Wednesday, December 05, 2007

School lunches and dodging dinosaurs

Yesterday I caught the last bit of a story on the news about some group wanting to take vending machines and junk food out of public schools. Sounds okay to me and it sounds like the plan could save parents some serious change as well.

You see back when I went to school, during the days when we had to dodge the dinosaurs on our way to and from school, there were no vending machines, save maybe one Coke machine for the teachers. We either ate the cafeteria food or brought our lunch from home. You could buy a carton of milk or drink water at the water fountain.

You bought a lunch ticket at the beginning of the week, if you planned to eat the school lunch. The lunch lady would punch your ticket for each meal they served you. It was all so plain and simple. No choices of foods, you got whatever was on the daily menu. Plus it was considered affordable most of the time, even to my parents.

There was another plus to the plain and simple routine. I learned to eat just about anything they put on my plate. It was either that or go hungry until you got home.

I remember loving Fridays because that was the day we had fish out of respect for the Catholic kids who had to eat fish on Friday, or something like that. You could smell the fish cooking about mid morning and it smelled so wonderfully good. Same with the days the lunchroom ladies would bake peanut butter cookies. My mouth waters now just thinking of those aromas.

Yeah, I know, I’m sounding like an old crab, but seems to me if they remove the snack crap out of the schools, the kids would be healthier and their parents would save some bucks to boot. Plus, this problem with so many obese kids might change. The fastest way for a kid to lose weight, other than running and dodging dinosaurs on their way to and from school, is to stop eating junk food.


Blogger fallenmonk said...

You are right PoP things were much simpler and much better. Today the schools try and cater to the whims of the kids to the detriment of their health.
I too grew up with the dinos and school lunch was 35 cents and while not always stellar food it was a complete diet nutritionally. We also got a carton of milk in the morning that was free.
There was one food item that no one ever liked and that was stewed prunes. I still remember going around the lunch room gathering all the prunes on a single tray and then turning them in. They never got the message from the single tray stacked to overflowing with prunes as they still showed up on a regular basis.
I still remember in the fifth of sixth grade that my class just before lunch was right over the cafeteria and it was always either resignation or delight when you smelled the odors wafting up. Pizza or spaghetti good...cabbage bad.

December 05, 2007 3:43 AM  
Blogger FranIAm said...

Another dinosaur dodger checking in here... I could not agree more.

With all the so-called choices the kids get, there is less nutrition and it all costs too much.

I used to bring my lunch a lot and it was a big deal on days that I could "buy" instead of "bring". I much prefered the whatever on the tray to whatever kind of sandwich mom had made.

It is really sad to me that despite the plethora of choices, kids are often overweight and undernourished.

That is quite the metaphor for our nation, is it not?

December 05, 2007 3:50 AM  
Blogger Larry said...

There were no vending machines in my little country school all those many years ago.

How things have changed.

December 05, 2007 4:26 AM  
Blogger Sherry said...

you are spot on!

there's no need for those things.

December 05, 2007 4:39 AM  
Blogger Distributorcap said...

until 6th grade i used to go home for lunch ----- after than i would eat at the cafeteria -- and there was 2 choices every day -- hot and cold -- there was no soda -- only water, milk and juice. there were no snack machines. there was no food allowed in the classrooms.

the lunch ladies were the stereotypical lunch ladies......

cafeterias today are not only calorie machines but really just another marketing ploy/commercial to get kids to love Snapple or some other brand of food -- and beg their parents to get from home

December 05, 2007 5:06 AM  
Blogger Jazz said...

"Dodging dinosaurs on the way to school" I love that. I was a dinosaur dodger too. And a lunch bringer. I was always so thrilled when my mom gave me lunch money. What a treat!

December 05, 2007 6:16 AM  
Blogger Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Years ago, schools started adding junk-food and junk-drink vending machines so that they could have another source of revenue. To have the machines, they have to sign contracts with the junk-food peddlers. Seems to me that school officials have sold their souls—and the health of children—just for more money. Why parents are only just now fighting to get the vending machines removed, I don't know.

