Our School Cafeteria Food Sucks

My daughter just started kindergarten, so this is our first experience with school cafeteria food. Maybe I am naive, but I expected healthy food. The very first day of school should have been a clue for what was to come. The “special” of the day was hot dogs! This month’s menu has a hamburger or cheeseburger special every week and Tyson’s chicken patties or nuggets twice a week. The milk and cheese is chock full of artificial hormones and antibiotics. The chocolate milk has high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavoring. When I had lunch with my daughter one day, I discovered the pizza slices are heated in plastic wrap! Also, the “salad” consists of plain lettuce shoved into one of those condiment cups you get with take out (and, of course, the dressing had high fructose corn syrup in it). How can this be considered a serving when the entire salad fits on one fork? Besides the potentially soggy cheese pizza served every Friday, there are few meatless options for our family. Approximately twice a month, the special may be macaroni & cheese and some other pasta thing. Every day, the school has grilled cheese and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, but my little one won’t eat either of those.
I could go on and on but by now, you get my point. Or maybe you don’t. Whenever I try to discuss these problems with the other parents, I get blank stares or a parent will say, “Why don’t you just pack a lunch?” Well, of course, I do. But why am I the only one up in arms about all of this? I thought the people in Skokie were more enlightened than this. I don’t expect tofu and bean sprouts. I do expect fresh food, abundant fruits and vegetables, and no artificial ingredients and hormones. Our district speaks over fifty languages (I can’t even name twenty!). Where’s the hummus, the Jerusalem salad, the rice & beans, the lentil soup the Thai noodles, the edamame?
School is about education, and that should include food. Furthermore, I believe that schools should set an example of what to eat to be healthy. If obesity is such a big problem among children, no one in this school district seems to notice. Oh, how I wish Alice Waters had a child at this school. She could rally the troops. I just met someone from the Healthy Schools Campaign. I hope she can help.

Ideally, I wish the school cafeteria served whole, unprocessed foods that were organically and/or locally grown. At the very least, I believe schools should not be providing foods with high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, artificial colors and flavorings, and artificial hormones and antibiotics. High fructose corn syrup is scientifically linked to obesity and can be found in most processed foods. Hydrogenated oils are trans fats which also contribute to obesity. Artificial food additives like colors and flavorings have been linked to cancer and hyperactivity in children (even ADHD). Artificial hormones, also known as rGBH and rBST (banned in the European Union) are administered to cows to aid in milk production. The hormones make the cows sick, thus causing the need for high doses of antibiotics to be administered. Ultimately, the hormones and the antibiotics get passed on to our bodies whenever we consume dairy products from these cows. These artificial hormones and antibiotics wreak havoc on our children’s bodies.
The two best books I have read on American obesity and food ingredients are Greg Crister’s Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World, and Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation. Indeed, I believe every adult in this country who eats food or feeds food to children should read these books (yes, I know this means everyone, I’m being cheeky). So, the next time you find me standing next to you in the school pick up line, ranting on and on about the cafeteria food, you’ll say, “Right on, sister!” and we’ll start the revolution together.


14 Responses to “Our School Cafeteria Food Sucks”

  1. lobobreed Says:

    You’re absolutely right! I grypped about this very fact on a Libertarian web site, arguing with someone who supported the free-lunch program for poorer children. I asked who determined the nutritional content? It was up to the school cook! Not a nutritionist. And certainly not someone like Gary Null, or Dr. Andrew Weill. They’re pushing the corporate garbage-food and making the taxpayer subsidize it. Only the highest quality vegetarian (better vegan except kids need fats for nerve development, so maybe we’d have to permit milk) foods should be served at public schools. It doesn’t surprise me people looked at you like you were crazy, the junk food diet is so pervasive. Stick to your guns. Your right, and your daughter is lucky to have such a mother.

  2. moodymommy Says:

    Thanks for the confidence booster. This entry can also be found on Chicago Moms Blog under a “nicer” title: Our School Cafeteria Food is a Disgrace.

  3. anthony shepeard Says:

    i go to this school i am in 7th grade and this food sucks @#$%

  4. Miss Says:

    I just submitted a letter to my school dustrict with all the same complaints as yours. It’s good to know that I am not alone. Have you discovered any further info. which might provide fuel for action?

  5. moodymommy Says:

    Dear Miss, I feel soooo guilty, but I haven’t done anything more than complain to the “lunch lady” and to other parents. The truth is, I’ve had to pick my battles this year b/c my daughter’s class is way too big and that is more important right now. I plan on doing more about the food in the future. The sad thing is, there are so many parents in this district who seem to think the food is fine. Those who stand with me say they just find it easier to send their children to school w/lunch from home instead of fighting it.

  6. Rick Says:

    hey I am in highschool and am appalled by the poor choice of foods. Where is the healthy stuff.

  7. mrtubbyarse Says:

    forget it, you’re barking up a tree that’s been chopped down years ago.

    if they wanted to change things that would have happened in the 70s.

  8. Alexis Says:

    I agree. I’m in 7th grade and the food in my school sucks big time. I wish they would at least get some healthy AND tasteful food. I’ve seen the food inspector’s report on the school website. Although it says “Satisfactory”, I STILL won’t eat the food. The milk tastes like its either watered down or too sugary. It’s ridiculous. >.<

  9. Rebecca Says:

    I agree!! Look up Farms to Schools and check out the options in your area. Also, as a vegetarian, I agree there should be more protein alternatives.

  10. kaylee Says:

    Yess I totally agree im a vegetarian and there is nothing there to eat i get free lunch But my mother has to waste money just to buy me lunch!..

  11. Zxblqcktptyjsplkn Says:

    What’s your problem with high fructose corn syrup? You should just live with it. It’s one meal a day, and, no matter what you may say, the food isn’t that bad, you just like complaining.

    • moodymommy Says:

      You don’t sound very well educated.  High Fructose Corn Syrup is in too many things and I don’t want it in anything period.  Don’t you know childhood obesity is a crisis in our country?  Read Fatland: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Critser  and then get back to me about HFCS so we can have an intelligent conversation about it.

      • Zxblqcktptyjsplkn Says:

        All I’m saying is that HFCS is no worse than sugar. That part’s a myth.

        And I know that the food isn’t as bad as people like to claim it is. Sorry if I was rude, but you’re sounding stuck-up. There is nothing wrong with eating something like hot dogs once a day. In fact, hot dogs aren’t unhealthy.

        And the “moody” part of moodymommy is right.

      • moodymommy Says:

        How is someone “stuck up” because they want children to eat healthy food?  Did you read the book yet?  Can’t have an intelligent conversation w/someone who wants to eat a hot dog every day unless they know what they are eating, ok?

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