Book Review: Fed Up With Lunch (and how to start your own school lunch reform)

Sarah Wu a.k.a Mrs. Q and author of “Fed Up With Lunch”

I am so excited to be including a fellow blogger (and now author) in today’s post. Sarah Wu, the woman behind the persona “Mrs. Q,” went undercover as a teacher so she could eat school lunch for a year and blog about it! Her project has been widely recognized, including a nod from Jamie Oliver, and last year she revealed her true identity with the launch of her book bearing the same name as her blog, Fed up with Lunch. I started following “Mrs. Q” early on and was thrilled to be able to meet her in person at a food blogging conference (yes, those things exist) because she is clearly bringing some much-needed attention to an extremely important issue.

I asked Sarah to share with us how her project got started, as well as what each of us can do to take action in our own schools. But before we dive right in I have to share some of the more startling facts from her book, which was a great read by the way. The way the book is written it flows more like a novel, but at the same time you take away some critical information like the following…

  • Sarah always assumed that the school “chicken nuggets were fried pieces of plain chicken breast meat … [but] chicken nuggets are only about 50 percent chicken.” She says places like McDonald’s boast about using “all white meat chicken, but they don’t say what else is in those nuggets.”
  • “Some school pizzas have 62 ingredients.” (pictured below)
  • According to USDA regulations “a small container of fries counted as a vegetable.”
  • “Studies have shown that children who suffer from poor nutrition during the brain’s most formative years score much lower on tests … [yet] the school lunch program has no ties with the Department of Education.”

 

School Pizza

 

About Fed Up with Lunch

Guest Post by Sarah Wu

It all started when I forgot my lunch in the fall of 2009. As a speech-language pathologist for Chicago public schools, I rarely spent time with kids in the cafeteria. I really hadn’t paid attention to what was happening in the cafeteria. But on that fateful day I wandered down to the cafeteria and paid three dollars for a “bagel dog” meal. It was a weird hot dog/bagel combination – kind of like you might see in a mall, but the school food version, which was soggy and bizarre. It came with a cup of processed fruit and six little tater tots, the USDA-approved fruit and vegetable respectively. I was truly appalled. Where had I been this whole time while my students had been eating this stuff?

The Bagel Dog

I tried to move on after eating that meal, but it was hard for me to shake it. After a couple months, I ended up deciding to do something bold: to eat school lunch for a year (the calendar year of 2010) and chronicle the experience on my blog (fedupwithlunch.com) with pictures. But I didn’t want to risk my job so I blogged anonymously. So I ate 162 school lunches – and then I wrote a book about it, Fed Up with Lunch: How One Anonymous Teacher Revealed the Truth About School Lunches –And How We Can Change Them!

Even though now it feels like school lunch reform has always been a part of my life, it hasn’t always. In fact, back then I really didn’t know anything about the food at all. I ate healthy food, but I believed that it didn’t really matter what you ate as long as you didn’t eat too much junk food or fast food. Looking back I believe that kind of outlook was necessary for me to eat a full year of school lunches. Now I know that food is not “just” food. It’s essential to health, learning, and even how you feel day-to-day.

Popcorn Chicken (another take on processed chicken products)

If you are feeling inspired by my school food journey, here are some of my suggestions to get involved in school lunch reform in your community:

  1. Fact Find about Your School’s School Lunch Program – Is school lunch managed by school staff members or a company? Are meals made on site or trucked in and warmed up? How are the lunch lines set up? How much time do kids get to eat? What percentage of the school’s population participate?
  2. Get Involved at Your Child’s School – Join the PTA/PTO or if you are already a member, do more. There’s no substitute for being there and seeing what is happening with school food. Is there a School Wellness Committee at your child’s school? School Wellness Committees focus not only on nutrition at school but fitness activities like recess. If a school’s lunch service is offering fresh, healthy food, maybe candy fundraisers have gotten out of hand and the wellness committee can start there.
  3. Investigate the School’s Community Partners – What partnerships does the school already have with the community? Any restaurants, organizations, or hospitals? Are there ways to increase healthy influences on the students? One of my former schools had a relationship with McDonald’s. Suggest a partnership with a locally-owned restaurant or one that offers healthier options to kids.
  4. Fight for Recess Before Lunch – Numerous studies have shown that a simple schedule change of moving recess to immediately before lunch makes a difference. Nurse visits in the afternoon decrease (playing hard after eating is tough on the tummy) and so does food waste at lunch (many kids throw away their lunches so that they can get more time running around). Many schools I have worked in have no recess (take a breath, that’s true!) so making sure that your child’s school doesn’t scrimp on playtime might be a great place to start.
  5. Push for Salad Bars – Let’s empower kids to make their own veggie choices. Instead of having limp, overcooked broccoli plopped on their trays, kids do better when they get a chance to choose their own veggies and even check out what their more adventurous peers sample at the salad bar. Many kids don’t get exposure to fresh veggies at home.
Hamburger with the veggie (tater tots) and the fruit (frozen fruit juice)

