School Lunch

I spent a good two hours this morning watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution on It got me thinking a lot about the school lunches that I had as a kid. I don’t really remember lunch in elementary school that much. I really just remember that there was square pizza on Fridays and everyday you could chose chocolate or white milk. And you could order ice cream on Fridays. I’m sure there must have been more to it than this, but that’s what I remember. I’m pretty sure I drank the chocolate milk every day. In middle school, the cafeteria was priced by item instead of by meal. I remember getting a lot of pizza and french fries. And lemonade. They had a soda machine in the cafeteria but it wasn’t turned on until after school. In high school, I don’t think I ate a single meal in the cafeteria. We had something called Open Lunch and we could leave school for lunch. My high school was located right next to door to Giant (a grocery store) so when we were underclassmen and didn’t drive, we usually got food from there. I do remember getting hummus a lot, but I also remember getting plain bagels and grape soda. When I was old enough to have friends that drove, we went to the mall for lunch.

I went to public school and from what I am remembering, the lunches were pretty abysmal. I can’t tell if they are better, worse or the same now. A couple of things about my childhood lunches seem to stand out to me. First of all, why didn’t we have water? If I remember correctly, in elementary school, the only option was milk. If you offer a kid chocolate or white milk, which do you think they are going to choose?? Secondly, why were there soda machines in the school at all? Even if ours weren’t turned on until after school, is that option really necessary? Not that drinking Countrytime Lemonade is any better, but still.

I worry a lot about how any future children that we might have will eat. I probably worry too much about it. I just don’t want my kids to follow the Standard American Diet and not be able to identify vegetables. But at the same time, I don’t want them to feel like they have to sneak eat “bad” food because they aren’t allowed to have it.

Jason and I were talking about childhood obesity. Back when we were kids, there were like one or two heavy kids in each grade, nothing like you see now. I’m sure that a big part of it is that kids are inside now with video games and the computer and everything. I spent a lot of time outside as a kid. I rode my bike around the neighborhood for hours with other neighborhood kids and spent a large chunk of time outside. And I didn’t really live in a good neighborhood either. I didn’t realize that at the time, but we moved when I was eight because of it. So is childhood obesity mostly from lack of movement, or from the food that kids are eating? Is the food really that different than when we were kids?

Anyway, that show was right up my alley. Although I thought it was funny that the executive producer was Ryan Secreast.

I had a dinner that Jamie Oliver might approve of. Well, probably not because it was pretty low-carb. (Don’t worry Jamie, I had carbs earlier in the day.)


This was really good. I steamed some broccoli slaw and mixed it with Trader Joe’s seafood blend (shrimp, scallops and calamari), pasta sauce and goat cheese. Then I added some crushed red pepper. I felt like I was eating a big plate of pasta. Well, sort of. You know this would actually be really good with a little bit of real pasta too.

Atlantans – Murphy is going to be on the news tomorrow morning. Tune into 11alive in the 6:30 or noon hour to see him. He’s going to be on the Try It Before You Buy It segment. If you’re like me and have no intention of waking up at 6:30 (sorry teachers!) or don’t live in Atlanta, I’ll post the link tomorrow after it’s on the 11alive website. My little tv star.


24 responses to “School Lunch

  1. Everyone has been talking about this show recently, I need to remember to watch it! grrrr.

  2. Awesome thoughts on the Food Revolution. I too watched it this weekend (I actually watched it live and then again on Hulu because I was so excited by it!). I also went to public school and almost always brought my own lunch. I remember my Mom would let us pick one school lunch a week and we usually picked pizza day. I think the lunches were actually better back then though, I remember we had a salad bar all the way through the grades and there were lots of over cooked greenbeans! I am just so happy that he’s spreading the message and informing people that we can’t be satisfied with the state of the school lunch program anymore. It’s truly time for a revolution in my opinion!!! BTW your dinner looks delish! I think Jamie would totally approve!

    • If you go to Jamie Oliver’s website, to the forum, it’s really interesting to read the thread from the people that live in Huntington.

