By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook
I hate to miss a school meal, especially the first one of the year when D.C. food service staff are pushing to make improvements. But I could not be in the cafeteria yesterday. I did, however, manage to find out what was in the teryaki chicken Chartwells served.
That would be the "fully cooked, coated" eight-piece, bone-in chicken from Tyson. According to the packing label, these are the ingredients, besides the chicken: Water, seasoning (salt, hydrolyzed corn protein, extrose, onion powder, autolyzed yeast extract, garlic powder, soybean oil, spice extract), sodium phophates.
And the chicken was "coated with": Water, coating (modified corn starch, tapioca dextrin, dried whey, soy protein isolate, sodium alginate, caramel (color), sodium tripolyphosphate, methylcellulose, guar gum).
The cooking instructions call for 10 to 15 minutes in a 375-degree convection oven from the frozen state.
Also on the menu was a "whole wheat roll," a "crunchy" spinach salad, "orange glazed" carrots and "locally grown" watermelon. Under the "Healthy School Act" passed earlier this year by the D.C. Council, the schools receive an extra five cents for every lunch that includes a locally grown component, meaning from within the Mid-Atlantic region.
The spinach, on the other hand, came from a place called The Salad Farm in Salinas, Calif. That business is actually a complex of growers and processors that harvest crops in both California and Arizona. The history, starting with a man named Lex Camany, who worked in lettuce fields to make money for college, is worth a read. At one point, Camany conducted agricultural research for the Mexican government. Then he started a strawberry department at Hartnell College.
So many American success stories touch the federal school meals program.
6 months ago