 

Sarah Wu blogs at http://fedupwithlunch.com. She spent a year as the anonymous “Mrs. Q” eating school lunch and documented what she saw at school using her cell phone. Her 2011 book is Fed Up with Lunch: How One Anonymous Teacher Revealed the Truth About School Lunches –And How We Can Change Them! She can be reached at fedupwithlunch@gmail.com.

 

Posts may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but 100 Days of Real Food will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us spread our message!

54 thoughts on “Book Review: Fed Up With Lunch (and how to start your own school lunch reform)”

  1. I’m just reading some back posts (found your blog via a school lunch pin on Pinterest!). I teach in a 4th-6th grade building and the thing that really angers me is the “breakfast” served in my building. Our lunches have been overhauled to make them healthy, and they now offer a salad bar and all kinds of different veggies, plus lots of whole grains each day. It’s a huge improvement!

    But breakfast? It makes me mad every day. Today, for example, I had several students eat this for breakfast: a carton of chocolate milk, a honey bun, juice. SERIOUSLY? There’s more sugar in the chocolate milk alone than they should have ALL DAY. There are offerings of chocolate chip muffins, and even FUNNEL CAKE for breakfast. Yes, funnel cake…with powdered sugar.

    How can I expect a kid who came from a house where they didn’t sleep well because their bed is also the bed for their 4 siblings, to function on a chocolate chip muffin, chocolate milk, and grape juice all day? Ridiculous.

    Also – thanks for the fun lunch ideas! As a teacher, I often get bored with my same old stuff!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Jess. Thank you for your post! So nice to hear that your school is making improvements. That must be commended. But, speak up about breakfast, too. Sugar should not be a part of it if we expect out kids to learn. ~Amy

  2. A couple of years ago I was a substitute teacher for the preschool program in our local elementary school. I was there quite a lot. Teachers were asked to purchase and eat the school lunch in order to be a positive example for the young children. The children also had breakfast at school, although the teachers did not eat that. Breakfast was usually colored, sweetened cereal and milk or greasy sausage and biscuits. Lunch was very high carb and greasy. For the school’s Thanksgiving meal, I noticed that the preschoolers were given the starches and sugared foods, but not the turkey that the elementary students received. I was feeling ill every day after eating that food, so I had to buck the system and bring my lunch. I never understood why they gave the worst of the food to the youngest children. The elementary and high school students faired slightly better, as they had a little bit of choice. I also noted, when I subbed elementary, that the children who brought their lunches usually had lunchables or little pre-packed containers of junk foods. Loved Jamie Oliver’s series, by the way. Thank you, also, for making people aware of what is going on.

  3. I work at a school that uses Revolution Foods for all of our school food needs. The food is organic, non-GMO, non-processed, and local when possible. You can actually identify the food they are eating! We only do fresh fruits or vegetables 2x a day, and there is not a single vending machine on campus. Out of the 400 students, there are only a few that are overweight. At my previous school, where students were served school district slop, at least 50% of the elementary students were overweight. It really makes a difference with behaviors as well!

  4. I feel very lucky to have gone to a small k-12 school. In all there may have been 150 students. Looking back now i realize how amazing my school lunches were. I hardly every brought a packed lunch to school. Our cooks made a lot of things from scratch and all of our meals were delicious. We still got the standard canned fruit a couple times every week but when the majority of the meal is homemade it didnt seem to matter.

  5. My child’s school follows most of the things you said they should be doing .Except they have story time after lunch then they have recess. I think she needs more time to eat. When I visit most the kids are still eating when they are told to clean up.

