The Opinionated Foodie: The Love (or Not) of Food and Everything That Goes with It


On School Food: Cafeteria Ladies Are My Heros

A lot of attention has been given in the past few years to school lunches.  The First Lady’s initiative to change the way our kids eat has shed light on the problems with obesity in America.  Her campaign is “Let’s Move.”  The purpose of “Let’s Move” is to solve the epidemic of obesity in children within a generation.  She has installed an organic garden at the White House. 

Also, recently Mrs. Q identified herself as the author of the blog Fed Up with School Lunches.  Her blog and her new book focus on the school lunches she ate for a school year and how bad they were.  The pictures of the food that was served in her school are horrifying.

I am a teacher, too. 

Luckily, though, our school food rocks. 

Sliced Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Sweet Peas, Roll with "Whipped Spread" and Sugar-Free Jelly

Our cafeteria is small, but our cafeteria ladies are mighty.  They are at school every morning at the crack of dawn to prepare breakfast before 8.  Lunch has to be ready by 11 and done by 1.  They make very little money and put up with a lot.

They serve us the best they can.  The taco bar is great.  So is the potato bar and salad bar.  The kids love the onion rings, chicken nuggets, and the waffle fries. 

At Thanksgiving, they double the number of people they usually serve.  Parents and friends are invited to eat with us while we feast on turkey, dressing, and all of the fixings.  It is a dinner to remember, and it is a thousand times better than what we have at our family Thanksgiving.    

Yet, my absolute favorite is the chicken rotel.  It is cheesy, full of chicken, and so warm and thick.   Our cafeteria manager, who also makes the birthday cakes for both my kids, makes it once a month just for me. 

She’s my favorite. 

Yes, kids do not eat what they need to eat.  Because of our school’s high-poverty population, most students get the best or only meal they will eat all day in the school cafeteria.  Our food is filling, fattening, sometimes fried, and often better than I could do.  If what we offer them is not something they will eat, they may go until the next morning before they eat real food again.  Our students’ dinners often come from a gas station in town since they can walk there. 

I believe the problem is not the school cafeterias. 

Kids will not eat what they do not want to eat.  Who will?

Kids are kids.  They want chips and cookies and cokes and pizza and fun things to eat that are horrible for them.  Do you know what most kids do with fresh, raw vegetables?

They throw them.

Fresh carrots especially make an excellent throwing object. 

Next year, our cafeteria will have to change to meet the new standards set for school cafeterias across our country.  That means that the yummy, warm rolls that the kids eat now with jelly and butter will be whole wheat rolls.   Other changes will occur as well to adjust our meals to meet healthier standards. 

I shutter to think about what will happen to my beloved rotel and our Thanksgiving dinner.

I speak for most people when I say, “Yuck.”

There is nothing wrong with eating healthy.  But even the most hard-core health nut eats something not so hot for them sometimes. 

Until vegetables are appealing, and until kids get what they need from somewhere other than school, my vote goes to leaving cafeteria food alone.  Feed them what they will eat.

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