Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What's for Lunch: Chicken on a Bun

Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook

This meal illustrates the limits of trying to reform school meals around a meal service provider like Chartwells. Although there have been lots of encouraging changes around the edges of the cafeteria tray--fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, even some items cooked from scratch--it's hard to lose the processed entree in the center.

Our new food services director here in D.C. says he and his crew recently tested dozens of different "chicken products." This appears to be one: a chicken patty on a whole wheat bun.

As you can see from the photo, it comes with these phony grill marks (are the kids supposed to think the kitchen ladies are grilling them out in the parking lot?). They arrive frozen in boxes, then are reheated typically in the convection oven. If I could get my hands on the shipping container, I could tell you what's in them. Under "Healthy Schools" legislation passed by the D.C. Council, the schools this year are required to post the ingredients for all meal items. They're projecting an interactive website to be up and running sometime in November.

In case you were wonder about the salad in the paper boat, that's actually the toppings that are supposed to go on the chicken. Kids at the elementary school level are typically mystified by this sort of food service. I did not see any of them putting the lettuce, tomato and "ancho sauce" on their sandwich, nor did I see anyone coaching them in how to do it. Mostly it ends up in the trash.

Chartwells' menu description for the canned beans is over the top: "campfire baked vegetarian baked beans."

But don't you love the kid-size apple?

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