  6. I have worked in a school kitchen for 7 years. I have to say this is the best year for school lunches as we no longer serve French fries, fake mashed potatoes or canned fruit. Everything is whole wheat and low fat. We have fresh fruit galore, and a fantastic salad bar. I agree in years passed we served fatty government meat. It is touh on the budget as we want to keep the cost down for the students but since the government is not providing much nutritional offerings that might change in the future. The problem I saw with this blog is it didn’t mention the kids who are raised with fast food. Our meal counts have dropped substantially because a lot of kids think whole wheat is gross and don’t like all the new healthy menu

  7. After reading the article and posts I feel pretty lucky. My son just started high school and it is the first time he will not have homemade lunches for most of the time. The school posts the menu for the whole month so we can see what he wants to eat there or take from home. I still need to find out ingredients on all of the food but they offer a wide variety of fresh vegies and fruit and whole grains in their breads (I know, whole grains doesn’t always mean anything). The students are required to take at three things on their trays and are required to take a vegie and fruit. My sons says he loads up on salad and fruit along with the main offered course.

  8. Unfortunately, nursing homes and hospitals are often in the same category. I worked in the kitchen of a nursing home as a teen, and I remember thinking every day how disgusting the food was. It had no nutritional value at all. Everything was frozen or came in a can. Most of the hospital cafeterias I’ve seen are no better. You’d think schools, hospitals, and nursing homes would have state-of-the-art nutrition programs, but I have yet to see one. Health is obviously not a priority to whoever is running these agencies.

  9. This post makes me feel privileged, even given my situation. I went to school in a very low-income inner city middle school and we actually had a salad bar. I use to eat salad every single day, it was never rotten, wet or gross, it was your typical salad bar (egg, cheese, sunflower seeds, jalapenos, etc). We had actual veggie sides (green beans & carrots) but the rest of the food was still awful. We had dominos pizza AND wendys, which I thought was weird, given how poor the actual school was (we didn’t have walls for each class-room, we used an actual curtain for walls, no joke).

    I was just glad I had the option of a salad bar so early on in my life.

  10. I can’t believe she ate school lunches for a year. (I couldn’t do it for a week). I’m thankful one of my kids has no interest in school lunch (one has a little curiousity). I’ve heard of public schools where they don’t serve lunch – 100% of kids bring their lunch. I love that idea.

  11. Really glad she included concern about how much time children get to eat. For 25 years i’ve been hearing my mother, also has taught, say how awful it is that kids get only 20 minutes to get their food, find a seat, eat and clean up. Now that my kids will be starting school, it is just one more reason i will probably end up sending their lunches – two or three more minutes to be aware of and enjoy what they eat.

  12. Just a question? Is it governments job to feed the children? I was a teacher and I saw what was served. It hasnt changed now that my kids are in school. I get it that parents struggle or don’t have time to pack lunch. I grew up in a poor district outside of NYC. The cafe only sold milk and ice cream sandwiches. No lunches! Only the high school had that. My single mom would have qualified me for free or reduced lunch but my mom being the way she was would not let me eat that crap! Needless to yes I street my kiddos away from school lunches and pack them a homemade meal with love!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Janine. I understand your question and concern but the simple fact is that lunch being served by schools is a reality so, as long as that is happening, whether it’s their “job” to feed children or not, they still are, so, the debate over school lunch reform will still stand as well. I feel fortunate that I can send a healthy lunch with my children but, as you know, that’s not the case for all. Thank you for your thoughts and for keeping the discussion on this topic going. Jill

  13. It’s unfortunately not just our public schools. Our 2 year old son’s daycare has a menu that I find to be extremely lacking. Our daycare has the Illinois CACFP and receives other subsides, I believe. They serve breakfast, lunch and snack. So many choices on the menu have us cringing, as we are trying to eat more and more organic/unprocessed/real foods. We have some food intolerances/sensitivities in our family including my own and our son does show some signs, so luckily our doctor has written us a note that essentially allows us to substitute almond milk for the cow’s milk they are required to serve, as well as gives us a bit of a “carte blanche” to substitute food as we see fit, thankfully. You’re pretty much otherwise required to have your kid eat their food, no exceptions. Some details on their menu/our changes:

