Dec 18, 2010

Vintage/Modern School Lunch Comparison

I haven't read much but the headlines to date, but apparently Michelle Obama is making an effort to increase the nutrition levels for our nation's children. I don't know the details yet (but I will be researching later). That's not really what this post is about.

What it IS about is the memory lane journey that the headlines produced for me.

I attended elementary school (public) in the late 60s and early 70s. (OK, I just gagged a bit after typing that.) My hometown is Tampa, Florida. There was (is still, I think) a huge Cuban population there and ALL of my elementary teachers were Cuban-Americans.

Well, apparently all my "lunch ladies" were, too. A typical cafeteria lunch for us was the following:

  • Black beans and rice
  • Green salad
  • Orange quarters
  • Whole white milk
  • Small piece of chocolate sheet cake

Compare that to what I saw in our paper today:

  • Cheeseburger
  • Green beans
  • Pasta Salad
  • Choice of white or chocolate milk (2%)
  • Blueberry Crisp

I did a quick calculation of the two lunches and determined the following (I rounded figures and used THIS site for general figures):

  • 1973 Typical (Tampa) lunch: 600 calories, 20 grams of fat
  • 2010 Typical (Up North) lunch: 1120 calories, 50 grams of fat

When I was in school, a child who was overweight was so unusual that it was conspicuous. Now it seems the numbers are considerably higher. Perhaps the above quick calculation gives a hint as to why?

As an overweight person, I know exactly why I am fat. For me it has nothing to do with thyroid or any other beyond-my-control issue. It has to do with the abundance of easily available junk food, processed foods, and fast food restaurants--and my struggle to stay away from them.

It appears that our schools have transformed their cafeterias so that what is served is not a lot different from the corner fast food joint.

Perhaps Michelle Obama will be able to do something about what is served in our schools. Perhaps she can even provide some sort of motivation to parents to purchase whole, healthy foods for their children (and also direct their developing taste buds).

What are your memories of school lunches? For what elementary years? What do you think about this entire subject?


Rebecca said...

hmmmm...memories of school lunches in the 70's? I have Facebook friends from my growing up years who would confirm that the fondest memory was every Wednesday's chili soup and cinnamon roll! (I wonder if that roll would fit into your 600-calorie lunch?) But yes, there was always milk, fruit, and vegetable to go with whatever protein and bread that was on the tray.

I also have a memory of one girl who always mashed her canned peas and poured chocolate milk on them. And ate them. (attention getter?)

Mrs.Phillips said...

When I was in elementary school, (in the early 90's) on days that I didn't take lunch there was pizza some type of canned veggie, fruit cocktail, salad, milk or chocolate milk ( i think) and if you forgot your lunch you got a pb and j sandwich (with too much pb and j on it) and a string cheese and milk.

I also think that it that kids aren't active anymore, even when I got home from school I would still be outside playing with the neighbor kids, sun or snow. I don't think kids are like that much now, with video games, AND i still question, what does a eight year old need with a cell phone??

Packrat said...

Well, this is dating me, but there wasn't a hot lunch program in our town until I was in the third grade, but we didn't eat at school. We walked or rode our bikes home for lunch. (Exercise! It was at least a 1/2 mile one way.) I do remember being jealous of those who got to eat hot lunch. Seems there was always a meat, vegetable, fruit, milk (never chocolate), bread or potatoes, and dessert.

You are right, the new lunches are full of fat: Chicken nuggets, pizza, hamburgers, almost always french fries or nuggets, in other words, fast food restaurant stuff.

When I was working at (private) school - often volunteering in the lunch room, too, we did our own thing with lunches. We were very careful what we fed the children. Then - some of the parents decided the lunches needed to be federally subsidized. (I fought this tooth and nail, and made a few enemies.) Guess what? There is a guide line (menus of sorts) of what is allowed to be fed to the students. You got it - high fat content fast food restaurant style "stuff".

Anonymous said...

Great topic!All the local schools post their breakfast and lunch menus in our little county newspaper. It's all GARBAGE! So you get a poptart for breakfast or some sugared up "cereal" and then you can feast on "chicken fries" for lunch? What on earth are chicken fries anyway?! And, parents presumable have to pay for this junk?

When I was in school we had similar junk but I think the portions were smaller and we weren't allowed to buy ala cart choices very often. Our main treat was being able to buy choc milk once a week and on Fridays they allowed kids to buy ONE little Debbie item for a quarter.

I always got the free hot lunch and was actually jealous of the kids that brought their own lunch because a lot of times it looked like their parents really loaded them down with goodies (specifically, little debbies, hostess pies and bags of chips). It's interesting to note that seldom was their a fat child or even a very pudgy child. Even the ones that got goodies in their lunchs ran the calories off playing. In my elementary school, we only had 1 child out of all 6 grades that was truely obese. Now, if you go buy a school yard at recess time, half the kids are noticibly overweight.

Roxanne said...

Rebecca--Even with the roll being white flour, all the rest of the meal you mentioned provided a lot of nutrition!

But, seriously, canned peas and chocolate milk? Gag me with a spoon!

Roxanne said...

Mrs. Phillips--I agree. There seemed to be a LOT more activity before computers/games got down to the elementary set.

Roxanne said...

Packrat--Amazing, isn't it? Horrifying as well. Neighborhood schools were such a part of the whole family-oriented way. In our state, one-room schoolhouses were still in operation in the 60s. Sadly that has all gone by the wayside.

Roxanne said...

Trixie--the results of parents "loading them up with goodies" and the lack of exercise has become so obvious as you pointed out. Daily junk instead of once-a-week treat has become the norm. "Moderation" has gone the way of the dinosaur.

The ONE girl in my class who was overweight (and probably not by a lot) was that way because of allergies. NORMAL was a healthy weight, plenty of activity, and a reasonably balanced diet. Could it have been better even then? Of course. Sad, sad, sad.

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