By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook
This is the last lunch of the season for us. Actually, this meal was served last week. It's hard to argue with baked chicken: unless, of course, you object to chicken cooked in a factory hundreds of miles away, shipped frozen and reheated. The kids seem to like it well enough. It has that breading reminiscent of Popeye's or something, only it's a bit more like concrete. But the breading qualifies as a grain serving under the federal rules governing the school lunch program, and each meal needs a grain offering.
There are two vegetables on this tray. Can you guess what they are? If you named ketchup, your head is still in the Reagan era. Actually, the Tater Tots, even though they might as well be bread for all the starch they contain, qualify as a vegetable. Potatoes of all sorts are kids' second-most favorite thing to eat at school, right behind pizza. And as you can see, they go to great lengths to spice up those Tater Tots with the ketchup.
Then we have the frozen peas and carrots. Would you eat these? Most kids don't eat the vegetable side dishes served in D.C. schools. They mostly end up in the trash. But the government requires that schools offer vegetables. What's a food service provider to do?
In fact, the 10-year-old who brought this tray back from the food line needn't have taken the peas and carrots at all. Under federal rules, schools are required to offer five items, and kids are only required to select three. The strawberry-flavored milk would have sufficed as the third item.
But you can say goodbye to strawberry milk. Beginning next week, school officials say they will no longer be serving flavored milk at all. If you believe the dairy industry, we should be bracing for an outbreak of rickets. How will kids get the calcium and Vitamin D they need if they are denied chocolate or strawberry milk?
Here's one case where the food services department for D.C. Public Schools actually seems to be ahead of public opinion.
6 months ago