin, mealy flesh and flatly over-sweet tasting."

To be honest, other than the leathery skin that's what Red Delicious taste like to me when they're fresh. It's like someone decided to take apples and breed everything out of them that's good.

Stored winter apples can actually be great. I grew up in an area where people grew a lot of apples We'd all store tons of apples in boxes and eat them well into springtime. They always tasted good even though they wouldn't necessarily look pretty anymore and be all wrinkled. But of course it has to be apples that can handle being stored.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:41 PM on November 22, 2013 [5 favorites]



The kids I know that like school lunch eat like shit at home. The kids that hate school lunch eat healthily at home. Gee, I wonder what this means.


my parents forced a very healthy diet on me at home, which meant that I loved school lunches. Grilled cheese with wonderbread and American cheese? Chicken nuggets? Pepperoni pizza? Chocolate milk. Mmm mmmm mmm.
posted by geegollygosh at 3:41 PM on November 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Also they let you serve yourself from the big huge pit of French fries so you quickly learn the skill of vertical stacking,
posted by The Whelk at 3:48 PM on November 22, 2013


My (free) school lunches from the mid-70s the mid-80s were full of carbs. Practically everything was breaded and/or deep fried, and what wasn't breaded was grey. Who eats grey string beans? The usual dessert was some sort of "cookie" that had obviously been baked during the Van Buren administration, it was so dry. And the "salad" was mostly the white rind-y bits of the iceberg lettuce, with a pink tomato slice and some shaved carrots. I remember the burgers being made out of soy, though, so that was relatively healthy, I guess. Oh, wait, no - those were fried soy burgers.

I would have killed for some chicken nuggets. Alas, those were not in existence at any of my schools back in the day.

By the time I transferred over to a suburban high school for my junior and senior years, I was glad enough to be making my own money so I could make my own (healthy!) lunches, or have the occasional mondo-burger, fries and shake of the day at Kopp's Frozen Custard in Glendale.

A lot of these lunches look as bad as some of the ones I've experienced. There has to be a better way. Where's the site from that kid who got people from other countries to show how awesome their lunches were compared to the US's?
posted by droplet at 3:49 PM on November 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've gotten better food on airplanes than in some school cafeterias.
posted by The Whelk at 3:52 PM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why do the pictures of pizza have the cheese on? Everyone knows you take it off, put it to the side, and eat it after the bread. Duh.

Honest question: is this better or worse than what we feed soldiers? At least part of the justification of nutrition programs is to make sure that people are well fed enough as children that they're fit to serve in the military as adults. But maybe they have to be actively up for being killed in war to deserve better? Or maybe we just keep offering people junk to eat all their lives?

Also, school lunch has the most unimpeachable funding out of virtually all of our safety net. So if you're finding these lunches cheap and pathetic, just think about how less popular (and thus more hallowed out) programs fare in terms of what they can offer. What would welfare look like if it were a lunch? Oh yeah, it would be an empty tray, if you're lucky.
posted by rue72 at 3:53 PM on November 22, 2013


One thing that drives me crazy about school in Canada is the willingness to feed kids crap, all in the name of fundraising. Twice a month the PTA has "pizza day" where kids are fed the cheapest of dollar-slice pizza, with a giant cookie and a half-pint of sugary chocolate milk as a chaser. It's barbaric!!!
posted by KokuRyu at 3:56 PM on November 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


The problem with providing a nutritious, appealing school lunch is that it costs a lot more money than people and/or the government are willing to spend.

And those tips are irritating. Schools aren't allowed to serve fried foods anymore.

Ooooh I hate when posts in my bailiwick appear right when I have to leave. I have so much information to share!
posted by elsietheeel at 3:57 PM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


efalk: "How many here know what it is like to cook for several hundred people, if not a thousand or two, multiple times per day? Just saying, if you want good food in schools, you're going to have to pay for it."

When I was at Rutgers, my main dining hall during my freshman year was on Busch Campus. Most undergrad and graduate level science classes were held on Busch. The dining hall had a bulletin board in its main hallway, where announcements and meal plan schedules would be posted, and a large section where students could post a note for the staff or dining hall manager. The manager used the nickname "The Silver Fox." The Fox or his staff would append answers to most of the notes.