    Breakfast: Very carb-heavy – waffles, pancakes, biscuits/croissants – plus a fruit (sometimes fresh, sometimes canned) and milk. Every now and then they have maybe egg or sausage with like a croissant/biscuit, but otherwise some bread/carb product plus fruit plus milk. At least once a week they usually have either donuts or pre-packaged/pre-made muffins, which make me cringe all the more. Sometimes you see cereal, juice and milk as the “complete” breakfast – they count the juice as a “fruit”. We send either scrambled eggs and gluten-free waffles with blueberry whole fruit jelly or raw honey, or the breakfast casserole muffins (meat-free, add spinach) from the recipe on this site, if I’ve made those ahead. We then have him eat their fruit, drink his almond milk, but skip their carb.

    Lunch: Usually a protein, bread, fruit, veggie, and milk. Most of their menu offerings are normally not something we usually feel is too bad, but we try to send substitutes on the days they have chicken nuggets/patties or fish sticks, as those seem the more highly processed of the offerings. We’ll also see days when a potato product (tater tots, for example) is counted as the “vegetable” – never very impressed with that selection.

    Snack: Each day’s offering largely consists of crackers or cookies with juice, sometimes milk. Once in a blue moon they’ll offer fresh fruit, and this week they’re actually going to have hummus and pita bread one day – a surprising change. We almost never have him eat their snack; we send organic fruit pouches and gluten-free, lower sugar/better grain quality crackers or bars for him to eat. We also specify that he is never to have juice, only his (almond) milk or water.

    We really try to help him build good eating habits here at home. It just seems so wrong for our toddler son to start his day on a breakfast of a muffin, applesauce, and milk – what a sugar/carb rush. We hope to be able to continue our substitutions while he’s in daycare and plan to send packed lunches when he is school-aged. And continue to work towards and hope for better quality food offerings in our schools and daycares…

  14. I remember working in the cafeteria for extra credit as a kid and even then I thought the lunch was bad. There was a huge warmer that they just pulled all of these metal trays from who knows where and pushed them on the counter. The only milk available is fat free chocolate or low fat and the salad bar consisted of partially rotted fruit and bags of graham bears. The vegetable was considered to be pizza sauce.

  15. I work at a school where almost all of our nearly 900 students eat free breakfast and lunch each day. The meals are not healthy or appetizing. However, I don’t understand why people are pointing their fingers at the schools. We don’t want to serve children unhealthy over processed food. The real problem is budget. Budget restraints limit not only the ability to buy quality ingredients but also the number of food service staff members employed. It’s difficult for five ti six poorly supplied staffers to serve 1800 meals in a six hour period. Hence, cheap and fast frozen entrees and canned veggies and fruit. This is another glaring example of how this country does not invest in our public schools. It is a problem that requires stricter guidelines AND funding that makes it possible for schools to follow those guidelines.

  16. We need to change the foods children are eating and teaching them the schools do not offer whole foods they are packed with sugar and other artificial foods that bring students out of balance this is the root cause of emotional problems. We need to go back to the basics whole foods and teach what this concept is and teach people in the schools what foods need to be thrown out and the new one that we all need to eat real food with nothing added fresh veges brown rice fish and other whole foods if we don do this and continue on the same path we will be creating out of balanced people for ever and i would love to see a stop to to this.

    I hope this does not offend anyone i just get hurt when we don’t address the real problem.
    Peace
    bill klar

  17. It’s difficult to make changes at the school level. Currently I work in an elementary school cafeteria. If the school accepts federal funding, for example, the free and reduced lunch prgram, then they MUST follow a boatload of rules. The lunches are broken into components such as protein, veggie, fruit, and grains. Every lunch has to meet the strict guidelines while also coming in under budget so the company or school making the lunches also makes a profit.

    This year the guidelines have changed dramatically thanks to Michelle Obama. However, the company I work for is skirting the issue as much as possible for the sake of profit. For example, their “fresh fruit” salad is simply a can of mixed fruit with a few fresh sliced strawberries thrown in.

    We do have a salad bar which is pretty awesome. However, we get several complaints that it’s slowing the kids down too much and they don’t have enough time to eat. We also have the problem with kids eating before recess. We’ve tried to get it changed, but the teachers were the ones that said no because it would be too much trouble. Especially during the winter.

