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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What I learned in the cafeteria....this year

My first year as elementary lunch lady is complete. Our last day of school was on Friday. It was a very educational experience and I'm not being facetious.

I started this column to get a laugh but then realized that maybe I was actually teaching a few of you out there about some of the things I find appalling about school lunch.

Maybe if enough of us become appalled we can make a difference.

So for my final What I learned in the Cafeteria post until the start of school in late August (yep, I'm going back for more), here is what I learned.

  • Personalities are a funny thing: Even working in a K-3 building you can kind of get an idea of who is going to be the most popular, the most athletic, the biggest nerd, the meanest girl.
  • Everyone deserves to eat. It boggles my mind that some parents won't take the time to fill out the paperwork needed for free/reduced lunch, but yet habitually fail to put money in their child's account resulting in a cheese sandwich and a milk. It is with great pleasure that I tell you that we didn't serve a single cheese sandwich on Friday. Because of the generosity of ALL of the lunch ladies, the aides and the principal in my building, everyone surprisingly had enough money in their account to eat and I remain fuzzy on how that occurred.
  • Menus can be deceiving: Do you know we are allowed to put things on the menu like "Assorted Chicken Items" and just serve whatever chicken bits we have? Do you know that when your child's menu says "ham sandwich" it may, in fact, be turkey disguised as ham. Apparently, they make something called turkey-ham. It looks like ham, smells like ham but happens to be a dead turkey. It makes me thankful that I don't eat meat.
  • Drying the trays. Many of you have complained to me that at your child's school the trays are always wet. Did you know it is again health regulations to dry the tray with a towel? I'm still not clear on this one.
  • Apples. Did you know that we were written up by that same health inspector who won't let us dry trays with a towel for serving apples out of a pan with no tongs? Have you ever seen a kindergartner pick up an apple with a pair of tongs? Do you know we have a certain amount of time in which to feed 235 kids and tongs make that very difficult.
  • Waste not, Want not. The amount of food wasted by even my small elementary school would break your heart. We could truly feed the world. If you have a composting company in your area, find out what it would take to get the school district on board.
  • Try something new. If you, like me, don't have a composting company nearby, teach your child the importance of trying something new. Many of our kids will just pitch it, rather than taste it. This year alone I was asked what a fresh pear was, why the orange was red (blood oranges), what broccoli was, if Canadian bacon was the same as deer meat, and if you can eat the skin on a banana.
  • Milk choices. If it was up to me, I would only serve white milk. The sugar content in flavored milk is nearly the same as a soda. Yep. You wouldn't let your child pour Mt. Dew on their Fruit Loops at home, so teach them that white milk is the best milk. Chocolate and Strawberry should be left for dessert.

Here's hoping for a lazy, relaxing, enjoyable summer where someone serves me lunch every now and then.

3 random thoughts:

Gina said...

Amen, sister. I drink skim milk from the cafeteria but once in a while I splurge on chocolate. The sugar is ridiculous. And the wasting food? Heartbreaking indeed. It makes me sick to walk through our cafeteria at the end of a lunch shift. And the tongs thing? What's the difference if all the kids are touching the tongs with their germy little hands anyway?

Jenners said...

I actually learned quite a bit from this column ... and not all of it so happy and good. In fact, it is convincing me that perhaps my son will brown bag it next year. I'm glad you'll be returning next year ... it made for some good posts.

septembermom said...

You taught me some things here too. I agree that there is too much waste. The tongs requirement is just nutty. I'm picturing apples rolling everywhere.

Congrats to you for surviving this year. I bet the kids loved having you there :)

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I'm a 41 year old (gasp) freelance writer, school cafeteria manager, wife and mother. I have three children and one anxious and overweight beagle. I use my blog to make others laugh, to share some cool crafts, to document my lunchlady adventures and to lament about the challenges faced by us all on the journey called life. Thanks for visiting. Please leave some meant some comments.
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