photo: J. Novak
School lunches have become a telling indicator of the state of our nation's food system. After all, if we can't properly feed our children, who eventually will be responsible for leading this country, how can we expect our existing food system to take care of a growing population of overfed, but malnourished, individuals? We've learned that school lunches aren't properly inspected and at times lack enough nutrients to sustain a growing child. But now, according to Mother Nature Network, one teacher in Illinois has taken it upon herself to do something about it. Under the pen name Mrs. Q, this teacher has vowed to eat the same school lunches fed to her children each school day in 2010 and then blog about it.One Illinois teacher has decided to take one for the team, literally. In her new blog Fed Up: School Lunch Project, Mrs. Q vows to eat the same lunches that her students do in 2010. Here's an excerpt from Day 2:
Today's menu: 5 chicken nuggets, chopped carrots, cornbread muffin, chopped pears in juice, chocolate milk.
I was sort of surprised how small this lunch felt compared to yesterday's. I feel like I should have gotten more chicken nuggets. I ate them though, along with the carrots and the muffin. The muffin was a little stale. I couldn't get through the pear stuff because it was partially frozen.
I wonder how many grams of sugar I ate. Also notice the lack of fiber. Hmm.
At times, Mrs. Q's portrayal of the meals appears a bit too kind based upon the pictures that she takes of each meal. It may be a result of her taste buds deadening. Each meal's disgusting factor is usually confirmed by her daily pictures. Also notice all of the completely unnecessary packaging that goes along with each meal. It's so disheartening to see that almost every meal includes a frozen fruit cup when a fresh fruit salad would actually have some nutritional benefit. And the school could have avoided the wasteful cup and plastic wrap on top. Think about multiplying all that waste by the thousands of children who attend our public schools.
Taking Steps in the Right Direction
Mrs. Q is very open about the fact that, like many school systems in this country, she is from a "cash strapped" school system. But even a few simple substitutions could make a big difference considering that these lunches cost $3 per day for a meal that's a few steps down from a microwave meal. Subbing a vegetarian entrée for that mystery meat would be a great place to start. As Matthew recently wrote, the Baltimore Public School District is taking an innovative step in the right direction. In October, the school district announced that it would adopt a Meatless Monday menu for all of the 80,000 students whom it serves. Steps like these can make a big difference. According to Matthew, a year of Meatless Mondays saves about 1 ton of water, enough to fill up the bathtub 22 times per week.