Recent Comments

  • 7 years 2 weeks ago by: Greg Reynolds in reply to: An Open Letter to Our Children: We're Sorry About School Lunch


    Now you know the ugly side of Minnesota Nice. If public shaming doesn't work and you don't shape up we will start shunning you. If you still believe your lying eyes, we will have to banish you (probably to Iowa, but Nebraska is not out of the question).

    Read the NYT link from Shari's post. It is a true story. Now tell me how good the USDA commodity food for school lunches is. I was handed the same article by a school food service worker. She was hoping for a miracle so she could afford to buy local bison or beef. Budget constraints force them to use a lot of USDA surplus commodities.

    Mary and I have gone to Olivia's grade school for lunch. Only once and we didn't eat. The hot lunch did not look so good. The other kids' bag lunches ranged from home made to Lunchables.

    Face it, people in this country eat a lot of, ahhh, industrial products that look like food. And it shows. Cheapness and convenience have serious and expensive consequences.


  • 7 years 2 weeks ago by: School Lunch Landy in reply to: An Open Letter to Our Children: We're Sorry About School Lunch

    Working as a middle school lunch lady - 400 kids in school, usually 220 kids eat lunch. Two thirds are reduced/free lunch. We have three main dishes, lunch salad, lunch sandwich, three raw veggies and two fruits available. We have one full time administrator (who has no culinary food service training), one cook, two part time cooks, and two cashiers.

    Think about the last time you had friends over for dinner - you served 200 right? How many people helped you make the meal? Think about it - one cook, two part time cooks - to unpack the truck, cook the food, serve the food, put food away, clean the dishes, and clean the kitchen - for 200. Daily.

    Cooking healthy and/or organic/whole requires more staff. More trained staff.

    Know any school districts who have extra money to hire trained full timers?

    Which is why all our food is frozen. Put it in the oven, put it in plastic, and serve. We hate it.

    The USDA website says that school lunches are designed to be served from the freezer because most schools do not have adequate kitchens. The solution becomes the problem.

    (We have seven ovens. Two work.)

    Our last line ends at 1:10. We pull the two steam table lines, count the tills, put away the "a la carte" items, the fruit and sandwiches, clean all the serving dishes and cooking dishes from the last line, store everything, clean all the surfaces. How long did it take you to clean up from your last dinner party? We stop getting paid at 1:30. Two or three of us stay past to finish cleaning.

    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.

  • 7 years 2 weeks ago by: Ginger in reply to: An Open Letter to Our Children: We're Sorry About School Lunch

    Good discussion; I'm learning from everyone's comments.

    For me, I continue to be surprised at how many options my kids have for lunch. When I was in school, we had one meal choice until high school, where we had two choices plus an a la carte line.

    Now, my kids have lots of options at school. They often choose fruits, veggies and salads. Thankfully, they opt out of the "greasy" meals like hamburgers and pizza.

    (When they were younger, I packed them lunches. Now, they're old enough to make their own choices, sometimes packing their own & other times opting for school lunch.)

    This makes me wonder about two things:
    1. How much does all this variety cost? If schools reduced the number of options, would it improve funding for higher quality? I wonder.
    2. What is the parents' role in raising kids to make healthy food choices? It's not all the school's responsibility -- encouraging healthy eating starts at home.

    Thanks Lee for sparking the conversation!

  • 7 years 2 weeks ago by: Shari Danielson in reply to: An Open Letter to Our Children: We're Sorry About School Lunch

    I've hung back too long, here, and need to jump in to the fray to defend my friend and colleague.

    I have eaten lunch at my children's school -- one of the supposedly better suburuban districts, that has (thankfully) found a milk supplier that doesn't use rBGH and a local bread baker that uses whole grains. (However, most of the milk sold is ultra-pasteurized and flavored with sweeteners -- Emily is right -- and the bread is only offered one or two days per week.)

    But almost every day of the week includes the USDA-sanctioned chicken scraps (otherwise known as nuggets, strips, patties, tacos, drummies, and something called “popcorn chicken") and beef (in the form burgers and meat sauce) that is of such poor quality that it can't be sold to retail establishments. USA Today, probably the most mainstream newspaper in America, recently wrote that McDonalds, Burger King and Costco, for example, test their meat for pathogens "five to 10 times more often" than the USDA tests the meat made for schools. "And the limits Jack in the Box and other big retailers set for certain bacteria in their burgers are up to10 times more stringent than what the USDA sets for school beef."

