School Lunches

Obtained from

I have talked about my hate of public school lunches before (see this article for more info.).  The typical school lunch consists of:  Main dish-  Some kind of greasy, low quality meat product; Beverage- Your choice of milk, plain or sugar-filled chocolate or strawberry milk (in my school, you had to buy water unless you were lactose intolerant, meaning as a person who tries to stay away from dairy as much as possible, I’d spend a lot of dollars on bottled water until I started thinking ahead and packing my own in a reusable bottle); Vegetable/Fruit- Almost always frozen or canned in some sugary syrup, or a taste-like-cardboard red delicious apple;  Dessert/Snack-  More fat, either in the form of potato chips or some version of Twinkies.  None of this speaks of health to me.

How are we supposed to teach our kids healthy eating habits in school when they are being fed CRAP in the very institution that teaches them against it?  How are parents to ensure that their kids eat healthy when schools often serve every health-conscious adult’s nightmare?

Until something changes, these questions are hard to answer.  School lunches are filled with processed, chemicalized, and purely unhealthy foods.  The best option is to pack your kids’ lunch or buy healthy food that tastes even better than the junk they’re fed at school to prompt the kid to want to pack their own lunch.  This is what I did all throughout high school, but I was one of few.  The rest of my friends didn’t prioritize a few minutes in the morning to gather a lunch together, so they’d suffer through the repulsive school lunches they were served day after day.  What makes school lunches even worse is the fact that even though they are fatty, greasy, salty, and sweet, the perfect combination to make foods taste good, they still often taste like crap.  This totally goes against my philosophy of if I’m going to eat something unhealthy, it better be darn good.  I’d regularly hear my friends complain about how fake the mashed potatoes tasted or how horrible the hamburgers were or how slimy the lunch meat was, but they’d shove those substandard, artery-clogging foods down their mouths anyway because they were hungry.  School food is at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to quality, meaning that even the fat and salt is often not enough to make it taste good.

What sparked this ranting post about how terrible school lunches are was an article I read about a teacher in the mid-west who plans on eating her school’s lunch everyday for the next year.  She will be blogging and photographing the lunch everyday.  Stop by her site and check it out.  I stopped by and immediately noticed a conglomeration of the type and quality of food I mentioned above:  Pizza, canned pineapple, a red delicious apple, horrid looking tater-tots, puke “green” green beans, Salisbury “steak” that look like it was sitting in a pile of some kind of grease (or maybe that was just a greasy sauce), pretzels, a lifeless burger, etc. etc.

I have to say I was surprised I didn’t see more bags of chips and imitation tasty-cake desserts, but there’s still numerous months left in the year.  I think the teacher is certainly a little daring in doing this.  For one, I don’t think I could ever go back to eating school lunches.  Also, she’s bound to gain a little weight, particularly if her former lunches were on the healthier-side.  Even if she doesn’t gain too many pounds, she’s definitely taking a toll on her health.  I love the idea though and think it makes a great topic for a public blog.

Hopefully her experience will help raise more awareness about the issue of school lunches and the terrible quality that they encompass.  Congress is expected to discuss and hopefully improve child nutrition programs this spring.  These public officials are long past grade school years, so I think it could do them some good to take a look at this teacher’s blog and remind them of how terrible school lunches are.  I’m sure they know that school lunches aren’t healthy, but take a look at these pictures, and anyone can see just how lifeless school lunches really are.  Especially if you have kids, take a look, and if you don’t already, you may just want to start packing your kids’ lunches.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    The Candid RD
    January 27, 2010 at 8:48 am

    My brother is in the 7th grade and as he’s grown up I am always asking him about his lunch. It pains me to hear what he says half the time. My mom tries to pack his lunch, but he’s super picky. I think he knows more about health than most kids his age, so he does try to make good choices, but the school surely doesn’t help. When I was in school I can remember thinking how crappy the lunches were, even then! Once I went to throw away my nasty looking burger and one of the teachers yelled at me and FORCED me to eat it!!!! I will never forget that.

  • Reply
    Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman
    January 27, 2010 at 9:01 am

    I never ate school lunches when I was growing up. As if the food didn’t look horrible enough, the smell emanating from the cafeteria always made me sick. It’s sad to say, but the veggies are always the worst. Soggy, greasy green beans from a can, syrupy corn. Ick. The best meal was always pizza, and that’s only because it wasn’t wet with grease. It’s sad that so many kids are eating nonfood like that. Until something is done, brown bagging it is definitely the best route–even if it makes you the laughing stock of fifth grade.

