When I first started teaching, I tended not to ever buy the school lunch. Sometimes they'd have grilled cheese, or even double-decker grilled cheese, and temptation got the better of me. I mean, for two bucks, who could complain? You got a veggie or two, and unappealing though they were, they sort of got you through the day.
Then the price went up to three bucks. Then it went to four, and you got one veggie, or a plate over dry overcooked fries that weren't actually fried, depending on your preference. By then, of course, there was no more grilled cheese. There were chicken patties cooked until they bore a resemblance to hockey pucks, and then breaded to perfection by the culinary experts at Tweed. Sometimes, they were covered with melted cheese food product, and there you have it--hockey puck parmesan.
Now, in all fairness, our cafeteria is not as bad as others I've seen, and the people who work there are very nice. Unlike the last school I was in, I've never actually seen a roach crawling across a lunch tray. Still, I can't help but notice when the cafeteria employees eat, they make themselves things that don't appear to be for sale behind the counter.
Today, I showed a student teacher where the cafeteria was, and the woman behind the counter told me that hockey puck parmesan was now a deluxe meal, and that they'd be charging five bucks for this particular offering (along with one overcooked vegetable and a fresh (?) cup of the worst coffee in creation. I felt very relieved I'd brought yogurt.
I honestly wonder why anyone would buy this stuff when there's real food available at the Chinese takeout for the same price. Or you could buy a real sandwich at the deli for five bucks. You could bring something (anything?) better from home.
A lot of kids don't seem to mind eating this stuff. I can certainly understand it looks good if you're not getting fed at home. And kids pay somewhere between nothing and $1.50, so it's not that bad of a deal. My kid will not touch a school lunch unless it's something she really, really wants. I don't think she's asked me for lunch money in two years.
Now Mayor Bloomberg, to his credit, introduced whole wheat break in place of empty-calorie white bread. In my view that's one of the very best "reforms" he's introduced. Still, can't they do better than this?