    Now, the USDA has recently declared that this has to change -- and hooray for that. But I pack my kids' lunches every day, not only because I'm concerned about the nutritional value of school lunches, but also whether or not they're even safe to eat. In my conversations with food-safety attorney Bill Marler last year, I learned a lot about how institutional food is processed -- and it's not a pretty picture. (The best article I've read about this subject is this NY Times piece that ran last October, featuring Minnesota resident Stephanie Smith who almost died after eating an E-coli-infected burger.)

    There are a lot of passionate points being made in these comments. And the fact that you're all here reading about this tells me that you care about children and you care about food. Can we all agree that school lunches can be more nutritious, more delicious, and yes, safer for kids to eat? Then let's start there and work together to make it so.

  • 7 years 2 weeks ago by: Brett Olson in reply to: An Open Letter to Our Children: We're Sorry About School Lunch

    Problem as I see it is most parents are apathetic re: school lunch. Most are just happy not to have one less meal to prepare.

    Don't think that true?

    Well, I have yet to see a School District propose a School Lunch Funding Levee. I've suggested it to a number of the food service directors and the response is "oh, no one would go for that." Personally, I'd vote for it if the levy $s raised went to good, clean, local proteins only. (sorry greg) This would free up remaining lunch budgets for higher quality veggies. And inject tons of cash into local food systems. Increasing demand and tax bases for the districts. Maybe a new farmer/rancher would be created - Hey that sounds like "green jobs!"

    p.s. I have school lunch with Thing 2 about once a month - he eats his home lunch and I have a St. Paul school lunch - they aren't terrible - until I really think about what I'm eating - yuck.

  • 7 years 2 weeks ago by: stephmarch in reply to: An Open Letter to Our Children: We're Sorry About School Lunch

    It might be interesting to engage Chef Seth Bixby Daugherty and his Real Food Initiatives in this discussion. He left a successful restaurant career to dedicate time to school lunch programs.

    In my kids' school, it took parents coming together and getting involved at the school level. We now have locally baked whole wheat breads and local produce on the menu.

  • 7 years 2 weeks ago by: Bill Roehl in reply to: An Open Letter to Our Children: We're Sorry About School Lunch

    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.

    I have a big problem with this statement. When it comes to academics and general discipline the school districts are first in line to state that they have the right to be a parent in absentia but when it comes to food they are hands off.

    Listen: there should be NO choices available to the children which aren't healthy. That means no fried foods, no pizza (yes, it can be healthy but it's not generally in schools), no processed snack foods, and no sugared anything (that includes juices loaded with HFCS).

    When you want to treat all areas of student governance the same, including what they eat, then you can truly meet your burden as a parent in absentia. Until then, you're just under the hypocritical threshold when you unequivocally state that you are doing such great things for these kids by what you OFFER to them to eat.

  • 7 years 2 weeks ago by: emily in reply to: An Open Letter to Our Children: We're Sorry About School Lunch

    lee- i dont know where jackie eats such a mythically delicious school lunch but my kids school is in minneapolis, where i was a public school student as well, and the lunches have never been tasty looking to me, not in the last 25 years ive seen them, nor are the free, federally provided breakfasts even remotely healthy.

    even the free milk is sweetened and flavored, probably to make up for the disgusting taste of feedlot-raised cow milk that has been ultra high temp pasturized to make it last longer. yuck.

    who cares if jamie oliver makes millions? good for him. he is an a bussiness man, but he does advocate mostly real, healthier food for children. we live in a capitalist culture and country, why shouldnt people doing good deeds make a dollar or a million?

  • 7 years 2 weeks ago by: lee in reply to: An Open Letter to Our Children: We're Sorry About School Lunch

    Shame on YOU, Anonymous #1. I appreciate your suggestions, but attacking me personally is ridiculous, and doing it without showing your face is cowardly. Cheap shot, indeed.

  • 7 years 2 weeks ago by: anonomous in reply to: An Open Letter to Our Children: We're Sorry About School Lunch

    I have been in the school food service for more than 25 years and have seen a lot of changes. I know that there is always room for improvement and your food service program is only as good as the people running it. To lump all the schools together is not justified. How many schools have you been to for lunch or breakfast? Just this one? We are a small portion of the student's day. I am happy to say that a smile and a hot breakfast or lunch may be the highlight of any student's day and I am proud of my participation.