  • Reply
    Jenna @ Health and Happiness
    January 27, 2010 at 9:38 am

    I was NEVER allowed to eat school lunches unless it was a special occasion growing up, and I’m so thankful. I didn’t realize it then of course, but the school lunches today are so sodium, sugar and fat packed, it’s nuts! There really need to be better regulations when it comes to the school lunch program in the US. I’m going to check out that teacher’s site, it sounds really interesting!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Sadly, this is a better option for some kids than not eating at all. Some parents can’t afford to pack lunches and this really truly is the closet thing they get to a meal all day. I think we have seen some improvements, but not many considering the government subsidizes some of these and it costs money to bring in higher quality foods. I would love to see better options and I think we will get there some day, but we need to look at it from the otherside. Parents who can worry about their kids health (those that have an education and health insurance) should know better than to feed this to their kids, and should pack their lunches, other parents who struggle to provide dinner for their kids probably have less on their mind than nutrition, and although while this is sad and it is hard to jump on how unhealthy these meals are, I would rather a child from a low income neighbor hood eat this thaan nothing at all. Here on the island I am impressed with the food choices. there is always at least 1 vegetable and 1 fruit, and there is usually a healthier option like a salad or turkey wrap or something lighter and not a hot, heavy fat filled meal. Students may purchase sweets, but only after they finish with most of their meal, in other words, only during the last 10 minutes of lunch.

    It sucks and should be improved, but we also need to look at the big picture and what is reasonable. I think the best idea, and yes it is expensive, but they really need to bring litchens back into schools instead of using a centralized kitchen. This is when things started to fall apart. the food is cooked and then driven to the schools.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    As a teacher I am disgusted about what my students are eating for lunch. We have a salad bar but the students just drench their lettuce in ranch dressing. So healthy!

    I am hoping that something can be done soon because I am a firm believer that good food will also help great learning.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Seriously, right?! I swear, I am going to refrain from having children until the schools get it together. Congratulations for removing a lot of vending machines (that shouldn’t have been there in the first place), and thank you for providing breakfast to under-priviledged students who need another meal (albeit far from great), but let’s continue. There’s a LOT to be done. For reasons as such, I want to run a kitchen someday!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Your comments on the ickiness of school lunches are totally warrented! I’ve heard that schools have lower food standards than fast food joints. Ew! I’m glad I don’t do school lunches anymore. Have you checked out Kath Eat’s lately? She’s doing a whole thing with schools to healthify school lunches. It’s kinda cool.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    I am a middle school teacher and even though we have a “healthy” salad bar I think the food is AWFUL! It pains me to think the baked chips and lowfat brownies and diet sodas are considered healthy.

  • Reply
    Balance for Mere
    January 27, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    School lunches are terrible! I work in schools and see it every day. I know my lunch ladies try to be healthy but they don’t have many options.

  • Reply
    Lily @ Lily's Health Pad
    January 27, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    When I was in high school, I ate french fries and two chocolate chip cookies for lunch every single day. I don’t know how I lived like that! How did I have any energy? I played sports too. What an awful way to fuel myself.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    oh dang so interesting. yeah in middle school i would have “combo” meals..its a soft drink, fries, and either a chili cheese burger, foot long hot dog, or pizza! isnt that AWFUL!?

  • Reply
    Tweets that mention School Lunches « Food-Fitness-FreshAir --
    January 27, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Steven Suchar, LifeinBalanceinfo and stacie walters, Grace Dickinson. Grace Dickinson said: School lunches = Crap […]

  • Reply
    January 27, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    This does sound so sad to me! It ‘s so nice of you to speak up for the children! Thanks for the link to that teacher’s blog, I just can’t believe those are food they serve the kids at school. I’ve never packed lunch for my son because he always says he’s happy with school lunches. He said they serve hot food, fresh fruits and veg. salad bar everyday. I guess I need to go visit his school cafeteria to check it out soon. Thanks so much for this wake up call!

  • Reply
    January 28, 2010 at 12:22 am

    I agree with this…I am scared that my niece will think that potato is the only veggie out there! thankfully we help keep her ”diet” well rounded.

    I remember the vending machines in my highschool were all filled with chips and soda, ohhh and chocolate bars lol

  • Reply
    Simply Life
    January 28, 2010 at 7:10 am

    I do get grossed out, sad and upset when thinking about these! I hope some huge changes start happening soon! I work with a lot of kids and most of them don’t eat all day at school and then just eat a huge (and still not healthy) lunch after school and then dinner a few hours later…

  • Reply
    Karen Vaughan (AHG)
    February 8, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    I have an article on my blog on a great program that gets kids eating real food, fresh food and which improves their nutritional understanding.

  • Reply
    Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move « Food-Fitness-FreshAir
    March 9, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    […] initiative will attempt to fix is the quality of the food that gets put into their stomachs during school lunches.  This will call for the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act and will thus mandate an […]

  • Leave a Reply