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Lunch Lady

March 18, 2010

Have you heard about the teacher who is eating school lunch every day this year and anonymously blogging about it? Mad props. She is doing it to bring attention to the fact that school lunch food is terrible both nutritionally and palatably. Let me add smellily. I actually think my schools probably have better lunches than many, but the smell of cafeteria food is not very appetizing. Apparently, she fears for her job if discovered, which I hope is an invalid fear; since she is not identifying her school or school district, not impugning them specifically, but school food in general, I can’t imagine that her job actually is at risk.

As a kid, I wanted to eat “hot lunch” more often then I got to. I brought my lunch through most of elementary school. I am pretty sure my mom did this because she had to eat school lunches when she was in school. Frankly, I did not eat lunch for much of middle and high schools, which was surely not great nutrition, either.

Coincidentally, I heard this little story on NPR yesterday (go ahead and have a listen–you clearly have time on your hands) describing the devolution of school lunches from actual hot meals to…whatever you would call them today. Reagan’s budget cuts slashed the subsidies that kept the prices low, which I am sure seemed reasonable–why pay for kids’ food when they are perfectly able to pay for themselves? Unintended consequences and all, it turned out that once the prices weren’t (artificially) low, the able-to-pay crowd dropped out and brought their own lunches. That left the kids who get free and reduced price lunches to be the only ones eating cafeteria food, making the economics of it worse (fewer kids meant the cafeteria did not benefit from the economy of scale), and the stigma of eating a school lunch great; it became something only the poor kids ate. To lure back some paying customers, schools started offering…crap: potato chips, soda, ice cream, etc. In my school district, the cafeterias are independent entities–they are for-profit operations, not part of the school budget. I wonder how common that is?

Anyway, to the Teacher Willing to Subject Self to Endless Round of Hot Dogs and Cheese Pizza: we salute you.

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