December 05, 2007 6:16 AM  
Blogger mommanator said...

I can say my grand kids didn't have machines til last year, since my daughter is a single parent they don't indulge and they aren't any worse for it. How does she not have them screaming and kicking about it!? She plain and simple says NO! they dont have a lunch program per say. She makes their lunch every day enmass, however will make to their likes and dislikes. Presently with the cold weather they are really liking the thermos' she bought.
I too dodged dino's what a better time for kiddos!

December 05, 2007 6:17 AM  
Blogger Comandante Agí said...

In addition to controlling junk food, kids need exercise. We are raising a nation of couch potatoes.

Kids need to get away from the television set and their mind-numbing xbox/playstation games and go outside! When I was a kid all I did was play outside with my friends. Only on rainy days was I kept inside, and even then I wanted to go run outside in the rain.

December 05, 2007 6:28 AM  
Blogger ZILLA said...

Good points, PoP. Here is the dilemma:

Soda manufacturers pay school systems BIG BUCKS to place their machines in the schools. Because education is generally underfunded through tax dollars, schools have been VERY reluctant to remove these corporate owned vending machines from their lunchrooms, hallways, lounges, & gymnasiums. Obesity-related disease as well as poor dental health (all that sugar and nobody brushing after eating it causes cavities), has hit the public pretty hard. It's not just about the cost of a soda and a bag of chips; it's also about the cost of root canals, insulin, general well-being, and even life expectancy.

Additionally, and sadly, too many public school lunch programs are lacking in terms of quality nutrition. They serve high salt, high fat, high additive, high refined carbohydrate containing foods that set kids up for a lifetime of making poor nutrition choices. The results are diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, to name a few.

While some school systems are addressing these concerns and initiating appropriate menu changes, it's ultimately up to parents to prioritize healthful eating over convenience. It's up to all of us to make some noise, and get our government run nutrition programs running optimally, for the good of everyone.

December 05, 2007 6:35 AM  
Blogger niCk (Mem Beth) said...

I loved pizza day when I was back in grade school.

I hated their hamburgers they tasted funny.

We also had one day a week for Chocolate Milk instead of regular, and it was only a nickel.

Those were happy times. Pizza and Chocolate milk. If only life could be that simple.

Don't just feed them healthier food, teach them how to eat healthy, like they did when I was in school.

December 05, 2007 6:40 AM  
Blogger SB Gypsy said...

We tried to do that here in CT, and the corporatistas won out. Junk food here to stay!

December 05, 2007 6:41 AM  
Blogger robin andrea said...

Oh the good old days when lunch was 35 cents, no vending machines, and Friday was fish or pizza day. We always had a choice between the hot lunch or soup and sandwich. Milk and dessert came with the meal.

Those days are long gone, and all the good political and social philosophy that underlie providing a healthful diet to young children seems to have disappeared as well.

December 05, 2007 7:13 AM  
Blogger bluegrrrrl said...

Hey Pop!! I dodged dinosaurs on my way to school too...we couldn't afford the 5 cents for milk or 10 cents for lunch (I think it might have gone up to 15 cents by the time I moved on to jr. high), so we had to settle for homemade lunches. I used to envy the kids who could afford the generally unidentifiable food served up in the lunchroom--and oddly, they envied my homemade, nutritious lunches.

My only question about removing the junk food from schools now: How many parents would really take the time to pack their kids a nutritious lunch? And would the meals served up in the cafeteria be any healthier?

December 05, 2007 7:22 AM  
Blogger Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

The other bad thing about today is the food they do serve the kids is crap. They get nothing fresh, it's all precooked or out of a huge can. It's empty calories and it's killing kids.

December 05, 2007 7:30 AM  
Blogger dguzman said...

Yet another dino-dodger here, and our only choices at lunch were white or chocolate milk, and on Wednesdays only, enchiladas or chili beans. The rest of time, we got what we got, week in and week out. Tuesday hamburger days (and they tasted funny to me too but I ate 'em), Friday fish. And for 50 cents a day.