One year, after Winter break, a note was posted to the board:

Dear Silver Fox,

I love the food here, except for your pasta and tomato sauce. Frankly, your pasta is disgusting. My grandmother would spin in her grave over it. How can you possibly turn one of the easiest foods in the world to cook into something so tasteless, mushy and inedible! And your sauce! It's terribly, terribly bitter. A tragedy! For our sanity, you HAVE TO fix this.

Over winter break I asked my mom for my grandmother's special recipe for tomato sauce. Could you please use this when you make sauce in the future? I guarantee you'll get compliments!

Grandma's Tomato Sauce
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 pound ground beef
1 large onion, finely diced
1/4 cup minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 pinch of salt
etc., etc.

And here are directions to make a perfect 1lb of pasta......

Etc., etc.

Signed,
Homesick Italian Girl


A couple of days later, a reply was posted.

Dear Homesick Italian Girl,

Your recipes look delicious and we'd love to try them. However, could you please convert to the following measurements?

30 lbs pasta
45 gallons of water
How much salt?
Etc.,

Signed,
The Silver Fox


The next day, four engineering grad students had posted a followup note with conversions.

If you're ever on Busch campus, try the ziti and meatballs. It's delish.
posted by zarq at 3:58 PM on November 22, 2013 [20 favorites]


is this better or worse than what we feed soldiers?

Nine times out of ten it's Aramark doing the catering services but the school services seem to be a lot more limited and less variable.
posted by The Whelk at 3:58 PM on November 22, 2013


The next day, four engineering grad students had posted a followup note with conversions.
Wait, they needed engineering grad students to handle the math involved in scaling up recipes? Isn't this the sort of thing a grade 4 or 5 math student should be able to calculate?

Bob has a recipe for pasta sauce that contains 500ml of tomatoes and makes 5 servings of sauce. How much tomato will he need to make 100 servings?
posted by WaylandSmith at 4:08 PM on November 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


Siri...help me....
posted by Drinky Die at 4:19 PM on November 22, 2013


WaylandSmith: " Wait, they needed engineering grad students to handle the math involved in scaling up recipes? Isn't this the sort of thing a grade 4 or 5 math student should be able to calculate?"

I don't know that they necessarily needed grad students. They were just the group that volunteered. :) (I knew the guys who wrote the reply.)
posted by zarq at 4:20 PM on November 22, 2013


I think my high school is a rarity in that it had (still has?) an open campus for lunch. We could leave! Forty five minutes for lunch, and there were a fair number of restaurants not far away. So we ate Taco Bell and Pizza Hut and sandwich shop and the like.

So we didn't eat the crap cafeteria food, but instead we ate crap fast food. I didn't have a car until my senior year, so I was always looking for a ride with someone, and cars would often fill up fast. And eating out for lunch every day was hard to do on my pathetic allowance, so sometimes, when my friends were eating personal pan pizzas, I would raid the salad bar for free crackers for lunch.
posted by zardoz at 4:22 PM on November 22, 2013


As usual, the solutions are money, time and workers' rights, so nothing will get fixed. What will happen - if anything! - is that schools will attempt to extract more labor from their underpaid cafeteria staff (incredibly, someone up thread was like "lol so derpy amirite", which just goes to show) through stricter rules and more pressure, there will be stricter rules about what kids can eat but because no one actually hires more staff or buys better food, it won't work. Except in rich districts and a few showcase poor ones.

Yes, you can feed a large group well daily if you have enough staff to prepare and serve decent meals, and if you buy decent ingredients. I worked (derpy! I guess that's me! Hooray!) in a cafeteria that had really good food for a couple of years - the free meals were a big perk. Of course, it was at a super-rich school, so there was constant whining about the fresh carrot-ginger soup, the locally-sourced sandwich ingredients, the onsite to-specification omelets, etc. Not as good as mommy's servants made, but I looked forward to my shifts.

Honestly, working class people work cafeteria jobs. A lot of those jobs are really terrible - heavy lifting, industrial food-prep, being short-staffed, having to eat lousy free lunches because you don't make enough to give up the perk of a free meal. You should try it before you talk smack about those people.
posted by Frowner at 4:27 PM on November 22, 2013 [31 favorites]


Ya, my high school had/has an open campus for lunch too and there were a fair number of restaurants in the neighbourhood, though few were much better than McDonalds or Subway. What ended up happening, for some reason, was the cafeteria ended up being used almost exclusively by the Chinese students and all of the white students would leave to go somewhere else. This was in a school that had roughly a 60/40 split of middle/upper-middle-class white students and immigrants from Hong Kong who had arrived between 0-6 years ago.
I remember buying food from the cafeteria only a handful of times during my time there and at the time definitely preferred to get a sandwich from Subway.
posted by WaylandSmith at 4:32 PM on November 22, 2013


If I remember correctly, the local schools get something like 2.40 per lunch. That has to cover food, labor, electric, paper products, etc. Everything involved in serving a kid lunch. Of course the food isn't fantastic, how could it possibly be?

