Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What's for lunch: Meatball Sandwich

By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook

Chartwells, the company contracted to provide meal services to District of Columbia schools, advertised this lunch on its published menu as "meatball sandwich." Here's what it looked like close up.

Getting at the meatballs was a little awkward, sandwiched as they were between two slices of bread. What some of the kids did was open the sandwich and eat the meatballs with their fingers. Kids seem to consider all kinds of foods finger-adapted in an elementary school cafeteria. Some of them ate the bread, others didn't. If you look closely, you can see that this girl removed the crust and left it behind on the Styrofoam tray.

I can't tell if the mixed vegetables were frozen, or out of a can.

This particular girl had started the meal with a lollipop she brought from home.

I thought it was worth showing different views of the sandwich. I usually encourage the kids at my daughter's lunch table to take the photos themselves. You can see from one photo to the next how their food selections vary. There's a strawberry milk on this one.

But not every kid took the vegetables. Here you see chocolate milk and the advertised fruit selection, "chilled pineapple" in a plastic cup.

After most of the kids had gone through the food line, the sandwiches switched from these to meatballs on a hot dog bun. Those also had cheese melted on them. The sauce on the meatballs smelled strongly of barbecue, but we couldn't tell for sure. Some kids thought it was regular tomato sauce, others voted for barbecue sauce.

Either way, the meatballs are made at the factory usually from U.S. donated commodity beef, then shipped frozen. I'll see if I can't track down the ingredients for the sauce.


  1. I think our school served those same commodity meatballs as a 'hero' on Tuesday. The ingredients in ours with 10g of fat and 550mg of sodium in the meatballs alone (the bread had another 510mg!) were: beef, water, textured vegetable protein (soy flour, zine oxide, niacinamide, ferrous sulfate, copper gluconate, vitamin A palmitate, calcium pantothenate, thiamin mononitrate (B1) pyridoxine hydrochlorie (B6) riboflavin (B2), cyanocobalamin (B12), bread crumbs (enriched bleached wheat flour (niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid) vegetable oil shortening (soybean), distilled vinegar, contains 2 percent or less of: dextrose, leavening (sodium bicarbonate), salt, yeast, yeast nutrients (ammonium chloride, calcium sulfate) and spice extractives), salt, sugar, dried onion and garlic, torula yeast, pepper.

    Ours definitely used the USDA commodity tomato sauce - corn syrup and a lot of salt - 800+mg in half a cup but they probably used less on the sandwich. See our meal at

  2. This just looks messy.
    The hotdog/hoggie bun would have been easier to handle.
    I like that you pass your phone around for the kids to take the pictures. I bet they like that.

  3. I get the meatball sandwich too. It would be hard for kiddos with fine motor issues to put the whole thing together. How do the kids get away with not taking the veggie? At my school it is mandatory.

  4. Mrs. Q, you would need to check whether your school is on the "offer versus served" plan, where in the kids only have to take three of the (usually) five items offered to make a complete meal. But I suppose a school district could have its own rules requiring vegetables to be served, but the whole idea is to not serve foods that don't get eaten.