Vending machines showed up when I went to high school (1981) but they only stocked Hi-C fruit drinks, no sodas, chips, or junk allowed. Those were the days.

Now it's about frozen canned carbs, a soda, and sitting on the couch playing GameBox or whatever--these kids don't know about playing outside (without toys)!

Listen to me--next I'll say, "Hey you kids, get offa my lawn!"

December 05, 2007 7:50 AM  
Blogger annie said...

my catholic school always served fish on fridays, during lent i believe it was. so many (goofy) rituals, long forgotten now!

my youngest's high school has no vending machines, etc. they do have open campus. so the kids can walk into town and get food. talk about an expense! the choices do not include fast food-none there. we make lunches some of the time. i think it's terribly sad, that so many families today are clueless about good nutrition. no wonder obesity is epidemic. i think high fructose corn syrup should be banned, and that the corn lobby is behind much of that problem.

December 05, 2007 8:08 AM  
Blogger T&A said...

We had a vending machine room when I was in high school. I used to buy at least 5 Cokes a day! I also remember the school lunch from my younger days. i always loved the tater tots!

I'm not sure how I feel about removing the machines. Of course it would be healthier for the kids, but I can't imagine getting through 3rd period English without caffeine!

December 05, 2007 10:36 AM  
Blogger fashiongirl said...

Not here in San Francisco. Alice Waters has the kids growing and harvesting their own veggies. Gotta hand it to the granola heads!

December 05, 2007 10:46 AM  
Blogger Targa said...

Damn, I remember eating lunch in elementary school. For 45¢ I could get a hot meal plus milk.
I think Thurdays were hamburger days and, as long as there was food left to be served, it was all you could eat.
I didn't always get to eat in the school cafeteria. I usually brown-bagged it because I grew up with a very cost-conscious set of parents. But there were days when Mom didn't feel like rolling up and preparing bag lunches for all her little lovely darling chillins'.
The other thing, too was that we didn't have game stations that forced us to be stationary. We ate our lunch fast, and went to the playground to burn it all off playing tag, red rover, kick ball, basketball, and risking our lives on the monkey bars.
This was in the 60s. Talk about dinosaurs. Sheesh!

December 05, 2007 11:31 AM  
Blogger DCup said...

Interesting topic, PoP.

Our schools are using the vending machines for additional revenue. Our elementary school even sells ice cream treats at lunch time. The kids are supposed to be able to buy them only after they've eaten their lunch.

Just this year, the high school and middle schools have added healthier choices to the vending mix, but I don't foresee them getting rid of the cash producers.

The lunches at the HS and Middle school are no longer prepared at the schools. They are trucked in from somewhere else and simply warmed up at the school.

Two of my three kids pack their lunches every day. The third just comes home starving.

December 05, 2007 11:35 AM  
Blogger MichaelBains said...

It really was better back in our day in some ways, Pop. Guess all that walkin' uphill both ways, in the snow, even in September and June. All that stuff kept us occupied.


Seriously though; you are totally right that the junk machines should go. They really are empirically far more dangerous and costly than things like Sex Education (laughably inadequate in even some of the most Liberally minded school systems,) Phys Ed (dodge ball anyone?) or Economics (anecdotally, it seems that baking cookies and knitting pot-holders still out number making change or balancing a checkbook in most systems.)

But hey, what's a little controversy where no gods are involved and the school makes a chunk o' change.... {sigh}

Hope they pull them all.

December 05, 2007 11:51 AM  
Blogger Mary Ellen said...

Great post, POP! In grade school we didn't have a cafeteria, so it was brown bag it or starve. High school had a pretty good cafeteria compared to what they have in schools now. In fact, if you had the last lunch period and you wanted to go up for seconds, if they had any left they would give it to you for free. Our lunches cost $1.25 for the main menu. If you wanted hamburgers (and believe me, you didn't want them!) it was a different price. We did have vending machines, but they were for those big yellow apples or oranges.