With 600 students, there are I believe 4 cafeteria workers, two for the older kids and two for the younger kids. They work their asses off for the kids, but with such a small amount of money per meal, and a tiny labor force of course the food isn't perfect.

Until we are willing to pay more for food for our kids it will not get better. A lot of our students depend on the cafeteria to eat. We have more than a 50% rate of free lunches locally. We all should be ashamed that we aren't doing better.
posted by SuzySmith at 4:35 PM on November 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


School lunches in the sixties were pretty terrible except on the days they made hamburger vegetable soup. With peanut butter & honey sandwiches on the side.


THAT was a meal.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:00 PM on November 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I still have nightmares about the cafeteria square pizza. I don't know what square pizza y'all were having, but the one I had was NASTY. It was like, this piece of really soggy floppy bread with sauce and cheese of a soup-like consistency on top, and occasionally processed pepperoni cubes. I remember somebody once posted a website with school lunches from around the world, and basically every other country's school lunches looked 10x better, with the possible exception of the UK. Here it is:

What's For School Lunch - this is the blog with all the world school lunch photos, this was the FPP post and original link
posted by pravit at 5:07 PM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


OK, so I've just had 3 people ask me over memail if I remember the full sauce recipe because what I posted earlier sounds like a great start. So I guess I had better come clean:

The story is absolutely true. But it has been years since I was at Rutgers and to be honest I can't for the life of me remember any exact details about the recipe that was posted to the board except that it existed and it included sausage, and the measurements for salt and basil weren't exact and that sparked heavy discussions. (How much is a pinch of salt, anyway?)

BUT the good news is, I cheated when I wrote the comment and stole part of the recipe from here. :)
posted by zarq at 5:15 PM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


My lunch today came from one of the cafeterias featured on the site. It's not really a fair photo: I work at a university, not a K-12 school (and thankfully there's as much variety as you would expect from a place the size of a medium-size US city) and second, the photo was terrible but the food is not.

Willingly eating cafeteria food after college was not exactly on my To-Do list, but it's not nearly as bad as you might think. Judging by the photos on the site, it's significantly better than what's being served in public schools. Then again, what I ate during my time in public schools' cafeterias (memorably including my favorite meal in middle school which consisted of tortilla chips, french fries, and nacho cheese sauce--and zero nutritional value) wouldn't fly now. Some changes have been made, for the better.
posted by librarylis at 5:34 PM on November 22, 2013


The nutritional intake of our children is a national security issue, these are the future solders of democracy, no?
Too Fat To Fight?

Honest question: is this better or worse than what we feed soldiers?

In my experience, worse. But there's always the all-fried option at the DFAC, and they put serving limits on the carbs (mashed potatoes, rice, pasta), and I'm the only person I ever saw get multiple vegetables.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:03 PM on November 22, 2013


The best part about lunches at one school I worked for was that on the days they gave kids a piece of fruit for their meal they would make sure to put it in a plastic baggie. So imagine 250 individual apples in individual baggies. Pieces of bread would be doled out from their loaf plastic bag into individual baggies. Those plastic baggy pieces of bread bothered me every.day.

Such a waste of time and resources.
posted by aetg at 6:14 PM on November 22, 2013


I wonder if that was so the kids could take it home. In most of the schools I've worked at, we were aware that the kids were getting most of their food at school. Maybe the bagged fruit and bread were shoved into backpacks for later? If not, yeah, that sounds crazypants.
posted by MsDaniB at 6:22 PM on November 22, 2013


Honestly, this all makes me miss Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. It really was an astoundingly revolutionary show that was really well done, and I'm not such a big Jamie Oliver fan. The show really made a compelling case that a powerful wedge with which to change a whole lot of problematic health, nutrition, and policy problems rests in changing public school lunches. And the show's conclusions were that this was by no means easy to do, but well worth doing. They dealt with all these issues mentioned in this thread -- budget constraints, indifferent cafeteria staff, children who will refuse to eat anything besides colored milk and fries, lack of parental support or nutritional literacy, antiquated distribution systems that favor Big Agriculture, and political mistrust of egghead know it alls foisting their idealism upon complacent people. If nothing else, it was an excellent study of how to motivate change in a complex system. I'm not sure he was successful, but it was a remarkably honest show.