    Also when you are considering the lunch menu, you have to take into consideration delivery schedules and minimums. You also have to consider how well fresh fruit and veggies keep or don’t keep. Deliveries always have a minimum dollar amount. Smaller more frequent deliveries cost more. However, larger deliveries produce too much waste.

  18. Sadly enough the cheep food is the unhealthy food. But it should be opposite. To make whole wheat flour, you just grind it. To make white flour, there is an entire process to remove the bran and germ, and then the added expence of “enriching” it. Same with brown vs white rice, etc. But it is a matter of supply and demand. Processed stuff is so much more in demand so the costs of producing it is relatively less. Hopefully as more and more school lunches are reforming, and families are eating healthier, the real food will begin to go down in price, making budgeting less of an issue.

  19. I completely agree with the lack of quality foods available to students. As a K teacher, I know how hard our Lunch Ladies work to improve the dietary demands of active students. The problem is that this is how a lot of kids eat at home. I see more waste with carrot/celery sticks than I do with PBJ bars. Kudos to the parents who create their children’s lunches, but I’ve seen TONS of packed lunches stuffed with pre-packaged crap. How do you think they are so good at opening bags of chips and pudding cups? I even had vegetarian children with lunches filled with dietary garbage.

  20. I have always been under the impression that part of the reason cafeteria transformation was so tricky is because foods and nutrition programs are federally funded, whereas schools, teachers, etc., are state funded. That is to say, the cafeteria is a business trying to make money to sustain itself while providing extremely low cost meals to the free and reduced lunch population. The school doesn’t fund it, nor is it responsible for it, per se. It sells popular food to make up for the loss. (My children are eligible for reduced lunch, so I am not knocking this. My husband is a teacher.) I think the key to really making a change would be to have a very positive, helpful attitude rather than a lot of criticism because I’m sure it isn’t easy serving tons of low cost meals with limited ingredients, limited staffing, and ACCK CHILDREN as the critics! I can barely keep my three happy. :) This is not exactly riveting, but it is very informative with regard to the recent government regulations regarding nutrition. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-01-26/pdf/2012-1010.pdf

  21. I am so glad we don’t have cafeterias in Australia..at least in Perth we don’t, we have canteens but they’re quite strick with only a few unhealthy options and most kids only using it on a special occasion. Unfortunately it also means some kids don’t have any food, but schools provide breakfast in those areas. I can’t wait to get involved in my kids school and make packed lunches using all the wonderful resources online for fun healthy lunch boxes!!

  22. Thanks Jacqui~
    Much of what you said is very true. I live in MN, work in Food and Nutrition as a “Lunch Lady” I think our school district is pretty on top of the new government regs and we having been working on changes for the last few years. We have 3 Dietician on staff at our school and we are very involved with School Nutrition Association and the MN school Nutrition Association.

    The meals the author showed did look pretty bad, Our kids trays look nothing like that, they are freshly prepared and colorful. I think every state is different, probably even within each state. I am proud to be part of our Food and Nutrition Department, we are proud of our hard work and feeding the children in our district.

    P.S……for those who think kids get fat from eating school lunches, maybe you should look at what they are eating at home and at McDonalds with their families.

    1. I’m also from MN, but work in a small, rural school. I love our 2 lunch ladies who do the best that they can with what is available. My son’s high school served veggies from their FFA garden this week and consumption of green beans was up that day! Your P.S. hits the nail on the head.

  23. I just checked out the Fed up with Lunch blog as well and while I was a bit horrified, I ate school lunch for years (recent years, since I am only 22). I never got an apple or banana with lunch. I don’t know if this is the standard now, but that is somewhat of an upgrade. I definitely want to make my kids lunch as many days as possible because pizza day fridays are not as great as they sounded back then!

  24. Oh my gosh! Gross!! That frozen fruit juice is supposed to be counted as a fruit? Who are the idiots that came up with these lunches!? Isn’t eating healthy just as big a part of education as math and english and science? I wonder if I would have taken so long to learn about my food choices if I had been taught this in school along with the other subjects.

