School Lunch Contest: Eat Lunch With Your Kids, Send Us the Pictures, Win Prizes!

Last week's school lunch post, our "Open Letter to Our Children," was a direct response to the sixth graders at Minneapolis' Sanford Middle School who I'd met with the month before. Their question was simple and heartbreaking: if our communities love us, why do they knowingly feed us this junk?

The response to this post was fantastic. Many of you provided explanations, made suggestions, and shared your own views, and we at SGT were reminded once again of how much we love this community. For example, Laura wrote:

We do our best to feed our kids as healthy food as we can [...] When the kids tell me they are still hungry and I see their tray devoid of any fruit or vegetable I tell them they need to take those healthy foods and make better choices. St. Paul Public Schools has also implemented a program to serve locally raised foods when it is available and in season.

Greg Reynolds from Riverbend Farm wrote:

If they had $1 more per kid per day for better ingredients it would cost around $180 per kid per year. The average cost to educate a child in Minnesota is about $6000 per year. That's 3%.

What do you get for the money spent on better food in schools? Better test scores, better attendance, and fewer discipline problems. It is a pennies on the dollar investment to improve the effectiveness of our education spending.

The feds are going to reauthorize the school nutrition bill by October 1st. Now is the time to contact your elected Representative and Senators to tell them that better food for school kids is important [...] Just as important, they need to get junk food out of schools.

School Lunch Lady brought tears to a few of our eyes. She wrote:

If we got real food in we couldn't cook it. Not enough time. Not enough people. Not enough training. Not enough refrigerated storage.

Each month our "kitchen" makes between $4000-6000 selling potato chips, fruit snacks, juice boxes, and bottled water. The administrator's administrator talks about nutrition. But her bottom line is the monthly profit. That is what her monthly meetings are about.

Four of the five lunch ladies do not get health insurance or benefits.

We know good food. We want to serve good food. What falls off the truck is what we have to serve. Serving mediocre food to children is a difficult job. It makes us sad. We do what we can. We would love some help from the top. We are changing as much as we can from the bottom.

I didn't expect that we'd all agree on the article or on what needs to be done to fix the school lunch system, but I did expect we'd agree that the system was broken and that we needed to fix it. So a few comments really surprised me, like this one from Jackie:

I had a school lunch today & it was great! Where else can you get a well balanced meal for $3.15 that includes a cup of milk? I wish people would taste test before they criticize all of the school lunch programs. Not all school lunches are bad, but when you generalize to all districts like this article does it creates an uphill battle for change. Some districts, like the one I work at, are exemplary! I cannot create a meal at home for half the cost or quality that I get at work. So, Hats off to the “High – Quality” Districts!

Is it possible that we can't all agree that public school lunch needs to improve? Where is this amazing, mythical place that Jackie describes? Are the handful of schools I'm personally familiar with worse than most?

Our kids are waiting - let's go!Our kids are waiting - let's go!In order for us to move forward, we need to agree that there's a problem, right?

The Contest

In the spirit of being engaged, having fun, building community, opening our eyes, and making a difference in the lives of our kids, Simple, Good, and Tasty is hosting a school lunch contest. Here's your challenge:

  • Step One: Meet your child for lunch at school. Order the school lunch. (If you don't have a child in school but want to participate, you'll find a way, we're sure.)
  • Step Two: Photograph the school lunch.
  • Step Three: Eat it.
  • Step Four: Send the picture(s) to us at Include your name, email address, the city and state where you took the picture, and any other information you'd like (name of the school, your own thoughts, etc.)

We'll post the pictures you send, and winners will be selected based on the comments received. Prizes include:

  1. GRAND PRIZE: One year of free organic milk from our partners at Organic Valley.
  2. One set of Snack Taxi reusable lunch bags, donated by the kind and generous folks Linden Hills Co-op
  3. Two lunchboxes, also donated by Linden Hills Co-op
  4. Three Easy Lunchbox Systems
  5. A DVD of the film King Corn
  6. More!

To enter this contest, please submit your photos no later than midnight on Monday, March 29. We'll post the results by April 5 and announce winners on or around April 12. (Since we're asking you to go eat lunch with your children, we're giving you plenty of time.)

Maybe we'll all look at the pictures, collectively decide that school lunch is pretty darned good, and move on to another issue that seems more important - but I don't think so.

I can't wait to see what you come up with.

This contest was proudly submitted to Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays.

Lee Zukor is the founder of Simple, Good, and Tasty. Email him at