  3. I need to watch this!! What channel is it on? Food Network? From a teacher’s standpoint, the school lunches today are RIDICULOUS compared to what I used to have as a kid. They have baskets of extras lined up next to the cash register (gummy bears, chips, granola bars, ice cream everyday!!) for the kids to buy IN ADDITION to their lunch. This is after they’ve already had snack time earlier in the day. I teach my students all the time that their snack at snack time should be a piece of fruit, a couple crackers and string cheese, or a yogurt. BUT still they come in with chips, candy, AND a cupcake!! It’s ridiculous how these parents send their kids to school with such junk. Convenience over their child’s health?? I’ll be choosing my child’s health, for sure.

    Murphy is famous!! I’ll try and remember to watch before I leave, but definitely post the link in case I miss it!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I haven’t seen that show yet! Do you know what network/weeknight that it’s on? Hilarious that Ryan Seacrest is the producer… what doesn’t he have his hands on?!

    My memories of the HS cafeteria- taco dippers, french fries, pizza and snickers ice cream bars! I wonder if fruit was available and I just didn’t pay attention to it? There were definitely veggies, but they always over-cooked and soaking in butter. Not good.

  5. I need to watch this show. The food that my brothers eat at their high school just sounds horrible. I remember chowing down on Stromboli, pizza, chocolate milk, Little Debbie snacks, etc. I ate so unhealthily in high school (thus my massive weight gain and now loss). When (if) I have children, I plan on packing healthy lunches.

    As for your oatmeal dilemma, for me, I had to mess around with different combinations to find couple “recipes” that I enjoyed. My personal everyday favorite is 1/2 cup of oats, 1 ripe banana, 1 t chia seeds, and possibly a packet of Truvia is the banana isn’t sweet enough. What type of combinations have you tried? I’ve found that smashing the banana with a fork as opposed to chopping it makes the oatmeal much more creamier. If you like fruit in your oatmeal, try microwaving a chopped apple sprinkled with some cinnamon then adding it to your cooked oatmeal. If you still can’t find a good combination, Kashi makes a good instant oatmeal ( and Quaker Oats has a line of lower sugar instant oatmeal.

    Sorry so long! Hopefully you find one you like. Feel free to email with any questions about more combinations. Kath from Kath Eats Real Food ( has a ton of oatmeal recipes too. Good luck on your oatmeal quest ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. That show definitely gave me a lot to think about to. I agree that a big part of the problem is just how STAGNANT kids are these days…no physical education in school, and then hours of video games after school.

    I’ll be interested to see how the town continues to react as the show goes on.

  7. I want to watch this show!! It’s on my list of things to do this week! I’m with you – I see visions of stopsign-shaped pizza, plates of nuggets and fries, and lots of chocolate milk… but, like you, was outside all the time. There weren’t a lot of overweight kids – it’s so sad that it’s become such an issue, especially since I feel like the reduced-fat and fat-free option are getting better, cheaper and more convenient every week! I can’t wait to see Murph on TV!!

  8. i think things ARE a bit different — part of it the less movement thing that you talked about (video games + more kid-centric TV), and part of it increased portion size (esp of sugary beverages) and a mentality that kids are ‘supposed’ to snack all day. i’m not sure when that became standard, but it seems like the norm based on what i see and hear about in my clinic.

    i usually brought lunch from home — my mom’s freaky looking whole wheat bread with pb&j was the norm. when i bought it was like a ‘special’ thing and i was all about the square pizza and ‘cheesesteaks’ that were served in our elementary school caf (i grew up outside of phila). and i would always pick lemonade or sweetened iced tea to drink! gross . . .

  9. I didn’t see the show, but I saw him on Oprah and love the idea. I LOVE Jamie – so sexy! But back to his show. It’s SO SAD to me that this will be the first generation of kids who will not live as long as their parents. Honestly, I do think the food is to blame, but also lack of activity. Sure, they had video games when I was a kid (Ghetto-tendo!), but we played outside, rode our bikes, played freeze tag….and you just don’t see kids doing that as much nowadays.

