What's for lunch

The Ed Wonks link to a British story on school lunches around the world. Chef Jamie Oliver has been running TV shows ripping the lid off school lunches, which treat “finnicky five-year-olds as powerful consumers whose demands must be met in case they take their spending power elsewhere (ie, down the local chippie), writes The Telegraph.

So far we have endured a rollercoaster of high tragedy (a 13-year-old girl who identifies a stick of rhubarb as an onion) and low farce (the revelation that schools spend 35p a head to feed a growing child).

Perhaps even more chillingly, parents across Britain have been introduced to possibly the two most depressing words in the English language: turkey Twizzler. But are Britain’s children being given a raw deal (as well as an overcooked, nutrient-free meal) compared to other countries?

The French spend twice as much on school lunches. “A typical menu might comprise a starter of grapefruit followed by grilled chicken with green beans, then a cheese course, with rice pudding for afters.”

In Spain, it is not unusual for children to bring home a list of their school meals at the beginning of each week. Every meal is broken down into fat, protein, carbohydrate, vitamin and mineral content and an approximate calorific value is given. More astonishing still is the additional suggestion of what the child should be given for its evening meal, to ensure the whole day’s food intake has been nutritionally balanced.

The Finns announce school menus a month in advance.

Today in Helsinki, 50,000 Finnish schoolchildren will be dining on ham and potato casserole, cabbage casserole and mashed lingonberries. Vegetarians will eat root vegetable casserole with coconut milk and beetroot casserole.

In Japan, the principal and teachers eat the same lunch as their students.

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  1. I really like the idea of teachers and admin eating the same thing as the students. It seems to me that we should adopt this model also. Additionally, the school district superintendent and staff should be added to the list.

  2. Walter E. Wallis says:

    What is the wine?

  3. Mike, why should I be compelled to eat what my students eat? Am I not a big enough boy that I can choose to eat whatever it is I want for lunch? Talk about a nanny-state.

    If your goal is to have better cafeteria food, there are better, more American, ways of going about it than having Momma Government tell me what I have to eat.

  4. Ross the Heartless Conservative says:

    Get a grip, there is a huge difference between your employer saying that you will set a good example at lunch by eating with the kids and someone kicking down your door and forcing rutabaga pie down your throat. It might well be that requiring the school employees to eat the same as the kids is a horrible idea. Your paranoid rant about fear of the government that gives you your paycheck is not an argument though, it is an embarrassment.

    To all,
    As a point of curiosity, how does it work now? If you work at a school with a closed campus do you have options that the students don’t have?

    Thanks in advance.

  5. darren,

    Assuming the kids can’t leave for lunch, THEY are compelled to eat the food, so why should you be any different? It there is anything that kids pick up on it’s hypocricy. There are two points here. One is leadership, and the other is that when the adults that make the decisions have to live with the results (as do the students), their decisions tend to get better. It’s called feedback.

  6. superdestroyer says:


    The first rule of leadership is never ask other people to do things that you would not do yourself. Besides, who would be more effective complaining about the food, the students or the staff?

  7. Yet another benefit of home education. My son not only ate the same food as his teachers, but got to participate in the selection and preparation.

  8. Mmmmm…cheese course!

  9. Rutabaga pie?

  10. Darren,

    Can I have the link for the Montana Freemen Central School website? I can’t seem to find it on Google. Thanks!


  11. Mad Scientist says:

    You know, there are some places in the US where this is done on a routine basis: boarding schools (where faculty room and board are benefits).

    Also, most employers (schools and businesses) in China supply the food for their employees at lunchtime (saves on downtime).

    Further, in Europe, company cafeteria are heavily subsidized and quite good (and in Italy Walter, you can get wine).

    One last note: it’s not how much (or little) one spends, it’s how well prepared the food is. Make it edible, and they will come.

  12. I don’t need to be lectured about leadership; I graduated from West Point and led soldiers for several years, thank you very much. I’ve also served as union rep and district math chair. I’m well versed in what leadership is.

    Given we only have 30 min for lunch and we teachers have to ask permission to leave campus, even for lunch, I *bring my own lunch*, an option available to *all* students. No one should be compelled to eat anything sold in the cafeteria.