Now, at my son's high school they have Sodexo who supplies the lunches. In fact, I checked, Sodexo supplies the lunches for most of the schools in the U.S. Sodexo is a French owned firm and they serve swill, IMO. You have your choice of the very unhealthy chicken nuggets, pizza, sandwiches, baked potatoes and, now, they have supplied a salad bar. The salad bar is a joke, and has ice berg lettuce (has as much flavor and nutrients as a cardboard box), tomatoes, shredded carrots and that's it. My son said you don't want to dip into their salad dressings.

The funny thing is, the French feed their kids incredible lunches for school kids! I looked up one of their websites to see the menu's for the schools and they eat way better than most of us eat on a nice evening out. At the very least, it's healthy. They don't serve fried foods and certainly not pizza.

My son's school just got rid of all the vending machines and they jacked up the price so high on the soda machines, no one will buy it.

On the other hand, the food on the campus of University of Missouri-Columbia had great food, and a lot of healthy choices. My daughter never gained all that weight they said most Freshman gain..what do they call it "Freshman 10"?

I'm with you POP- keep those vending machines out of the schools, unless they have apples!

December 05, 2007 12:20 PM  
Blogger Colonel Colonel said...

Yeah, like most others, I was out of school long before vending machines arrived.

There is not only the problem of the machines bringing in needed revenues, but also the sources of food available. There was a long article in the New Yorker about six months ago about a chef who got fed up (so to speak) and offered to, and did, take over a school district's lunch program (I think this was on the West Coast).

She found that since most school systems are strapped for cash, they take advantage of government food programs. The problem is that those programs are stuffed full of crap that comes out of the ghovernment's agri-business subsidy programs, so all that's available were cheese, fish sticks, corn syrup, and such.

It's a big problem, from one end to the other.

December 05, 2007 1:44 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

What are you trying to do, Patricia? Wreck the whole capitalist system.

We need non-questioning consumers to make the, more wealthy. Doesn't matter what the peasants eat or buy. It's all about making a profit, the new American Dream!


December 05, 2007 2:52 PM  
Blogger Josie said...

I was a single mom, so I used to give my daughter lunch money every day so she could buy lunch from the school cafeteria (which she assured me was good food). Well, she admitted to me the other day that she used to take her lunch money and walk over to the gourmet food store and buy brie cheese and grapes and French bread and other assorted goodies, and she was the envy of all the kids.

There was a wine shop right next door, but thank goodness she wasn't old enough!

December 05, 2007 4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Momminator's daughter her. My kids have a lunch account where they may buy chips, ice cream, milk, yougart, or fruit, no vending machines. My kids go to a private christian school, where they teach overall wellbeing: mind, body and spirt. I do allow my kids to buy from the school, but only 1 x week. I figure out how long $20 should last if each of them buy the most expensive thing 1 x week....$20 should last 6 far it's been 8 weeks and I just got the notice today that the account is getting low. I tell them if the money runs out before it's time, I will not put more money into the account until it's time. Makes each one responsible for each other's actions. If one uses it all up, they all suffer. They don't want to ruin it for them or their sibling, so they only get an extra item 1 x week.
Boy I remember back in the day of fish sticks, mac and cheese, stewed tomatoes, and fresh fruit or jello with fruit. Maybe I need to make that for dinner.

December 05, 2007 4:55 PM  
Blogger Chancelucky said...

In California, we have a law that essentially bans the sale of junk food in public schools. The interesting thing is that it didn't eliminate the vending machines. They just sell other stuff.

December 06, 2007 10:01 AM  
Blogger Mathman6293 said...

I am sorry that I am late on this one because it hits home with me. Mathman H.S. has vending machines and the kids seem to eat a lot of snacks.

After last school year we took out all carbonated drinks and tried to put some healthier food in the machines (granola bars etc..) We took the hit on the revenue a little bit.

Another point that strikes me about education are the comments here. Most everyone admits to to being dino's when it comes to education. That is one of the biggest problems we have - the dinos, teachers, parents and legislatures. Everyone wants school to be like it was when we were there.

Our country needs a dose of reality school is different, kids are different, people are different and revenue provided to schools is different.

December 09, 2007 5:54 PM  

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