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Chad

School lunches healthier than bagged?

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The American School Food Service Association claims that school lunches are healthier than those brought from home.

Several recent studies, including those of the U.S. General Accounting Office and Dr. Alice Jo Rainville of Eastern Michigan University, found that the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides children with twice the servings of fruits and vegetables and greater amounts of grains and dairy than children who eat lunch brought from home or who leave school to eat lunch. Dr. Rainville's study concluded that students who eat school lunches consume 29% less calories from fat and twice as many servings of fruits and vegetables than students who eat a bag lunch.

Bullshit.

I don't know who they surveyed or whose lunches they inspected, but the stuff I send to school with my kids is certainly better balanced than the hot lunches we allow them to eat once or twice a week. Generally a lean turkey sandwich on wheat bread, some sort of chips or, more often, pretzels, fruit and some sort of snack. Today's school offering for my 9-year-old? Cheese pizza, tossed salad, bread stick, Twinkie. And I can guarantee that the tossed salad will be just that -- tossed, right into the garbage.

What do you think? Do you send your kids off with crap in their lunchboxes?

Chad


Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Unless the study tracked what kids actually eat, the conceptual leap from "NSLP provides" to "students consume" is not justified. If students are eating an NSLP lunch minus the salad plus two candy bars, that totally changes the picture.

Meals from home can vary wildly in quality. I'm sure what most kids bring from home is complete crap, and I'm sure when most kids eat off-campus they're eating McDonald's and bad pizza. But at least bringing lunch from home or getting it off-campus allows kids and parents who aren't clueless, and who care about quality, to give their kids an alternative to government school-cafeteria food.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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They sure can vary wildly. At one end of the spectrum you have the complete crap; at the other, the lunches my mother packed for me when I was a kid, which were works of art and the wonder of the lunchroom. Usually leftovers from the previous evening's dinner - which was usually spectacular. She had found a couple of wide-mouth thermos devices: one for the main course and a smaller one for dessert, and on cold days the big one might contain veal stew or beef stroganoff, spaghetti (she made a killer meat sauce, and of course spaghetti is always better the second day), sukiyaki, or the latest Chinese experiment/obsession. I don't clearly remember much about what accompanied these star performers, but I think there was usually fresh fruit (sometimes fruit salad in the small thermos thingy), and things like carrots and raisins to nibble on. And a few cookies of a small bag of chips or pretzels. Back then we didn't worry too much about applying a precise nutritional analysis to every item, but overall I think I came out ahead of the game. I always got a kick out of the sensation created by opening the big thermos, and I looked forward to those lunches all morning.

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They sure can vary wildly. At one end of the spectrum you have the complete crap; at the other, the lunches my mother packed for me when I was a kid, which were works of art and the wonder of the lunchroom. Usually leftovers from the previous evening's dinner - which was usually spectacular.

Yep, I know I have a winner on my hands when my daughter -- a very picky eater -- requests the leftovers in her lunch. When I do the grilled sesame chicken salad from the truly excellent A Southern Palate, she glares at anyone who dares ask for a second helping. She wants to make sure there's enough for her lunch :biggrin:.

Next question, though. Do parents really send their kids off to school with garbage in their lunch sacks? I'm sure that it happens, but school lunches are essentially free. If you're going to let your kid eat bad food, isn't it easier to have them eat the school lunch? If you're going to take the time and trouble to pack a lunch, wouldn't you at least try for something nutritious? I'm not even talking good parenting versus bad parenting, here, just simple pragmatism.

Chad


Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Meals from home can vary wildly in quality. I'm sure what most kids bring from home is complete crap

If my daughter's class is representative then Fat Guy is right. PB & J on white bread, lots of juice boxes, Lunchables, almost no one with any veggies...it's pathetic. And these are mostly kids of educated parents who presumably know something about nutrition.


Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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Well, the lunches I packed for my son were so good, so tasty, that in the eighth grade he made (unbeknownst to me, of course) a small fortune by selling them to his teachers for $5 to $6 bucks a pop.