    Nor were my comments a right-wing rant, at least they weren’t intended to be. I ask again, why should I be compelled to eat *any* food? Why are you so willing to see me compelled to do so?

    I’ll tie in with Walter’s comment: if you’re whining has to do with the quality of cafeteria food, fix it. There are good ways and bad ways to fix it–requiring *me* to eat it because *you* think it’s bad doesn’t strike me as a very adult solution.

    And I don’t have a “paranoid fear” about the government. In fact, I support President Bush 🙂 It’s pretty sad when wanting my option to eat my own lunch is considered a “paranoid fear”. Joanne, where did all these socialists come from? I don’t see them on this site very often.

  13. superdestroyer:

    I got to thinking more about your comment on leadership.

    *You* think there’s a problem, and *you* want to make it *my* problem hoping *I’ll* fix it? Doesn’t sound like leadership to me.

  14. Walter E. Wallis says:

    On the other hand, a designated officer usually eats in the enlisted mess, theoretically to ensure against maggots in the gruel.

  15. superdestroyer says:


    It is about ownership of the problem. If none of the faculty (leaders) ever eat the food, then they (like you) see the problem as someone elses. If you eat the same things the kids eating, then your problem is the same as the kids problem. Yet, you can do a lot more about the quality of the food than the kids can.

    Your logic that leaves the trash in curb all day because you weren’t the one who put it there instead of picking it up.

  16. You’re right. It *is* about ownership. It’s *not* my problem.

    If the food sucks, the market should take care of it by having students bring their own lunch. Having me subsidize what you think is bad food by being compelled to pay for and eat it seems to be a very poor solution.

    Why are you so intent on making this a teacher’s problem? Do you want me to focus on math, or should I take up a crusade against bad cafeteria food? And while I’m at it, are there other battles I should fight? Should I campaign against sex ed on campus, or against the left-wing tilt of so many of our teachers? Should I fight to have behind-the-wheel driver’s training brought back to the school? Should I scream for or against NCLB?

    Or should I focus on math, and let the students vote about cafeteria food with their wallets? No one’s forcing them to stand in line to buy it.

  17. Walter,

    After eating a lot of mess halls, I can state that the “designated” officer model didn’t work for crap. On the other hand, maybe it did, because that is certainly what the food resembled.


  18. I have to admit this is a first. I’ve been called a lot of things (many unprintable, and at times deserved), but socialist has never been one of them. I did get a very good belly laugh from it though.

  19. I assert that if *you* think there’s a problem, *you* should find a way to solve it that doesn’t require forcing *me* to do something.

    If there’s a problem at your kid’s school, be a leader and address it with the administration. Form a committee, attend the school board meetings, address the cost issue. In other words, act like an adult and fix it.

    Don’t dump the problem on me and expect me to fix it.

  20. Darren’s right, guys – it’s not the faculty’s problem if cafeteria food isn’t good.

    The teachers (and I believe generally the principal and other administrators) don’t make decisions about what’s in the cafeteria. That’s normally district admin, yes? Or perhaps the school administrators, but I’d be amazed if the teachers even got asked for input.

    Making them eat cafeteria food appears to be nothing more than an attempt to force them to do something in order to use their assumed distaste for it as leverage. Even without whipping out Kant, using people purely as means to an end is repulsive.

    If you want improved school menus (not necessarily a bad idea, though how good an idea it is varies. Last school menus I saw around here looked perfectly reasonable), lobby the school board and whoever actually makes the decisions.

  21. Thank you, Sigivald. I like the reference to Kant.

  22. superdestroyer says:


    When I go into a commerical establishment, do I have to figure out which employee is responsbile for the dirty floor, the lousy service, etc, or do I identify the first employee I can find and complain to them and the customers except them to handle it. Yet, you seem to believe that teachers are a separate class from the other paid employees of the school system. Wrong. You are an employee and if the customers (parents and students) then you should act just like any other employee.

    If you worked in health care, you would be the kind who steps over a dying person because hey, it is not my job and I have other things to do.

  23. superdestroyer’s post makes no sense. Even the kids aren’t forced to eat the food but you want to force free adults to eat it?

    Just becaause you are an employee does not mean that the employer owns your body to the point of being able to decide what food goes in it.

  24. Of all the provocative posts on Joanne’s blog, I find it disturbing that this one illicits the most passion.


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