School Lunch -- Now With More Processed Foods! | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

School Lunch -- Now With More Processed Foods!

I remember my time spent eating school lunch fondly. My favorite was Mexican pizza day, when the lunch ladies would roll out crumbly, cracker-crusted pizzas topped with hardened American cheese, sweet and spicy taco sauce, and delectable little pellets of "meat." What's even better was Mexican pizza day, part two, when they'd serve us the leftovers. Sometimes, there would be so many leftovers that we'd even get to have part three or four, which meant nearly a week's worth of deliciously stale, faux Mexican food! Sure, by then you had to douse it in hot sauce to make even it remotely edible, but mostly you were just happy it wasn't hamburger day part four. Yay, school lunch!

When I look back, the food I ate throughout my wonder years at school was so awful, it's scary. I remember when our high school started serving greasy, Pizza Hut pizza and mystery-filled Taco Bell burritos as an option -- we were thrilled we could skip the cafeteria lunch. Well, it appears school lunch hasn't gotten any better for kids these days -- and won't, so long as the School Nutrition Association keeps on the same track. The SNA held its annual Food Show this week in Las Vegas, gathering school lunch managers from all over America to sample new foods to be rolled out to kids this coming school year. School Lunch Talk, a blog on what's going down food-wise in our educational system, had some pretty interesting insights into the show. Like:

-Of the 40 booths displaying food at the expo, 20 had some type of

breaded chicken product and another 20 featured beef. Twelve hawked pizza -- two more booths than the number that showcased fresh fruit and


-One booth showcased its latest product, the Crazy Apple, an apple

that comes in bubble-gum, cotton candy, or "tropical blast" flavors.

Apparently, the young child holding an apple in the image on the SNA homepage is so thrilled because he really, really loves bubble gum.

-Other wonders, like Papa John's pizza, with 900 milligrams of sodium,

flavored ice that counts as a half a serving of fruit, and taco meat

with 43 percent of its calories from fat, round out a show that's really all

about the youngsters.

This year, the Obama administration appointed former SNA President Janey Thornton

as Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer

Services, the government post that will oversee the National School

Lunch Program. Though it remains to be seen if Thornton will shake

things up for lunch ladies around the country, she did spend much of

her career as a school nutrition director in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, so she

must know firsthand the pain kids feel when they eat a jagged, dry Jamaican beef

patty. Of course, having headed the deep-in-bed-with-the-food-industry SNA, she might also know the joy Tyson executives feel when they're awarded fat government contracts, and that's a pretty powerful emotion too.

Meanwhile, remember all that media blitz when little Sasha and Malia Obama started school at Sidwell Friends this year?

Fox, CNN, MSNBC, and just about everyone else were all wondering: What

were they wearing? What were they thinking? What were they eating?

Well, the jury's out on what they were thinking, but it turns out they were eating garlic organic green beens, cheese tortellini with garden marinara, and corn chowder. Not exactly Mexican pizza, but I'm sure Sidwell will make it up to them.

I know what you're thinking: They're the president's daughters!

Shouldn't such privileged children eat better than the rest of us?

Well, take a look at Treehugger, which gives us a glimpse, in pictures,

of what school kids around the world are eating for lunch.

On the whole, it's pretty good stuff -- much better than the processed

crap our kids get. Just look at those French kids, all smug with their

roasted chicken and smoked salmon with asparagus creme fraiche. It

reminds me of when Michael Moore visited France in Sicko only to find the government laundering the dirty clothes of French mothers. You win again, France.