  25. I work at a charter high school, and our lunch options horrify me: Pizza Hut four days a week & Chik-fil-A on Fridays! Now, we are extremely limited by our facilities & lack of state funding, but I wish there was a better option. My students are either hyper or passed out after lunch. I had a student in my class last week after lunch who couldn’t keep his eyes open. When I asked what he had fr lunch, he said Chik-fil-a, a honeybun, and a diet coke. He seemed surprised when I suggested that might have something to do with it. Anyway – it’s not a problem exlusive to elementary schools!

  26. I simply must add fedupwithlunch.com to my reading list! How inspiring…though, I must admit my tummy is hurting just looking at the pictures, so I can only imagine what it was like to actually EAT them! *shudders*

    Over the last few years, the school my boys attend has been working on improving their meal program. They have made huge improvements, but it’s not 100% yet. My middle kid (the youngest of my boys) was recently diagnosed with functional hypoglycemia, and is under doctor’s orders to get whole, natural food as much as possible and avoid the processed junk, so I was very happy to see the improvements to the menu this year. I have to make sure I send snacks with him that fit the bill “just in case”, though normally the issue is with the snack or breakfast choices at school, not the lunch choices.

    I guess what bothers me most is that they still allow kids to take juice, a sugary cereal or cereal bar and a sugary yogurt and call it a “balanced” breakfast. Sure, they offer some wonderful choices, too, like their ham and cheese bagel, milk, Cheerios, fruit…But what kid is going to want to pick those when those cinnamon rolls are staring at him? We expect our children to be decerners of nutrition, and yes, they have to live with the choices they make, but we constantly give them an “out” so they don’t even TRY the good-for-you choices. A bit hard to swallow (no pun intended). I’d rather they offer a variety of good-for-you choices, instead of the one good-for-you item and the 2 or 3 not-so-great or awful items, if you know what I mean.

    For example, my oldest’s class last year had a program called Food Corp. The representative brought in things like squash and prepared it a few different ways (healthy ways, I might add) and had them try each to see what they liked better. How awesome is that? My son discovered a great love for foods he NEVER would’ve tried without that program. We definitely need more things like that.

    I give kudos to my boys’ school for working towards better meals, I do. I just wish more people would be behind them and make it easier for them to do right by our kids in way of food.

    The school did just get rid of recess this year, BUT they did make a daily PE and leave it up to the teacher if there would be recess for their individual class or not. The reason they did this was because they noticed kids weren’t playing at recess, but rather standing around and chatting. They figured this was the best way to get the kids active, so I can’t say I’m too disappointed in it. My boys seem to enjoy the change so far.

    Anyway, wonderful blog and looks like an amazing book. Thanks for sharing!

  27. As a former teacher (current stay at home mom), I too am appalled by school lunch programs. I have worked in many districts and seen lots of lunches. One of the worst was taco in a bag. It involved a bag of fritos, a scoop of taco meat (CAFO I’m sure), iceberg lettuce and shredded cheese (probably processed) most likely accompanied by canned fruit and a bag of baby carrots with that insipid fat free ranch dressing. The trouble is over half of that school was on free and reduced lunch, so the parents couldn’t afford to opt out if they wanted to.

    Obviously, I send my kindergartners lunch, though she still insists she wants to take hot lunch. I think the bigger problem is that people have no idea of what healthy is. Potatoes and corn are starches not vegetables. Also, just because chocolate milk has milk in it, does not make it healthy. I tried to explain the milk issue to her principal. A carton of the schools brand of chocolate milk contains about 2 1/3 teaspoons of added (not milk) sugars. Since the recommended children’s limit is 3 teaspoons of added sugars per day (12.6 grams). That only leaves 2/3 teaspoons for the rest of the day. Plus, the corn syrup and other icky ingredients. Needless to say I don’t let her get milk at school either as I don’t trust her to pick white milk.

    By the way, her school is no longer allowed to have salad bar as an option for school lunch this year, because it wasn’t deemed “healthy” enough by the federal government. What a joke. I’m sure they were concerned that it didn’t have the required amount of subsidized CAFO beef and corn and soy, ha, ha!