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It was not unknown for me to eat my packed lunch, the school lunch, a lunch out, and a couple of candy bars on any given day of high school.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Next question, though. Do parents really send their kids off to school with garbage in their lunch sacks? I'm sure that it happens, but school lunches are essentially free. If you're going to let your kid eat bad food, isn't it easier to have them eat the school lunch? If you're going to take the time and trouble to pack a lunch, wouldn't you at least try for something nutritious? I'm not even talking good parenting versus bad parenting, here, just simple pragmatism.

Answer: YES! The PTO had my daughter's school is now in the midst of a program to help educate parents about nutrition. Many parents just don't read the fine print on ingredients and those that do, do not necessarily recognize what is good and what is not good.

As an example, there are several juices that proclaim to be "organic" or "all natural" with no artificial ingredients. Well, different sugars can be "organic" and "all natural" and loaded with empty calories. Same for allegedly healthy cereal bars that may have upwards of 500 calories in one bar. The kid may as well have a few twinkies.

Other favorites which are on the "bad list" are those dipping lunchables that have a ton of fat, sugar and sometimes the dreadfed trans-fats.

Mind you this is in a school district with a high percentage of well to do and highly educated parents.


"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

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When I was in school we didn't have the option of eating crap... I went to a fairly small rural school and I thought our lunches were wonderful and pretty well balanced. The only options that we had were white milk, chocolate milk, or orange juice. Now, the schools have vending machines, deals with Coca Cola, and the option to leave the school to eat. It's kind of hard to battle temptations like that with a sack lunch.

http://www.ohio.com/mld/ohio/8685031.htm

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Now, the schools have vending machines, deals with Coca Cola,

The discussion in this thread is very interesting. I'd like to hear more, especially about the vending machines. I'm not 100% sure but I think no vending machines are installed in elementary and junior high schools in Japan. (I may be wrong; things may have been changed.)

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We pack crap in our kids' lunchboxes. Typical lunch: Peanut butter and Fluff sandwich. Fruit on some days, but often a granola bar for a snack. Bag of chips. Skim milk. We'll throw in some dessert item, which may be cookies or something simple. Occasionally, we'll include a hard boiled egg or cheese. We rarely include any vegetables.

It's not very good, it's not very healthy. But my kids get tons of exercise, eat fairly well at home, and we treat lunch as something to get them through the day. Hell, my wife is a family physician, and we know we could give them better stuff, but we don't make the time to do it.

Let the stoning begin.


Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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We pack crap in our kids' lunchboxes.

I have notified child services. I am sure that the Carolina Bar and the AMA have some kind of counseling services that are available at a nominal charge and that after you and Dr Mrs. Varmint get out of treatment you will be able to get your jobs and your children back. :hmmm::laugh::laugh:

Sadly, it is kind of the same situation at my house, although I will say this. I send both of my children to schools that cost plenty of money and are, in an educational sense, fine places-but the food they serve would be better suited to the Parish Jail. Same stuff every day, Red Beans and Rice on Mondays. Pizza, Tacos, Chicken Nuggets Mon, Tues., Wed, Fish on Friday (South La Catholics eat fish year round on Friday out of habit, not just for Lent). What ever we pack, it is generally more interesting than what they would otherwise eat. They do get some pretty interesting sandwiches and we never send peanut butter. Today they had hot sausage poboys with good cheddar on Leidenheimer mini po boy rolls. It's still a sandwich, but at least it's a good one.

Edited to say that we would send peanut butter, but they would complain so much that it would not be worth it. :wacko:


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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We pack crap in our kids' lunchboxes. Typical lunch: Peanut butter and Fluff sandwich. Fruit on some days, but often a granola bar for a snack. Bag of chips. Skim milk. We'll throw in some dessert item, which may be cookies or something simple. Occasionally, we'll include a hard boiled egg or cheese. We rarely include any vegetables.

<snippity doo dah>

Let the stoning begin.

