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Teachers! How would you rate the quality of your district's school lunches?As an avid...

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 6, 2010 at 4:34 PM via web

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Teachers! How would you rate the quality of your district's school lunches?

As an avid consumer of school lunches, I notice trays loaded with foods pre-selected by the district being thrown away by students. On Tuesdays sacredly there is a tuna salad option and a chef salad option. The calories and fat in the tuna salad are massive (beaucoup mayo) - that's the one the students who pick it throw away. Then, there's the chef salad option with crackers, croutons, ham, cheese, peanuts and about 2 packets of regular salad dressing that brings it up to a whopping 700 calories plus. Pizza days come with a choice of PASTA and the school sponsors send trays of fried chicken wings. And, of course, there are some vending machines conveniently located by the basketball and football courts.

Its worse, however, when PARENTS send in their food. One of my students nearly got away with gulping down a can of cake FROSTING she brought from home with a spoon.

How do you rate the food your students eat at school?

14 Answers | Add Yours

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 6, 2010 at 4:57 PM (Answer #2)

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I had a chance to eat at a number of school cafeterias during the past year. Several presented excellent, quality food; other lunchrooms served canned and/or frozen foods of the lowest quality. In either case, when given a choice, the students usually chose the pizza option that was usually available. Nutritionally, nearly all of the lunchrooms deserved failing or near failing grades. Super high in calories and fat content, and often with no green vegetables, most lunchrooms no doubt are aimed at meeting their budget rather than providing nutritional meals for today's school children. 

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 6, 2010 at 5:00 PM (Answer #3)

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I teach in a small private school, and I appreciate the efforts to create interesting, nutritious, cost-effective, and edible lunches. It's a real balancing act, and it's a job I wouldn't want to do.  That being said, I'm dismayed by two things.

First, I'm discouraged by how often everything on the plate is the same color--some version of brown/beige/tan.  Even a healthy meal, when it's all virtually the same color, just doesn't seem as healthy as a tray with a variety of more vivid colors (and I'm not talking about the orange frosting on the traditional Halloween cookie or a pink-frosted Valentine's Day cupcake).  Second, I'm stunned by how much of every tray is thrown away.  Good grief--what happened to the "starving children in wherever" argument we heard when growing up?

One last observation of outrageous, dismaying lunchroom eating behavior--what's with kids soaking everything, including pizza, in ranch dressing?!?!  Crazy.

Lori Steinbach

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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 6, 2010 at 6:33 PM (Answer #4)

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I'm a firm believer that school breakfasts and lunches are far too high in saturated fat and SUGAR.  Any teacher can agree that the periods revolving closest to lunch-time have the most discipline problems (much of which is tiredness and apathy), and I believe it is LARGELY due to blood-sugar issues.

I've heard of residential facilities (for students who would otherwise be in prison) that lowered overall behavior problems by as much as 40% within 2 weeks of going to an all organic, all fresh, no-fried foods menu.

Fast Food Nation had a little bit to say about this, but I'm also loving Jamie Oliver's Fast Food Revolution.

When they got rid of the pop machines only to replace them with 100% sugar (no real fruit) fruit juices, I think they traded one evil for another.

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lynn30k | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted July 6, 2010 at 7:23 PM (Answer #5)

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Waaaay too much fried food, saturated fats, sugars, and nutritional zeroes. I do not ever eat in my school's cafeteria, and I packed lunches for my kids every day of attendance (my oldest is 25, youngest 14). A healthy diet should have brightly colored veggies and fruits; when you make a table full of the food you have eaten for the past week (a la Gillian McKeith), it should NOT be brown and tan. People who eat that way are far more unhealthy than they realize.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 6, 2010 at 11:52 PM (Answer #6)

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To call it a "lunch" perhaps is bestowing too much dignity on the pile of processed, deep fried, vegetable and fruit free offerings that we are presented with. Packed lunches for me all the way! It is concerning how poor the quality often is in these lunches - surely I would have thought that healthy eating could have been linked in more with the science curriculum and this would allow change to occur in the quality of lunches?

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 7, 2010 at 5:12 AM (Answer #7)

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I don't eat in the cafeteria, but this school (my eighth in 17 years of teaching due to my husband's military career) is no different in the number of student complaints about the food quality.

That having been said, I do know that the cafeteria offers three choices--there is a salad bar which always has packaged tuna salad, egg salad and chicken salad sandwiches in addition to the whole lettuce and other goodies, there is always a hamburger line, and then there is the food of the day line which is almost always some kind of chicken ( a running joke with the student body).  On Fridays, the cafeteria boasts Dominio's pizza.

Not exactly the healthiest choices, but the salad bar does offer good, fresh options.

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drmonica | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted July 7, 2010 at 7:31 AM (Answer #8)

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When I was last a building principal, at a charter high school for dropout recovery at the Atlanta Job Corps Center, we ate at the Job Corps cafeteria. It was FANTASTIC! There was always a fresh salad bar and a soup selection, but I couldn't stay away from the hot lunch line. Soul food like you wouldn't believe, catfish, chicken wings, turnip greens corn bread. It's a good thing I was only there for two years or otherwise I'd weigh 300 pounds just from the lunches.

They also offered fresh sweet iced tea and lemonade, which was so good on  hot spring and summer days (we were a year-round school). It reminded me of the old cafeteria at Georgia State University, which had some of the best soul food in town. Now it's contracted out to a catering service and everything is "natural" and "healthy."