  28. It is very interesting that no one is mentioning funding. The school lunch program is the first program to get cut. Manufacturers are catching up to the new regulations however, in order to make food that is within the school budget- additives and other preservatives are necessary. The new “regs” will be an improvement as far as sodium guidelines, whole grain and veggies. How many of you actually have read them? Schools are hiring actual nutritionists to handle the menu planning, etc. but without funding it is almost impossible. I don’t know about other states, but there are some states that are more progressive than some of the things described above. There is always more information that is out there and other points of view. This seems to only have a parents view/teachers view. I know of some schools who have tried to serve all natural hummus and kids won’t eat it. If kids don’t eat the food or take the food on their tray, the school doesn’t receive credit for that meal. It is a catch 22 and if more government regulations and rules don’t change- nothing will get accomplished. Check out the final nutritional regs on http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/governance/regulations.htm

    1. As a lunchroom moniter I want say all the government regulations in the world will not get a kid to eat their lunch if they don’t want to. Far more whole wheat pasta spaghetti goes in the trash than the pasta we used to serve. A lot of good it does to force kids to take 2 veggies/fruits when they dump them in the trash on the way to their table. Good use of school funding… It must start at home, not with government regulations.

    2. Agree with Jacqui and Tina. Government regulations and funding dictate a lot of what can/must be served at school. I’m a high school teacher and I see what goes on in a cafeteria…16-year-olds making their own decisions regarding food rarely opt for the whole apples over the tater tots, so I imagine even fewer 8-year-olds are doing so. Simply having the food available doesn’t mean it won’t get thrown into the trash, as others have pointed out. It is nice to think that a kid will eat broccoli if he’s allowed to choose it himself at a fresh salad bar, but is there any real evidence showing that this is the case? Isn’t it just as likely, if he never eats fresh broccoli at home, that he will pass it up in favor of a food he is familiar with? Good eating begins at home. Cafeterias can try to fill a void, but with limited funds and even more limited influence over a kid’s overall eating choices, it is certainly an uphill battle.

  29. I hate sending my daughter to school without her own lunch! So proud of myself this year, we are doing good so far about getting the lunches ready the night before! Can’t wait to read the book.

  30. Dis you gain any weight while doing this? I feel like the amount of fat in some of my daughters school lunches is much higher than it should be. Others laugh and say as long as they are playing that is fine but I don’t feel good about the school lunches. I try to limit them as much as possible.

    1. It’s not the amount of fat that’s in school lunch that is bad, but rather the type of fats uses, lots of poly unsaturated fats, soybean oil, trans fats, etc. Doubt if they use any olive or coconut oil.

    2. Michelle – Based on what I read in the book Sarah’s family did experience some changes in health throughout this experiment…you should definitely check out her book for more detail!

  31. As a teacher, I quit eating school lunches my first year. I gained a bunch of weight and I only ate them 1-3 times a week. I haven’t eaten in our cafeterias the last 12 years. I am always appalled at what we feed our students, especially since we live so close to so many farms here in Northern California. Our Food Services department is not interested in hearing from the teachers, even if we are also parents. In schools, the parents are the greatest push for change and are heard much faster (and louder) than teachers.

  32. Kindergarden parent

    I’m so happy to come across this. I came across this through a family member telling me about fb article on 100 days. I’m happy that you are making suggestions on what to do. We will be bringing lunch to school. And try to participate in the PTA. Thank you so much

  33. I have 3 children in school and they started school this week and we have decided to have them take their lunches to school. My oldest who is 13 wants to eat right but concerned that she would be ‘weird’. Well this is day 4 and she has her entire table bringing home lunches! She also joined some committee and raised her hand and asked the food service person why french fries were listed as a vegetable! He talked condescendingly to her and asked her what a french fry came from and that a potato was a vegetable. She said that it was fried though and salted. He just ignored her and carried on. I am sickened that these children are fed this food and wonder how they will learn the correct way to eat. I told her she should be proud that she is filling her body with good nutrition and she should share her knowledge with her friends.

  34. I was feeling a little guilty about the lunches I’ve packed this year for my kindergartner. They weren’t the same quality of lunch we had eaten at home….before school started. Guess I should be patting myself on the back instead. If this is the kind of lunch our school district is serving….he is much better off with the home packed lunch!!

  35. Our school district is attempting to go with the flow of the many changes that have come about since Mrs. Obama tried changing things.

