Saving money on school lunches

Cutting hot-meal options and cafeteria jobs could save New York City schools $23.7 million next year, reports the Wall Street Journal. Under Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal, schools that offer three hot-meal choices would offer only two; schools that now offer two would go down to one. But some parents and “food activists” object.

Given New York’s budget problems, something has to give, writes Colin on the AAE blog. He’d rather get rid of the grilled cheese sandwich than make do with fewer books or teachers.

Elizabeth Puccini, founder of a group to promote more environmentally friendly schools, claims the lunch cuts will create “a real food-justice issue.” City Council member Gale Brewer bemoaned, “Cutting down on food choices is a tragedy and it’s outrageous.” Really? A tragedy?

. . . City Council member Gale Brewer noted, “Kids are picky and now they may not eat.” Perhaps those kids need to talk to their grandparents more, who had to walk uphill seven miles to and from school, in the snow, and were grateful to have day-old bread and a glass of tap water at lunch.

When I was in elementary school, we walked home for lunch — uphill through the snow. In middle school, we had one unappetizing lunch choice. I seem to remember beefaroni with a side of pallid carrots and peas.  We’d have been thrilled to get a grilled cheese sandwich. In high school, there were two choices, I think. The cafeteria was so awful — huge, noisy, dirty, smelly — that I avoided it after the first few weeks of ninth grade.

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Comments

  1. Michael E. Lopez says:

    I don’t seem to remember choices for my lunch, either. It was a monthly calendar that came out in advance that TOLD you exactly what you would be eating that day.

    But I would prefer the lunches we had to the lunches I’ve seen in LAUSD schools.

    They don’t get milk cartons. They get a BAG of milk. A bag. You have to clip the corner and then drink very carefully.

    They don’t get Nachos. They get a small tub of semi-congealed cheese and a few stale chips.

    The “chicken nuggets” were over 50% breading by volume, and they were tiny, dessicated things in any event.

    I was doing some volunteer work there a few years back and I got to see a regular stream of the most unappetizing, most obviously non-nutritious crap I could imagine.

    It made me weep for memories of salisbury steak and overdone hamburgers. Yes, it was bad. But it was at least FOOD.

  2. The ones who don’t bring their lunch should get simple lunches like peanut butter sandwiches, tomato soup, milk, and a piece of fresh fruit. It’s not the school’s job to cater to the sophisticated palates of their pint-sized patrons.

  3. It’s pathetic to think we’re even having this conversation. Dump hot lunches altogether. Give them a sandwich, water, and a banana.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    Yet we survived.
    I believe we had two lunches, one for forty cents and one for thirty or thirty-five cents. This was some time ago. One entree choice, with appropriate sides. Slice of chicken breast with mashed and gravy, veggies, fruit. I think dessert was in the vending machines.
    I talked, years ago, with my congresscritter’s office about the school lunch program. His history of it was that the motivation was the entrance exams for troops in WW II. They had not been, mostly, malnourished as much as mishourished–Depression times–and it was felt that a single meal done right would remedy the rest of the day’s failings, if any.
    And the ag lobby thought it was a terrific idea.
    There are always stories about failures, such as the mac&cheese with hash browns on the side, but the school can do better if they think about it.
    We could insist that kids bring their lunches but when no’count parents start screwing that up, and they will, the politics of “for the children” will bring us back to providing at least one good meal.
    Cutting the food–per the LAUSD story above–in order to keep the food service employees employed seems…perfectly predictable from a public entity.

  5. Richard Nieporent says:

    When I was in elementary school, we walked home for lunch — uphill through the snow. In middle school, we had one unappetizing lunch choice. I seem to remember beefaroni with a side of pallid carrots and peas. We’d have been thrilled to get a grilled cheese sandwich. In high school, there were two choices, I think. The cafeteria was so awful — huge, noisy, dirty, smelly — that I avoided it after the first few weeks of ninth grade.

    That brings back memories of growing up in the Bronx in the 1950s. Yes we would also come home for lunch every day. In junior high school and high school I would bring lunch every day so I didn’t have to eat what passed for food in the cafeteria. It did not look very appetizing.

  6. I never bought school lunch because they were so unappealing looking. And no, there was never a choice. Your choice was buy what they made, or bring lunch from home. So I carried peanut butter or a cheese sandwich from home or something. (I would have had a hard time in the “peanut free” districts that exist now).

    it might have been nice to have had a hot lunch now and then, but I remember seeing hamburgers with what looked like the hulls from oats embedded in them. (I suppose they used something to “stretch” the meat).

  7. Here’s this week’s lunch menu for our homeschool:

    Monday: PB&J on wheat bread, apple, Fig Newtons
    Tuesday: chicken noodle soup (canned Progresso), crackers with cheese, an orange, Famous Amos cookies
    Wednesday: Ham and swiss on a roll, banana, red pepper slices, fudge pop (Skinny Cow)
    Thursday: Mac ‘n cheese (basically pasta with chedder melted in), green salad, Fig Newtons
    Friday: Grilled cheese, string beans, watermelon

    I realize it’s quite a task cooking for several hundred + people, but why not keep it as simple as possible? My children get very few choices about meals. If they’re hungery the eat, if not…well then they’re not THAT hungry. 🙂

  8. Walking uphill to and from school.

    I like that.

    It reminds me of the story of Hanzel and Gretel who crossed a river for the first time on the way back to their home.

  9. GoogleMaster says:

    In my district of over 200,000 students, 80% of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, they could save money by not also cooking breakfast for 60,000+ students. Problem is, the previous superintendent *encouraged* parents to send their kids to school for breakfast. My teacher friends tell me that they have seen the entire family show up for breakfast, all crowded around and eating off of the one eligible student’s tray.

  10. Ideally, students should have a class where they prepare lunch for other students.

    Mealtime is a great educational opportunity.

  11. If the argument is that many kids – in some schools, almost all – don’t get fed at home and are therefore in need of one decent meal, I have a nutritious, inexpensive and easy suggestion. I recently volunteered to assemble food packets for Haitian relief: each 1-qt ziplock baggie was filled with designated quantities of dried vegetables, powdered chicken broth, protein granules (soy, I assume) and rice. We were given samples of the cooked product and it tastes good. A number of the volunteers were early ES kids – a learning opportunity on fractions, weights and measurement. As Robert says, a learning opportunity; kids could do the whole thing.

    Of course, the whole school lunch/breakfast program (some places send backpacks of food home for weekends and provide lunches in the summer, too), is government-enabled parental irresponsibility.