That having been said, the move to bring nutrition to the forefront of school lunches is one I whole heartedly support for so many reasons that it is easy to see why people get quasi-religious about this stuff. We are killing our children because we are lazy and we don't care.
posted by Random Person at 6:32 PM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having sorted by state, I see many posts from one of the schools I worked at (some of them clearly not complete meals, which would never have been served as pictured). We regularly re-evaluated the lunches based on what the kids were actually eating and what was just getting tossed out. (No canned peas or carrots, ever! An end to taco day. Hard-boiled eggs for breakfast, yes!) Some of the posted photos are of the more popular lunches, which is a good reminder that, even in a relatively (race, class, religion) homogenous school, kids have different tastes. Small schools don't have the resources to offer more than one option.

It's been my experience that the cafeteria and school staff DO care what the kids eat, but money. Preparing fresh food on-site would take a huge initial investment in equipment, training, and space. You are only allowed to charge so much for the meals. (And all the schools I've worked at had such a high free/reduced population that meals were free for all the students, anyway.) The "tips" given seem to come from someone unaware of the laws that mandate some of what they're suggesting and put a lot of pressure on that front-line worker, who already has to hear a lot of complaints about things s/he has no control over.
posted by MsDaniB at 6:53 PM on November 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Whelk: I've gotten better food on airplanes than in some school cafeterias.

Whelk, when's the last time you flew? And when were you in school? (Or are you one of those clever, sneaky people who brings a whole meal on the plane?)
posted by wenestvedt at 7:24 PM on November 22, 2013


just wait until you try Taco Bell and Pizza Hut as prepared by public school employees.

I'm not really sure why the slam against public employees is necessary, but the university I attend manages to provide a variety of decent food from a variety of sources (including two local pizza chains), mostly prepared by unionized employees.

If the food in schools sucks, it's because of the people wearing the suits, not people wearing the aprons.
posted by klanawa at 7:35 PM on November 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


This looks pretty much like what adults eat at any restaurant where the Sysco truck pulls in three times a week.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:01 PM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]



Whelk, when's the last time you flew? And when were you in school? (Or are you one of those clever, sneaky people who brings a whole meal on the plane?)


uh 8 years ago give or take and like 3 weeks ago.
posted by The Whelk at 8:15 PM on November 22, 2013


(Virgin Atlantic does a nice Curry, just FYI)
posted by The Whelk at 8:15 PM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I was in high school, 30 years ago (oh, god, kill me), our school had the top culinary program in the city. School lunches were $3.00 apiece and were amazingly good. Cooked from scratch, no frozen bullshit, and better and better as the year went on.

I can't even recognize most of the lunches in the link as food.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 8:47 PM on November 22, 2013


(Virgin Atlantic does a nice Curry, just FYI)

Virgin Atlantic is the worst, because they *never bring enough meals.* Once I was the one shorted, and they finally scrounged up a vegan meal for me, which was just some frozen mixed veg. I WAS SO HUNGRY. I've seen it happen to other passengers, too, I think it's literally company policy not to bring enough for everyone.

So, after the frozen veg incident, the next time I flew Virgin, I said I wanted Kosher meals, because I figured they'd have to remember to pack some for me in that case. But dinner was a cold, shrink-wrapped loaf of bread and whole fruit, like some nasty apple or something. Everyone looked at me and looked at the stewardess with sad eyes until she found a hot meal for me, which I'm sure left some other poor sap hungry.

If you want good food, though, go on Air France. It's genuinely delicious, you can get an aperitif of champagne and unlimited mini bottles of wine, and they always have extra food so you can have a second plate if you want. Extra points if you ask in French and/or appear French, but I don't honestly know how they can tell who "appears French," so that's probably not a huge help.

But then I'm an odd duck who will not eat all day before my flight because I love sitting in the little airplane seat with a movie on, enjoying the hell out of my food. So, YMMV.

.....And yes, Air France food is DEFINITELY better than Sodexo/Aramark/Whatever. But that's not really to the credit of the stewardesses themselves, just like bad cafeteria food isn't really the fault of cafeteria workers. You're only as good as your constraints let you be.

