Days of Rectangle Pizza and Lemon-Juiced Apples

Thanks to Mr. Jamie Oliver (who is pretty awesome, let’s just get that out of the way), school lunches seem to be the hot issue right now. With all the talk, I’m starting to think that perhaps my cafeteria days were a bit unusual.

For starters, Mr. Coke and Ms. Pepsi were persona non grata at my elementary school, as were their generic equivalents; once my mom tried to send a can of “IGA” root beer in my lunch box and it was quickly confiscated by the eagle-eyed principal who happened to be policing the area at the time. “We drink milk in this school,” he sternly informed me, the fourth-grade miscreant who was already plotting at how to get back at my mom for the embarrassment she caused me by placing this banned substance in my possession.

Drink milk, we did. I’m from Wisconsin, after all – have to support the local industry. (You graduate to keeping brewing business afloat about the same time you receive your diploma, by the way.) Most high schools have gymnasium scoreboards donated by and emblazoned with one of the aforementioned soda brands. Not so with my school – ours were branded with the word “KEMPS” and some stereotypical cow clip art.

We also had no soda machines in my school district. There was a milk (are you surprised?) and a juice machine, and they were turned off most of the time. While some schools had fast-food a la carte items (I remember being insanely jealous of my cousin’s lunchtime Pizza Hut meals), we had none – but you could buy some ice cream sold by members of the FFA.

Though I didn’t eat lunch at high school (see http://wp.me/ppaqG-2R for details), I remember my elementary school meals very clearly. Who could forget industrial peanut butter that had the same consistency as ketchup? Or apple slices you couldn’t eat without screwing your face up at the sourness of the lemon juice poured on them to keep them fresh while indecisive kids shuffled their way through the food line? And who didn’t love the rectangle-shaped pizza, with square pepperoni pieces? My school’s cafeteria must have had a vendetta against roundness, I guess. Vegetables like corn and salad were frequent residents on our plastic trays, and I really don’t remember us ever getting items like cake or brownies. Maybe once in awhile.

Overall, I feel like kids in my school may have fared better than a lot of schools around the country. And yet, I still ended up obese – and the why’s and how’s of that are best left for a future blog post that will undoubtedly be incredibly lengthy.

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8 thoughts on “Days of Rectangle Pizza and Lemon-Juiced Apples

  1. I have been thinking about this topic a lot lately. Especially in high school, our choices were not good. We had Papa John’s as an option two days a week… how is that for fighting obesity??

  2. My school (in Virginia, not Wisconsin!) was the same way. We did have 3 milk options (whole, 2% and chocolate–red, blue and brown respectively). K-8, you had two options. Eat whatever they gave you (no a la carte at all) or bring your own lunch.

    In high school, we graduated to three options. Eat whatever they gave you, nachos and honey buns, or bring your own lunch. Sadly, I think most people chose nachos and honey buns!

  3. i definitely attended one of those ‘a-la-carte’ schools. we had fast food from every end of the u.s. mcdonalds, taco bell, you name it. and soda machines galore. fortunately, even though my mom wasn’t around in the morning, by not providing me with lunch money she inadvertently forced me to make my own. so, while many days it was nutella slabbed on 2 pieces of wheat bread, applesauce and some windmill cookies, it was probably slightly better than the grease kids ate at school.

    although i didn’t eat great.. at least it taught me how to be self-sufficient. pros and cons i guess.. right?

  4. I was part of the “Milk Program” in elementary school. SO i drank milk with my home made lunch from home. I went to catholic school so there was no lunch program except pizza day once a week. JHS was interesting, since i am from NY and there is a large student population the schools have to stagger the lunch periods, mine was at 10:30 am. Like seriously 10:30??? i was never hungry but had to eat to make it thru til 2:30. The lunch was exactly what you saw on the school that Jamie oliver visited, but no soda was served just juice or chocolate milk. HS, i have to say i never went to the cafeteria, i had my coke and apple for lunch, i was terrible barely eating lunch AND playing sports on an empty stomach. But there were soda machines EVERYWHERE in the shcool, which is probably where my soda addiction began. Now at work, there are pantries with soda machines and junk food so that doesnt help. My company has tried to put healthier snacks int he machines and label them with a healthy heart, so they are making an effort.

  5. Jennifer – I haven’t thought about windmill cookies in forever! Did you also have the maple leaf cookies? Those were the best! Lol. Your lunch choices were undoubtedly better than what you could have purchased in your cafeteria, srsly how does fast food pass for every day lunch in this country? (((occassional treats)))

  6. Ulla, that’s great that your workplace is doing that! I’m lucky that since I work at a university, I have more food options available to me than the average office – but I have to walk if I want to get it, lol. Sometimes laziness wins over desire to buy lunch other than what I’ve packed, which is okay too, haha!

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