    I HOPE this show will encourage schools to make a change in their menus. If kids can learn to love fruits and veggies at school, maybe they’d be more likely to eat them at home. But something has to be done!

  10. I agree a lot about what you posted. When I was teaching and saw the food from the cafeterias I don’t remember it being any different than the types of things served when I was growing up. The only difference I think is the extra options. The high school I worked at always had 3 different meal options and one would always be something like pizza or chicken tenders or the like. The kids ALWAYS chose that. I think the biggest issue is the cost and the fact that fresh produce and healthier options tend to be more expensive. Something needs to happen to make those options more readily available to students and to the schools to be able to serve them. Kids have to learn healthier habits somewhere and its obvious they aren’t getting it in some homes. Like I said before, I know I will probably end up packing Makenzie’s lunch, but will be sure to include some “fun” foods regularly (but in proper portions) so she doesn’t feel deprived. It is such a fine balance. And the lack of activity is DEFINITELY the culprit in childhood obesity in my opinion. Without a doubt in my mind.

  11. i definitely had chocolate milk everyday in elementary school! and your right, i don’t think water was an option…there was milk, chocolate milk, and juice. i remember eating a lot of corn dogs and push-up pops. eww. i haven’t seen the jamie oliver show yet, but i need to go watch it soon!

  12. I have Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution taped, but haven’t watched it yet. I’m really psyched about it though! Maybe tonight?

    My middle school sounds almost the same as yours, and our high school was priced by the item too. A full hot lunch was $2, but I used to (gulp) buy 3 bags of chips and one frozen yogurt instead (50 cents each), and eat that for lunch. HOW DISGUSTING IS THAT. I can’t believe I was normal weight as a kid. I know it’s not healthy to eat like that, but sometimes I wish for those days of getting to eat whatever and not gain weight!

    We had juice machines (HA – Fruitopia and Countrytime Lemonade, which were like 10% fruit juice and mostly sugar) that were on all day, and soda machines that turned on at 1pm when all the lunches were done… so you could go buy soda to drink during your afternoon classes. Horrible.

  13. When I was a kid, I actually attended a one room school house for part of elementary school (there was only one other kid in the same grade as me), so we had home-cooked food there for lunch. And then later, when I went to regular public school, my mom almost always packed my lunch. I remember always being pissed off that I had to eat an apple while everyone else was chowing down on pizza, but I guess she really did have my best interests in mind ๐Ÿ™‚

    But, I do think school lunch is an important issue facing the country’s public schools. As is the cutting of gym class and recess (FYI, my youngest brother and sister went to school a few years in Atlanta and their elementary school had no recess). Most studies indicate that kids who are well-nourished and exercised perform better academically.

    Plus, while providing a more nutritionally sound lunch may be more costly in the short term, it is more cost effective in the long term: Think of all those health care bills that may be avoided by raising children to be healthy adults! Of course, don’t get me started with heathcare; I think I’ve tangoed enough with people on that issue in the past few weeks ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. I definitely think the school lunch needs a serious revolution. When I see what my students eat I’m disgusted. A lot of my kids parents limit the amount of times they can buy lunch, but we should be serving healthy enough lunches that the parents wouldn’t have to do that. You know that if you leave it up to the parents the kids who MOST need the nutritious food at school won’t be getting it. I also think teachers can be good models. I told my kids how much I love yogurt and now I have tons of kids getting yogurt lunch instead of the “hot” (read: gross) meal! We have to set a good example while they are young.

    I only caught a little bit of the show but I’m looking forward to watching future episodes!

  15. Oh my gosh I saw Murphy on the news this morning and didn’t even realize it was him! I just now read this post, but since I am Golden Retriever obsessed, I totally noticed him and actually said to my husaband “Look how cute that golden is!” That’s awesome. How did you get him on there?

  16. i NEED to watch that show. i keep forgetting.