Although, I actually worked for Sodexo in college, and they were a great employer to me (though I was just some random part-timer, I didn't require a whole lot from them). More relevantly to their credit, they did hire from the community even for on-campus work, and as a student I was incredibly impressed with all the hot food that was made by request (omelette bar, sandwich bar, etc) in the cafeteria. I don't really think the tastiness of cafeteria food is the issue, because in my experience it's actually pretty tasty. It's the nutrition issue that I think is more important, because people's lifelong health is so impacted by their childhood diet, and a lot of kids eat their only real meals at school.
posted by rue72 at 9:42 PM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Air France was the only airline my deceased grandmother-in-law would fly cause they let you smoke for the longest time. Last time I flew they still had (unused) ashtrays in the armrests.

The champagne is nice however.
posted by The Whelk at 9:48 PM on November 22, 2013


As are Jet Blue's cold snack boxes. You could do worse for a domestic flight. Lots of cheese and nuts.
posted by The Whelk at 9:53 PM on November 22, 2013


If I remember correctly, the local schools get something like 2.40 per lunch. That has to cover food, labor, electric, paper products, etc. Everything involved in serving a kid lunch. Of course the food isn't fantastic, how could it possibly be?

The current reimbursement rates for lunch start at $0.28 for paid meals and go up to $3.16 for free meals.

Frowner is right, federal and state regulations can tighten the nutrition standards all they want, but if districts are not willing to spend more on better quality food and kitchen staff to prepare it, then the food is going to suck.

Some districts illegally spend their federal reimbursement money on things that have nothing to do with their school meals. So not only are they NOT willing to spend more to improve their school meal service, they're misappropriating funds and pretty much stealing food from kids' mouths.

When I was in high school, 30 years ago (oh, god, kill me), our school had the top culinary program in the city. School lunches were $3.00 apiece and were amazingly good.

So school lunches are still averaging about $3.00, but what cost $3.00 in 1982 costs $7.00 now. How many people would be willing (or able) to pay $7.00 for a school lunch, even if it were the awesomest school lunch ever? And I doubt the government would ever reimburse at that rate.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:54 PM on November 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Air France was the only airline my deceased grandmother-in-law would fly cause they let you smoke for the longest time. Last time I flew they still had (unused) ashtrays in the armrests.

The champagne is nice however.


I can't imagine the abuse the poor stewardess went through when they had plane-fulls of terrified fliers needing a nicotine fix.

I'd be offering unlimited free booze, too.
posted by rue72 at 10:22 PM on November 22, 2013


C'mon dude, people do not turn into raging assholes when they go without nicotine for a few hours.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:32 PM on November 22, 2013


C'mon dude, people do not turn into raging assholes when they go without nicotine for a few hours.

Uh, which people?

I've flown with my parents since the smoking ban, and I can't imagine a whole plane of people white knuckling it like that. But then, they particularly act like the smoking ban is a serious trauma. My dad might have mocked the "no smoking in the toilets" announcement today.

To be fair, being hoisted thousands of feet in the air and hurtling across an ocean while being told to relax and enjoy yourself, *is* probably the most appropriate time possible to smoke a cigarette.
posted by rue72 at 10:56 PM on November 22, 2013


this is why god in his wisdom gave us pills.

( May cause dizziness, sexual nightmares, and sleep crime)
posted by The Whelk at 11:05 PM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


El Al has pretty great airline food. I blame the kosher.
posted by oceanjesse at 12:21 AM on November 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some of these are from college cafeterias, which feels like a different issue to me.

I like the advocacy kit; it reminds me of the guides for getting Girl Scout badges, and it has more helpful suggestions than the ones that are peppered throughout the site. It's not useful to tell students to "ASK YOUR LUNCH LADY IF FOODS THAT ARE FRIED CAN BE BAKED NEXT TIME," because the lunch lady doesn't get to make those decisions.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:28 AM on November 23, 2013