    While lunch is definitely in the process of hopefully changing for the better (there is definitely more fruit and vegetables offered) now we have received a grant for breakfast. So for the elementary kids breakfast is free for everyone. Oh dear. My son is in kindergarten. Yesterday he took his breakfast to school with him, he wants to be like everyone else and eat his breakfast at school too…so I will pack his breakfast and his lunch. :)

    Here is the breakfast for the first week of school:
    9/4: String Cheese, muffin, fresh apple, milk (doesn’t seem too bad and I didn’t see the muffin thought I’m sure it’s loaded with junk)
    9/5: PB&J Uncrustables, applesauce cup, milk (ummm..no)
    9/6: Trix yogurt, animal crackers, fruit punch juice box, milk (ummm…no and how is that even filling?)
    9/7: Their breakfast kit: “reduced sugar” “whole grain” frosted flakes cereal,honey graham crackers, apple juice box and milk. (to avoid causing a scene this morning I let him take that)

    I will be looking at their menu each month and will try to recreate it for my son using much healthier ingredients from home. This is ridiculous. They had breakfast at school last year too…several times he came home with chocolate cereal or fruit loops. I think I am going to be very busy just packing breakfasts and lunches for my kids this year! Looks like I better get some premade stuff going!!!

    Off to check out the Fed Up With Lunch blog….

  36. Lisa,

    I have a kindergartner this year and he is my first son. I am so glad I came across your blog last year so that I was able to gear up for making his school lunches this year. Although our school is serving more fresh fruit and vegetables, the main course is still things like “italian dunkers” “pizza” “chicken patty”

    I have joined the school’s PTA Health and Wellness Committee.

    Do you have some talking points for approaching the school’s officials when it comes to things like sending the kids home with candy after their first day?

    Paige

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Paige. We face the same thing in our district. I think the first step is to get your principal on board…without them I think it’s hard. Ours is onboard and it’s still going to be an uphill battle. I have found that going at it from the education standpoint is better (i.e. effects on student performance, behavior, concentration, etc.) because that’s their biggest concern. Pull as many facts to support your case, that’s been my approach. Best of luck. Jill

  37. My husband and I ate lunch with our son one day last year, it was a parent lunch day, so, there were lots of parents eating the chicken nuggets that day. I’m pretty sure there was not an ounce of chicken in them! I was so grossed out, my son now only takes his lunch,unless its pizza day. They serve carrots and cucumbers with the pizza, so, he still gets to feel cool by getting to eat from the line, and I don’t gross out over chicken beak nuggets. At home, We eat very few processed foods in our home, but, I can’t imagine those kids who eat that over processed food at school and then end up getting Mc Donald’s for dinner. It’s very sad. Thanks for donating your body to science for 162 days!! I hope it makes a difference!

  38. OMGosh!!! I love reading this. I love the idea of recess before lunch. As a volunteer room mom I have watched many children throw away their entire lunch so they are able to run outside to play. This really bothers me that there isn’t anyone monitoring what the kids are eating before they run out the door. When our kids filter into the cafeteria the packers go sit down to eat and the buyers go through the lunch line. The only requirement in the buyers is that they have 3 things on their tray before the cashier can check them out. Our lunches are trucked in and I assume they are kept warm or warmed up. Last year was my first year eating lunch with my daughter once a week, for the first half of the year was an eye opener as she was a buyer. Just from seeing the things they served the kids made my stomach turn. Once Christmas break was over and we returned to school, we had at that time changed our eating habits at home. After lots of disagreements, crying and many other dramatic moments we were packing lunches all the time, to the point that if we got up late I would make another trip to drop off her lunch. The teachers knew under no circumstance was she to eat what they served at school. I would really like to know how to go about getting things to change so that the children are getting at least one truly healthy meal a day. I know the old saying “the squeaky wheel gets the oil” but I’ve had experience with that in other areas and my daughter was the one who paid the price and I don’t want that to happen again. Any advice would be helpful :)

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Jeni. It’s going to depend on your school district. Every one is different and some are more receptive than others to change. My district, for example, is so large it makes it that much harder. I have found this blog to be very interesting…you might as well. http://school-bites.com/. Best of luck. Jill

  39. Wow….what a comitment, to eat school lunch for a year! This should be very eye opening to the school health admin. There definitely needs to be changes made when it comes to school lunches. For some kids this may be their only “healthy” meal and for a few their ONLY meal.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *