Tag Archive | school lunch

a shmear campaign

I really wish I didn’t have to write about this. Other more pressing issues in my brain are asking to be brought forward. However, it was another day in the schools for me, and checking out the cafeteria scene has become one of my pastimes. Here is what I stumbled upon today that I just can’t readily dismiss.

As usual, I approached the lunch line as the little kiddies were lining up, trays in hand.  The black styrofoam mystery boxes stood in formation on the big metal trays coming out of the warmers. I approached the lunch ladies with my pseudo-smile and asked–So what’s for lunch today? The response was, it is not lunch, it is brunch. I was a little taken aback. I admit it was one of the earlier lunch periods, but a quick glance at my surroundings confirmed that this was not Sunday morning at The Four Seasons.

I backed off and decided to see what the kids could tell me. I positioned myself near the little machine where they punch in their assigned lunch number, and then grab their chocolate milk container from the insulated fabric cooler. Really, Jamie Oliver, the cooler carried fifty containers of chocolate milk and two of white, plain, unflavored milk. (I am never sure what is the politically correct name for that milk. )

Image result for bagel-fuls

Bagel-fuls

I asked the kids what’s for lunch. As the meal was still hidden under its patterned plastic wrap, they too were still pretty clueless. All I could see was that there was something wrapped in cellophane with writing on it under the plastic wrap. I soon learned that brunch consisted of two turkey sausages lying on the bottom, appearing quite naked or a tad underdressed if you ask me, a hash brown square, and on top a squished Bagel-ful. Do you have the full picture–or are you stumped because like me you have no idea what a Bagel-ful is?

A Bagel-ful? I did not make this up. Subsequent investigation revealed that apparently Kraft has been marketing this for a few years now and I think you can actually buy these in stores. If you don’t know what a Bagel-ful is, it is a processed rectangular dough product injected with Philadelphia Cream Cheese.

Blasphemy! Is there not some standard of identity for a bagel? Is not a bagel by definition a boiled heavenly dough formed into a circle thereby having a hole in the middle blessed by some senior rabbi and ordained by God? Is a claim of propriety by a food manufacturer not something akin to idol worship? And, isn’t there some omniscient understanding that we should not be serving such meshuggah to children in our schools? How is this for product placement Morgan Spurlock? Is this an example of cost containment in our school lunch programs? Not to mention that the Bagel-ful got heated up in plastic?

Pondering the composition of this meal, I wandered the lunchroom. I think the kids are on to me. Some may be a little suspicious but very deep down I think they know I have their best interests at heart–so they are usually pretty friendly and quite adorable when I stop to chat with them about what they are eating. Today, a kid who chose a turkey sandwich instead of a hot meal asked me to help him to free the sandwich from its plastic bag. It was a good thing I was there. The tie thingy was the kind you can’t undo and you just have to brutally tear the plastic from its tight grip.

My market research showed that a number of kids thought the Bagel-fuls were nasty and did not eat them. However, other kids then asked those kids if they could have it instead. Oh well. The good news is the apples looked good and seemed to get a 100% approval rating. I wonder who made them.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn

kyuushoku

Lunch in a Japanese primary/elementary school:...

School lunch in Japan Image by Currawong1 via Flickr

Though the menu indicated that today’s lunch was called “Mix It Up Day”, I was not sure what was getting mixed up. To me, it looked like school lunch as usual, except that pizza was not the main entree. Working with the School-Based Health Program, I am usually in one of three of the district’s elementary schools on Fridays which is always Pizza Day unless it is Pizza Bagel Day. But, today was a Wednesday.

I headed into the lunchroom to see what was being rearranged or diverging from the norm. “Good afternoon. What’s for lunch today?”, I politely asked the lunch lady placing the black styrofoam containers on the white styrofoam trays that the children clutched as they moved down the line. “Chicken and cheese”, was the response.

Unable to see the contents hidden beneath the patterned cellophane wrap, I tried another gentle inquiry. With no clearer answer, I realized I’d have to figure it out on my own. On my investigational forays into the school lunchrooms, I’ve learned I must always smile broadly, express benign interest and not ask too many questions.

A few steps down, another lunch lady was in charge of two additional meal components–applesauce and puce green overcooked broccoli mush. Using a metal measuring cup she slopped the oozing applesauce into one of the bare compartments on each of the children’s trays. The broccoli mush, considered an optional rather than a required component, just lay in its big tray, ignored. Reminiscent of poor Oliver’s experience in the orphanage in Dicken’s England, I wondered could there not even be a small effort towards more attractive food preparation and presentation.

Continuing my quest to better understand the school lunch scene, and still needing to discover what that main course consisted of, I moved to stroll among the children who were already seated to eat. I found them contending with a dinner roll, two or three battered half dollar-sized circles–which I think was the chicken, and three battered mozzarella cheese sticks. Only one girl’s tray contained the broccoli mush.

While making my way around and talking with some of these students, I surreptitiously surveyed the number of chocolate v. white milk containers, the contents of the lunches brought from home, what was actually being consumed and the waste filling the garbage cans. Finding the subject matter less than appetizing, I maturely suppressed my prone-to-gagging inner child and focused instead on digesting my observations. I could not discern how this day’s menu was mixed up in any noticeable way from others. Certainly, it was no better.

During my drive home, my attention was grabbed by the news being broadcast about the tragic events unfolding in Japan in the wake of the 9.0 magnitude Fukushima earthquake and resultant tsunami. Suddenly, Mix It Up Day took on a new ironic meaning. I began to think of all the children who would not be having school lunch there on this crazy day or for many days to come.

Listening to the news, I remembered that I’d recently received an online article describing school lunches around the globe. I felt certain that Japan must have been one of the highlighted countries. This country of such rich food culture and ritual could surely challenge the widely held belief that we must serve kids low-quality food because that is what they will eat. I arrived home and found what I was looking for.

School lunch in Japanese is called kyuushoku. The lunches are all prepared in the schools, often by mothers of students who serve in this role on a part-time basis. The meals are eaten in the classroom with the teacher. All parents contribute to the cost of the school lunch program and are invited for lunch at times throughout the year. The children, clad in clean aprons, rotate the job of serving the food and no one can start eating until all have received their share. This is in sharp contrast to the chaotic, cacophonous cafeterias or “cafeteriums”  that define school lunch programs in this country. Recently, I had asked a young girl what she thought about my coming to eat with her in the cafeteria. She astutely replied that I would get a headache.

In Japan, local foods are sourced with regional pride, children grow and harvest some of the vegetables that are used by the school, and everyone receives a printed menu that tells what food groups are provided by the meal. Typically provided foods include rice, rice noodles, miso soup with tofu, grilled fish, seafood stir fry, potato croquettes (korokke), stuffed omelette (omurice), daikon radish, sweet yams, bread, and milk. Forty-five minutes are allotted for lunchtime which is followed by recess. Kyuushoku is a well-planned, healthy, and respectful way of feeding the country’s children.

But now, in that topsy-turvy ravaged part of Japan, lunchtime will really be mixed up for millions of Japanese school children in a way more profound than whatever was intended by today’s menu makers. I pray that their bellies be filled with at least some warm rice or noodles. And, I honor the care and intention that defines how Japan tends to the feeding and nourishment of its young. It would serve us well to do the same.

Any school lunch experiences to share?

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn

Related Posts: A Shmear Campaign, Pop Smarts, The Importance of Teaching Kids About Nutrition

Updates 2020/Related Resources: Kyushoku Confidential; Unpacking Japan’s Healthy School Lunches; Gohan Society – Japanese School Lunch (watch the video)

Related Resources: Blogger Eats 162 School Lunches In One Year; Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act 2015

If you are still considering how to donate to relief efforts, please check out the Save the Children website at http://www.savethechildren.org. (inactive link)

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Japanese My Plate

 

 

 

 

 

My Plate Haiku

Did you really think

That you could hide fish in rice?

Oh, the green paste burns.

by Francesco Marciuliano 

from I Could Pee on This and Other Poems by Cats

 

 

 

 

Pop Smarts

Pop-Tarts Frosted Strawberry

Pop-Tarts Image via Wikipedia

Last week was a rather discouraging one for this persevering nutritionist. I knew it was bad, as on Friday I found myself contemplating stopping at a Dunkin Donuts and just drowning myself in one of those massive confectionery pond-sized drinks, weighted down with heavy donut shoes.

The final straw so to speak had occurred just moments before. On Fridays, I work in some elementary schools. As I was packing up my Mary Poppins basket musing on the students I had spent my day with, an announcement came over the loud-speaker. The principal was congratulating a boy for his lack of tardiness or absenteeism for the month of February. His reward was that he got to share a Burger King lunch with some school-level celebrity.

Really? Why don’t you just shoot me in the foot? Well, maybe this boy was being given his fair reward. All the other slackers who had managed to show up on this day got a thick greasy piece of pizza, a cellophane-wrapped bag of carrots (which is more appealing than most of the veggie offerings) a blob of half-frozen mushy blueberries–the ice crystals were visible– and a chocolate milk on their non-recyclable styrofoam tray. That should teach them not to miss school.

The night before I had been at a charter elementary school. I was a presenter with two other speakers on healthy choices for school success. I had been excited that the school had focused a parent meeting on this important topic and was glad to have been invited. Despite good intentions on behalf of the school, only six parents out of a student body of 300 attended. Still, we did our thing.

Out of my Mary Poppins basket, I  passed around, along with some other nutrition shockers, a well-worn packet of Pop-Tarts with an attached baggie filled with the eight and a quarter teaspoons of sugar that it contains. I asked the participants to look at the long list of gruesome ingredients as I talked about nutrition and brain health. After the talk, a staff person approached me. She meekly told me, that if kids get to school late, and miss the provided breakfast, they are given Pop-Tarts. Given the rewarding of non-tardy behavior to only one recipient at the other school, I surmise that no small number of kids are getting their brains doused with such artificial intelligence here. I felt like I was going to cry.  (We did come up with some alternative ideas for the school though.)

Oh well, no biggie. Maybe I was just sensitive because the day before that I had a new eating disordered client who was restricting herself to three hundred calories a day. Or, maybe it was the young diabetic who I had spent many teaching moments with, who came in the day before that with a high blood sugar of 227 and told me that she had a beef patty, some pringle like potato chip I had never heard of, three Oreos and a large-sized can of Arizona Green Tea for breakfast.

Perhaps, most disheartening though was the doctor who totally ignored my concerns about the severe dietary deficiencies of a patient we shared–whose support I really needed to facilitate her care. Like the scenarios I described above, this is really nothing new to me. Doctors untrained in nutrition, give short shrift to diet, except for some lip service when it comes to blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol. I am rather used to being ignored by physicians.

I do not expect my clients, my students, and even school administrators to fully get this whole food and nutrition thing given current conditions. Those with eating struggles would not have them if they were easily understood. Individual schools are not easily able to remedy foodservice limitations. Teachers have many other matters to attend to.

But, I do really expect that by now, even conventionally trained medical providers would appreciate the connection between diet and health and would give attention to meaningful dietary assessments in supporting the treatment of their patients. It is recognized that patients whose doctors inquire about their smoking habits and are told to quit have higher smoking cessation success. To help turn the tide on the nation’s health crisis, doctors’ true embracing of dietary health is essential. Last week, I really needed that doctor to express to our patient who was in the office, concern about her eating and to provide to her some basic nutritional supplements. Instead, out the door, the patient went, with a prescription for one more drug in hand and no mention of my recommendations. I slumped in my chair.

Usually, I can handle situations like this with more aplomb. Maybe I am just a bit depleted in B-vitamins which lowered my resilience. Never mind. Time to re-fortify. Onward.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn