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.