Whenever I read books or watch tv shows or movies where schoolkids insult the cafeteria food, I can never relate. When I was a schoolgirl, the cafeteria food was always wonderful. It was always cooked on-site, from scratch, and piping hot, featuring basic but delicious Filipino or American favorites. Here are some dishes I remember from my schooldays:
Corned beef croquettes
Spaghetti with bolognese sauce
All main dishes were accompanied by a cup of rice and steamed vegetables. Sweet snacks and desserts like cookies, brownies, or bananas fried with sugar (all made on-site, from scratch) were also available for purchase. Drinks included soda, juice and sago (a sweet boba pearl drink), but kids usually poured themselves a glass of water (most Filipino kids don't drink milk regularly). It was always such a treat when my mom let us buy hot lunch -- it was like eating at a restaurant; a budget restaurant, but one with delicious food nonetheless.
Fast forward to 2011 and the kids' cafeteria lunch. Things couldn't be more different. Their elementary school doesn't have a kitchen, so lunch gets delivered in a truck every morning and gets heated up at lunchtime. The food is eerily familar to what you'd find on a kids' menu at a chain restaurant. Here's what the kids in our local elementary schools had for lunch last week:
Fillet of Fish Sandwich on Whole Wheat Bun
Hamburger on Whole Wheat Bun
Mini Cheeseburger Twins
Cheese Sandwich on Whole Wheat Bread
Hamburger on Whole Wheat Bun
Rotinin Pasta w/ Marinara Sauce and Whet Roll
Italian Sub Sandwich on Whole Wheat (salami, cheese)
Cheese or Pepperoni Pizza
Drinks include chocolate milk, white milk and fruit juice boxes. Aside from the main course choices, kids can also choose some side dishes like jello cups, fruit cups, apples, oranges, bananas, YoKids tubes, sunflower seeds, raisins, string cheese sticks, or carrots.
I realize that the school lunches of my childhood and my children's school lunches differ partly due to cultural preferences (we had lots of traditional Filipino dishes, rice at every meal, etc..). Also, I went to a private school, so the school had far more control over what they could cook and serve. They probably didn't have to meet any cost or nutritional guidelines either. But I do wish things were different at their school.
My kids eat a packed lunch most days, like I did. But unlike the yummy school lunches in my past, the only school lunch day they consider a treat is friday, Pizza Day. If only "hot lunch" really did mean a hot, cooked-from-scratch lunch instead of a hot, microwaved lunch!
Tomorrow I'll be reviewing a book called Lunch Wars, written by Amy Kalafa, producer of the documentary movie Two Angry Moms, which gives concerned parents information and tips they can use to push for change, instead of just wishing for it. You can read more Lunch Wars reviews and check out the latest Lunch Wars discussion on BlogHer.