Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What's for Lunch: Cheeseburger and Sweet Potato

By Ed Bruske

aka The Slow Cook

I wondered why the meat on the kids' burgers looked a little fuzzy and then I realized it was the bread from the bun that had stuck to the burger.

You can make lots of changes around the edges of a school cafeteria tray--substituting different vegetables, salads and grain dishes using fresh ingredients. But there's not much you can do to change the processed nature of the entree at the center--unless you start cooking everything from scratch.

Otherwise, the beef burgers are bound to be highly processed and frozen, sometimes made with added soy protein to bulk them up. The whole wheat bun will never be as soft and delicious as the bun on a McDonald's burger. It's 51 percent whole grain and that's the future of baked goods in schools. If the USDA has its way, soon everything with be "whole grain-rich." Healthier, maybe, but not to kids' liking.

I ate this meal and had a bit of a knot in my stomach for the rest of the day. But I think that's just because I don't eat starchy carbs anymore. The cheeseburger wasn't especially flavorful. And the bun, as I said, was a bit grainy.

But I did love these sweet potatoes. They were perfectly cooked and you didn't need to do anything to them. They were sweet and delicious. You could tell the kids wanted to eat them. Nearly all of them took at least a nibble. But that's as far as they got. Most of it went into the trash. What a tragedy.

Here you see one boy inspecting his sweet potato, contemplating the most advantageous approach to eating it. He didn't get very far.

For many kids, this was the first order of business--the fruit cup. In this case, canned peaches.


  1. This KILLS me. I'm about to whomp out tens of thousands more each year on "whole grains" and the kids aren't going to eat them.

    Plus, it is so hard to get the kids to eat sweet potatoes -- and those looked GREAT ... to me as an adult.

    Honestly, I think it's not going to matter worth a darn all the changes in school lunch until we start doing nutritional education for the kids AND parents.

  2. Ed, I'm curious - did you ask the kids why they didn't eat the sweet potatoes?

    One of the ideas we had but have been unable to implement, is the idea of "lunch coaches." I've long been concerned that some of the reason kids don't eat the good food is because they don't know how.

    For instance, kids who've never seen a whole apple or orange might be hesitant to just dive in without a mentor. I wonder if that was the case with the sweet potatoes - I mean, I've just picked them up and eaten them, skin and all, but kids might be more likely to try them if they see someone model scooping the pulp out with a spoon (I wonder how possible this method is with a spork.)