Heretic! Bad Parent! Pawn of the Culinary-Industrial Complex! :raz:

Okay, we'd all like to think we're paragons of virture. Well, I am, anyway :rolleyes:, but Varmint does have a point. My kids are pretty active (not to mention thoughtful, funny, smart and definitely above average :biggrin:), so what they have for lunch is not as critical as it might be. However, I'd still like to think that a lunch packed by a parent has got to be better than Gummint Swill, the GAO be damned. Aren't they the folks who wanted ketchup to be counted as a vegetable to cut school lunch costs?

Hmmm, perhaps my rose colored glasses need polishing.

Chad


Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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According to what some people posted on the Japanese school lunch thread, school lunches in the US, especially many of the homemade ones, leave a lot to be desired.

I am a huge fan of the Japanese lunch system where everyone is served the same food (including the teachers), you have no choice, you eat what they give you. No choice of drinks either, you drink the milk and very, very occasionally do they give you juice. Like Hiroyuki said I have never seen a vending machine in an elementary school.

For more on Japanese school lunches, look here:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=15429


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Aren't they the folks who wanted ketchup to be counted as a vegetable

You mean it's not? My whole personal food pyramid is spinning dangerously out of control. I suppose that the next thing you are gonna tell me is that these aren't meat and that these aren't fruit. Sheesh! What am I gonna do?


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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I'm just painfully honest in what we give our kids. I don't like it, but it is what it is.

They're getting older, however, and I can see their tastes just starting to change! Give them time; give them time!


Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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From what I've noticed at my children's school, healthy lunches are in the minority. Parents just want to pack something their kids will eat and be done with it. I make the kid's lunches about 95% of the time and I always include fresh fruit and vegetables. I hate those lunchable things- all that packaging for so much junk.


Melissa

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No stones from me, Dean.

Emma typically packs a sandwich, sliced fruit (or grape tomatoes, or cucumber), and milk or lemonade. I will probably continue packing her lunch once she starts kindergarten because the private school she will attending has awful food.

Lots of kids have the option of (free) school lunch or no lunch at all. It would be nice for them to get something with nutrition instead of merely calories.


Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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Yup, looks about like Jack & Sarah's lunch menus. We let the kids have hot lunch once or twice a week, and they generally choose crap days, but we're pretty much okay with that. Breakfasts & dinners are solid and healthy (for the most part :rolleyes:, we do have softball, volleyball, everyotherkindoftball and Sarah's social schedule to contend with; she has a better social life than my wife and I combined!).

I do have to admit to a certain morbid fascination with

Turkey Fryz w/ Roll

Manager’s Choice of Entrée

Raspberry Applesauce

Steamed Veggies

Turkey Fryz? WTF?

Chad


Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Tomorrow is pizza day at my school. (The high school sells pizza.) Of my 9 students, 6 will buy pizza and one will bring a pizza lunchable.

i5769.jpg

Pizza lunchable

Kids eat what their parents allow them to eat. My student who has gourmet lunches that make me drool everyday eats just as happily as the kids who get lunchable crap. Last week on our field trip I shared my brie and baguette with a kid who then finished up his Lunchable nachos. He was perfectly happy eating either one.

Lunches prepared by most schools are just as bad as bagged lunches. But lunches cost money and that means taxes. Until people complain nothing will be done. And as was said earlier, at least they get lunch. Here in DC the schools open during snow just so kids can get fed.


True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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I would say the school lunches in my district are about the same as what I send my kids with (we have to pay for the lunches, unless there is financial hardship, so I make the lunches). A typical lunch that I send them to school with consists of a sandwich (ham or turkey or raost beef) w/ lettuce and/or cheese (depending which child it's for) on whole wheat or ital. bread from the bakery, a piece of fruit, bottled water and some sort of snack (granola bar, rice crispie treat, fruit rollup...). The pre-school I sent my kids to had lunch guidelines, which were enforced, basically consisted of a main item (sandwich, soup...), fruit, drink (milk, water or juice) and a small treat. I had to laugh when we all recieved a flyer stating that jello was not a fruit and that lunchables were unacceptable.

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