Sunday, October 14, 2012
School lunches are much in the news this fall, as recently-enacted nutritional standards are mandating changes. The public schools in St. Paul, Minnesota, have been experimenting with new programs for a few years, so I was very pleased to receive an invitation to have lunch at the Horace Mann Elementary School barbecue while visiting Miriam and Alice this week. I ate with Alice and several of her friends.
"Sometimes they have completely gross foods," says Alice, "but others are the best. I like the veggie pizza, but the chicken teriyaki and other meat items are gross."
As is evident in the photo, there are lots of vegetables -- and the classroom teachers discussed this with the children earlier in the year. Each child is required to try some veggies, which at least on the special family barbecue day were served on a sort of buffet in the cafeteria (which is also the gymnasium), after the line where the cafeteria ladies put the hot dog and baked beans on our foam trays. I gathered that there used to be things like chips on the menu which have disappeared this year.
The hot dog came on a whole-grain bun, baked in the central food prep kitchen according to the various articles I read earlier this fall. Alice ate the bun but not the hot dog. The children separate the food from the foam trays after lunch, and the edible rejects go to feed pigs at a special farm.
The "breakfast cookie" had lots of healthy ingredients, but didn't taste bad -- a tiny bit salty, I thought. Beverage choices: milk or chocolate milk. I doubt that I've tasted chocolate milk since I was eating in school cafeterias myself -- this was not as sweet and creamy as the chocolate milk of my childhood, if my memory serves.
During lunch Alice and her friends normally play a game called "Hello, Bob." Someone starts by saying, "Hello, Bob. Say hello to Bob, Bob." The response is to say "Hello Bob," and turn to the next person and say the same thing. Everyone has to talk in a sort of British or Australian accent. Eventually they also say "Hello, Sheila," or "Hello, Steve Owen." Hard to describe this one, but a couple of other visiting fathers and mothers and I played along with the group.
"The school lunches are better than our old school lunches," says Miriam, who ate lunch with Evelyn and Lenny and some of her friends elsewhere in the lunch room. "But home made lunches are still better."