One of the privileges of their middle class upbringing has been that my kids have always been able to have healthy, appealing brown bag lunches. Actually, the whole family does, because I am able to shop for healthy foods and have the time every morning to put together 3 lunches. (Was 4 until 1 went to college) It's a good feeling when I eat my own lunch, knowing that we're all getting nourished wherever we are. I wish every parent was able to feel the same at lunchtime, whether they packed their kids's lunch or not. Every kid deserves tasty, healthy, nourishing food, no matter what their parents do for a living.
posted by Biblio at 9:51 AM on November 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am in Canada. I pulled my kid from the hot lunch program because I found out they were asking kids if they wanted fruit/veggies. "Do you want cucumbers?" and "Do you want an orange?" So the kids were saying no. I asked why the produce was an option, when the hot dogs, fish fingers and so on were a default. The hot lunch lady (as we all call her as an inside joke) said that it was a waste to give produce to kids unless they wanted it. I believe in always presenting a balanced meal and the idea that sometimes kids have to see things multiple times before they will try it. And some kids will decide to eat it or still be hungry. I thought it was wrong to tell parents that the meal comes with produce and then offer it as an option. So I pulled my kid for that reason. (That and I thought most of the hot lunch meals were not healthy, in spite of being told they were choosing the healthiest options. They were chemical laden.)
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:49 AM on November 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wtf, you don't slaughter an orange to make an orange or a cucumber to make a cucumber!
posted by oceanjesse at 12:56 PM on November 23, 2013


I can't imagine the abuse the poor stewardess went through when they had plane-fulls of terrified fliers needing a nicotine fix.

I was a total rage machine when I quit but...not near as annoying as lung cancer.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:58 PM on November 23, 2013


In what I think in retrospect is an extremely ingenious setup, my high school combined its cooking program with the cafeteria, so it was the students who took those cooking classes who prepared lunches every day. They were actually quite good most of the time and there were lots of healthy choices and not very many unhealthy ones. I was always kind of concerned in the back of my mind about the students maybe spitting in the food or doing other untoward things (many/most of them being high school boys and all...), but on the other hand it also taught those students a lot of (marketable!) life skills they could use.
posted by urbanlenny at 4:28 PM on November 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you want good food, though, go on Air France. It's genuinely delicious, you can get an aperitif of champagne and unlimited mini bottles of wine, and they always have extra food so you can have a second plate if you want.

This is very true. I also once ordered a gluten-free meal on the plane and they had accidentally given it to someone else (who ate it without saying they ordered a gluten-free meal; as an aside, if you ever get a special meal on a plane and didn't order one, send it back! There could be someone not eating because you didn't say anything). I alerted the flight attendant to this and she was able to find me another meal that was gluten-free from what she had in the back. Air France is awesome.
posted by urbanlenny at 4:31 PM on November 23, 2013


C'mon dude, people do not turn into raging assholes when they go without nicotine for a few hours.

Spoken like someone who's never been addicted to nicotine.

(10 months, 3 days, and I only managed to quit because I had the flu and was hopped up on painkillers and cold medicine for weeks.)
posted by elsietheeel at 5:52 PM on November 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


ten pounds of inedita: "I can't even recognize most of the lunches in the link as food."

A lot of those lunches look absolutely disgusting - talk about mystery meat.

Granted, not that school lunches were winning any gourmet awards when I was in school (and there were some quite disgusting offerings), but there were some good things. I still miss Fiestada taco pizzas and peanut butter crunch bars.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:24 PM on November 23, 2013


Spoken like someone who's never been addicted to nicotine.

(10 months, 3 days, and I only managed to quit because I had the flu and was hopped up on painkillers and cold medicine for weeks.)


Congrats!

I don't think they let you smoke in prison or jail anymore, either. Planes are bad enough, I can't imagine a more stressful environment than prison. I wonder how *that* transition went.

Speaking of, is there a connection between turning schools into "zero tolerance" proto-prisons and feeding the kids cheap/bland slop? Why is there money getting funneled to metal detectors and not toward produce?

I guess the American farmer really is in trouble, agricultural subsidies are apparently drying up. Which makes me think...I'm surprised by how little corn and dairy products are in these pictures.
posted by rue72 at 9:49 PM on November 23, 2013


I really wish I could understand some of the complaints in these sorts of dicussions.

It is bad because it has CHEMICALS in it! Can't the kids have chemical free lunches? You know...just feed them heat and energy...

AND, the evil dairy industry is present! There is yogurt! Which is evil because...dairy...something?
posted by Drinky Die at 11:06 PM on November 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


This food...a process has been applied to it...a...process...
posted by Drinky Die at 11:08 PM on November 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


AND, the evil dairy industry is present! There is yogurt! Which is evil because...dairy...something?

