Friday, September 10, 2010

Alternate Lunch: Hummus

By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook

Although this lunch looks sparse, it comes fairly close to the 664 calories the U.S. Department of Agriculture says schools must offer for lunch daily to kids in Kindergarten through grade six averaged over a week. (An 8-ounce carton of unflavored milk, not shown here, would also factor into the total.)

An half-cup portion of hummus such as the one shown here, packed with healthy fiber, contains around 220 calories, and a serving of pita bread adds another 260. There may be 50 calories in the cucumbers and carrots combined, and a carton of milk contains another 120 calories.

According to my calculations, that's 650 calories--and without any added sugar! (At least I don't think so, although the manufacturer could have snuck some into the hummus. We don't have the ingredient list.)

The hummus originates from a company called Kronos Greek Specialties in Glendale Heights, IL. According to the company's website, it's sold in packages of two four-pound tubs, then our local kitchen ladies scoop it into plastic cups, as shown in the photo. School officials have said they hope to have a website up and running in November where the public can find all of the ingredients for foods served in D.C. Public Schools.

The "locally grown cucumber coins" have an added feature: being local, they earn the schools a five-cent bonus per meal from the D.C. treasury. I wonder how they keep track of that, since the cucumbers were only offered with the alternate meal, not with the main meal served on this particular day.

Chartwells at its menu website listed the carrots as "carrot sticks," but in fact they are "sanded" carrots (aka "baby" carrots.)

This meal seams like a smart use of processed foods (Greek hummus made from chickpeas and tahini), as opposed to some of the really awful processed foods we've seen in the past. Perhaps there are other ethnic foods that could be deployed in the school meal program. Can you think of any?


  1. Hi, again, Ed! Kronos is a terrific local company for us; we've been lobbying hard to get their hummos in our lunches. FYI, they also offer a relatively inexpensive Greek-style (strained) yogurt I use at home to stretch creamy salad dressings. I've often thought a ranch/yogurt dip would be a great asset for school lunch.

  2. In our brand new and vastly improved lunch menu here in Sea Cliff, NY (posted at we are also getting a great alternate entree featuring hummus. But you've got me thinking about other ideas like this -- what about dahl?

  3. Great site that I have been following for a while. The food looks better than the stuff served in our cafeteria. I know there are lots of issues in DC and you obviously have made progress, but what about the trays? Seems like an amazing waste of something (cardboard?). At our school, the only apparent progress is in reduction of waste. Sadly, the food has not changed. Spaghetti with soggy fries is still served in the same package but on a much smaller tray!

  4. The tray may look like cardboard but it's actually plastic and is reused every day after being washed. Unfortunately, most D.C. schools don't have dish-washing facilities and they use disposable Stryofoam trays. The recently-approved Healthy Schools Act here would phase those out in favor of something more eco-friendly.

  5. You do not advocate, you mandate. This is why my children attend private schools.