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dastice | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted July 7, 2010 at 7:59 AM (Answer #9)

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This past year I did morning duty in the school cafeteria, and I was horrified by the daily menu.  Sugar and fat were the main ingredients in everything.  Even "healthy" options like yogurt were full of sugar and artificial color. I don't understand how the district can put this stuff into students' bodies and then expect them to focus on learning.  No wonder the kids come in bouncing off the walls!

Lunches sometime included an apple or carrot sticks (which are still pretty high in natural sugar), but the apples generally got tossed and the carrot sticks only got eaten when smothered in ranch dressing.

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ktmagalia | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted July 7, 2010 at 8:45 AM (Answer #10)

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I think for the allocated budget, our cafeteria does a fine job.  I, 'gasp', do eat a couple times a week in our cafeteria.  Our Sally is famous for her enchiladas, and every Wednesday is Taco Salad day.  I never miss it. However, would I eat there every day? Probably not.  It's more of a convenience for me, but unfortunately so many of our school population relies on the daily school lunch.  I'd like to see a salad bar (we used to have it, but they replaced it with premade salads due to waste), and better fruit.  What I really think is disgusting is that students are forced to take food, because of Ed code's desire for balance, and they throw it away.  Apples, bottled water, carrot sticks in bags, and dumped in the garbage and it is "illegal" for us to collect it back.  It would be so easy to have a basket for those who don't want the water, don't want the apple, don't want the veggie bag, and it can be distributed elsewhere.  But this is illegal, and it truly is a tragedy.

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psjenkins | Elementary School Teacher | eNoter

Posted July 11, 2010 at 3:59 PM (Answer #11)

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Our school lunch include fresh fruit, milk and juice. But, the food is high in calories, fats, cholesterol, salt and sugar. It's scary because students don't get as much exercise as when I was a kid. Children are suffering with obesity health problems. Several of my students have high blood pressure at 9 years old. Most of my students sit and play video games or watch TV after school.  School lunch should fit the activity level of our children today. I give our school lunch a D: At Risk!

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kellysmom | High School Teacher | eNoter

Posted July 13, 2010 at 10:12 AM (Answer #12)

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Teachers! How would you rate the quality of your district's school lunches?

As an avid consumer of school lunches, I notice trays loaded with foods pre-selected by the district being thrown away by students. On Tuesdays sacredly there is a tuna salad option and a chef salad option. The calories and fat in the tuna salad are massive (beaucoup mayo) - that's the one the students who pick it throw away. Then, there's the chef salad option with crackers, croutons, ham, cheese, peanuts and about 2 packets of regular salad dressing that brings it up to a whopping 700 calories plus. Pizza days come with a choice of PASTA and the school sponsors send trays of fried chicken wings. And, of course, there are some vending machines conveniently located by the basketball and football courts.

Its worse, however, when PARENTS send in their food. One of my students nearly got away with gulping down a can of cake FROSTING she brought from home with a spoon.

How do you rate the food your students eat at school?

School lunches in my district would rate an F.  Schools have removed salad bars in many lunch rooms and they make a salad with eggs, bacon, etc. Low fat dressings are not an option. Pizza is the most attrative lunch students can find.  I would love to see a sandwich bar with bread choices other than white, yogurt machines and low sugar drinks.  How many high school students drink milk with their pizza? 

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teachergirl1970 | Elementary School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 19, 2010 at 6:56 PM (Answer #13)

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It looks like my district fits right in with the high fat, high sugar, highly processed food of other districts. What really gets me is the cost; $3.00 for students and $3.50 for adults (it is the exact same lunch!)

I just returned from a trip to Japan where I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in three schools in three very different areas of Japan. Two were public schools and one was private; the lunches were fantastic in all three schools! Everything is made at the school by real cooks using local produce and meats. All students and staff eat the same lunch, there are no lunches brought from home and lunch only costs about $1.50. There is also very little waste.

The other big thing I noticed is that students and staff actually have time to eat. Lunch and recess time lasts about an hour. I would give up that extra  half-hour of classroom time to have healthy students, who, after lunch, aren't half asleep because of fat overload or bouncing off the walls from sugar overload and who have actually had time to eat and get a little fresh air!

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keefeville | Elementary School Teacher | eNoter

Posted July 20, 2010 at 5:11 PM (Answer #14)

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For many years I never ate the cafeteria food as I started as an aide in the cafeteria before I was a teacher. The food was all frozen and then heated by the cafeteria staff and after smelling and seeing it for an hour or two, it just seemed gross. This year, I began eating lunch with my students as an award. To connect with the students, I would eat the cafeteria lunch. The lunches were still the same type as when I was an aide 10 years ago, but I was determined to model good eating habits. Almost everyday that I ate cafeteria food my stomach bothered me later in the day. Many times I could not eat the vegetables as I could taste something weird. like the can they came out of. Most of our students have to eat in the cafeteria as they are on the free lunch program and it may be the "best" meal that they get everyday. I think that our lunches do not help to teach good nutrition but help to influence bad eating habits and childhood obesity.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 30, 2010 at 4:11 AM (Answer #15)

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I certainly applaud our school district for trying to get more wellness injected into the food supply of our lunch program, but like the other posters, it really is far from good.  I loved the thought about soaking everything in ranch sauce.  So very true.  I think that students have to go through some type of self awareness for them to fully grasp the nutritional implications of their diet.  In teaching middle school students, this awareness is not as present as it should be.  I think that awareness from parents is going to be the first line of defense in this fight.  When students are exposed to greater food variety, and less of the food desert, in their homes, then they might have a greater chance of making choices that reflect better health.

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