If you're referring to my comment, I didn't mean that the dairy industry is evil. I was wondering about agricultural subsidies because how I've been taught that they work is that the federal government buys extra food/crops from farmers as a price support, then gets rid of that "extra" food by selling it at subsidized prices (or giving it away) through nutritional programs, like school lunch. Agricultural subsidies for the dairy industry are why everyone was getting a little carton of milk with his school lunch back when you were a kid, and why WIC still gives away ludicrous amounts of milk to its beneficiaries. So I would have figured that the pictures would have lots of corn and dairy products because I had thought those were the most heavily subsidized crops in the US. That was just an assumption, though, and there doesn't seem to be much corn or dairy in these pictures (though there are quite a few pictures of tortilla chips/nachos, so maybe I'm just not keeping good track). If kids aren't getting fed much dairy/corn/beef/other traditionally subsidized agricultural industries, I don't know if that's because the "extra" food is going elsewhere or if the "extra" food isn't getting bought up anymore because the federal government has ratcheted down their agricultural subsidies altogether (I suspect that's the reason), or it it's for some other reason that hasn't occurred to me.

If you're interested in how government subsidies and private business/contracting relate to what people in public institutions -- like schools, the military, prisons -- are given to consume, then you might be interested in the history of the Hershey bar*. Personally, I think that military rations for cigarettes and alcohol are also interesting for the same reasons, and I wonder about prison commissaries, altogether. *Shrug* I don't think deal-making is evil, I think it's necessary. But I also think it's useful to think about which industries and which players are getting deals and which aren't, because that does have immediate, direct effects on a lot of people's lives (and health).

Personally, I don't have a big problem with school lunch in terms of tastiness, I just think it should be nutritionally dense, and if the only thing stopping it from being more nutritionally dense is money, then that does make me think about where the money might be going instead (I would guess admin and security, by way of funding for Homeland Security/emergency preparedness and for "zero tolerance" measures, but that's just a guess). Now I'm also wondering if food costs for schools have gone up because agricultural subsidies have gone down.

My relative apathy to how "gross" the lunches are is probably because at my day care they served us meals like butter- or cheese-sandwiches and collard greens, so pizza or tacos was a step up. Obviously the food I brought from home was tastiest, but my parents were weird so when I brought a lunch it would be stuff like mayo-and-liverwurst sandwiches with a pickle in a plastic baggie on the side, and...that's a whole other kettle of fish.

*That essay is directly from Hershey, obviously it's biased.
posted by rue72 at 12:49 AM on November 24, 2013


The FDA does do a food distribution program, but it's apparently such a pain in the neck that my bosses never wanted me to spend any time on it. The food is free or heavily discounted, but I think you pay for the delivery. I guess if we had cooked in-house, it would have been more sensible, but I'm not sure.

Here's MN's page about it, which links to this Fed page.

I often went to workshops at the Dept. of Ed. when I was a school data manager because there are a lot of things to keep track of in the lunch program and a mistake on my part could have been costly. (And there wasn't any extra money in the program. We weren't stealing apple money to buy footballs because there was no flexibility in that account. You can barely afford to meet regulations in a moderately appetizing manner because the budget is small.) I don't remember a lot of interest in the food distribution program at those workshops, but maybe the people who were going to do it already knew how (big districts can train staff in house; the workshops were mostly populated by small schools/districts).

I guess my point is that the subsidies don't appear to be having a big affect at the school level, but they likely affect the ingredient list on those frozen meals we serve.
posted by MsDaniB at 5:00 AM on November 24, 2013


The FDA doesn't do food distribution, the USDA does. They have several programs involving commodities (which are called "USDA Foods" now) and here's a list of foods available to schools - its mostly fruits, vegetables, cheese, and meat. And those USDA Foods aren't just for cooking foods in-house; you can send your raw ingredients off to a processor to be turned into more 'useful' end products like frozen pizza or chicken nuggets.

The federal meal programs are administered at the state level, so what's true in one state may not be true in another. The food distribution programs are huge in my state due to heavy promotion and outreach and the misuse of cafeteria funds is a big issue right now. And volume may have something to do with it too; Minnesota had about 600,000 kids participating in the NSLP last year, California had 3,300,000.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:21 AM on November 24, 2013


Yes, USDA, not FDA, of course. Thanks for the additional links.
posted by MsDaniB at 4:09 AM on November 26, 2013


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