Snack Attack No. 22

Just Another Brick In My Craw

Jennifer Wohletz
2 min read
Crusty, indeed.
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I just ate lunch in an elementary school cafeteria, and I have to say I’m disappointed to report that school lunches have not changed one f-ing bit in 20 years.

I’m often intrigued by the school lunch menu that my kid brings home. They seem to contain many more thoughtful, nutritious and carefully prepared items than I can ever remember ingesting. I used to be that kid that loved school lunches, even though I had my very own Strawberry Shortcake lunch box with the matching Thermos. My dad was the master of such bachelor-driven meals-to-go as fried chili dog sandwiches with a side of powdered donuts and a bottle of RC Cola. (Yeah, I’m
that old.) But I digress.

My child’s menu produces lunches like “beef teriyaki bites with oriental rice, oriental vegetables, fresh fruit and milk,” or “corn chip pie, mixed green salad with dressing, applesauce, cinnamon twist.” The day I dined at the kiddy café the menu boasted “grilled cheese pocket, oven fries, pickle spear, chilled pears and milk.” No problem. I grabbed a lunch tray, and was immediately annoyed that even though the adult price for lunch was $2.75 (the kids pay $1.40), I didn’t get hooked up with any extra grub. I sat on a tiny, one-butt-cheek-maximum plastic stool, and surveyed my tray.

I had a small pile of limp, undercooked crinkle fries, two plastic portion cups, one filled with canned pears, one with pickle chips. But the crowning glory of the meal (drumroll, please) was an “Uncrustables” grilled cheese sandwich, heated up in the wrapper to a level of crisp that you usually find in a car mat that’s never been washed.

The eight-ounce carton of 2 percent milk did very little to help me choke down the bites of processed cheese and crouton. The pears were awash with syrup (what about fresh or in juice?). The stuff that was supposed to be hot was cold, and vice-versa.

Outsourcing cafeteria food sucks ass. I wouldn’t want the unenviable task of making grilled cheese for hundreds of kids, but Uncrustables are just plain lazy. I may decide to revisit the cafeteria on a day when they actually prepare the food just to be fair, and have a basis for comparison. I’ll keep you posted.
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