Monday, August 30, 2010

What's for Lunch: Chicken Sandwich

By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook

My daughter looked at the Chartwells menu for lunch, saw it was a chicken sandwich and decided she didn't want any part of it. She packed her own lunch. She just doesn't like the processed chicken patty on this sandwich. The lettuce and tomato salad you see here is actually intended as a topping for the sandwich, with a plastic container of barbecue sauce to finish it off. It looked more like peanut sauce to me, and I don't think I saw any of the kids use the salad or the sauce as it was intended. Were they supposed to get instructions in the food line?

What looks like cucumbers is actually "locally grown zucchini," according to the Chartwells website. I assumed the pear was local, but the website does not say so. The schools would get an extra five cents from the District of Columbia to pay for this lunch by virtue of the zucchini being local. But vegetable side dishes are a hard sell in the cafeteria, and the kids were not exactly attacking these zucchini.

I stayed through the entire lunch period to see what the kids did with their pear. Was it ripe? Was it edible? Would they eat it? It turned out to be a little hard, but the kids seemed to like it. Like most whole fruit served in schools, it was bigger than they needed. But what they did eat, they ate with relish. In Berkeley, Calif., the schools have found an orchardist who sells them his small, kid-size apples. Would it be hard--cheaper maybe?--to find growers here who can supply smaller fruit?


  1. You can order say a case of apples- 1 case, 125 count. The 125 means there are 125 apples to a case. Thus the apples are smaller, kid friendly and cost effective. Wholesalers have the sizes, the person ordering has to know what to order.
    I've been following your blog, I am amazed. Most answers and solutions are so simple yet it's always like shooting a flea with a elephant gun.

  2. That looks like a pretty good lunch to me! You make a big deal about the pear being too big, the lettuce and tomato not going on the sandwich, and the zucchini not disappearing fast enough - but those are surmountable issues on the way towards a 360 degree turn-around from what we've seen on last year's trays!

  3. Anonymous, I think you confuse "making a big deal" with taking note of. I think it's important for me, being one of the few adults in the world to actually witness what happens in a school cafeteria, to pass along my observations in detail. While the lunch does look good, readers cannot assume that it is actually being eaten, which means lots of wasted food and effort. Or is it? Some people think that merely exposing kids to a greater variety of fresh foods--whether they eat it or not--is a good thing. But I think it's fair to say in general that kids do not eat the vegetables that are offered, which poses some real challenges for food service and begs certain important questions: Does food need to be cooked from scratch? Should schools have salad bars? Are there more creative ways to incorporate vegetables in meals? So it's not just a matter of patting ourselves on the back for being better than last year, but being fully informed about how kids eat and what adults need to do to meet the needs of children.

  4. Maybe we can get the DC Council to pass a law that kids must eat their vegetables!