This photo is causing all the rage in the eastern part of the U.S. this week and the rage is rapidly making its away around the world wide web. The photo this unnamed mother snapped of her child’s school lunch is shocking the public, but I’m not one bit surprised. Last year I contemplated a school lunch piece after having lunch with my daughter for her birthday. Her lunch consisted of Pizza sticks, marinara sauce, tater tots, and an orange. The vegetable was a wilted salad so I can understand why my daughter and the majority of other students were passing it over and the alternative to the pizza sticks (chunks of dough with a mystery cheese baked in the middle) was chicken nuggets. And God only knows what was in that formed breaded meat mush.
Anywho, I was appalled. If you ever seen my cooking, you’ll know I take my kids nutrition seriously. My desire was to get into the school kitchen and start taking pictures. When asked I for outright access, my calls were ignored. And the woman that I befriended to gain undercover access was just so nice that I couldn’t report on something that could cause her to lose her job. So I tabled the idea and pretty soon life interfered with the blog and the idea grew cold.
Oh but then I came across this news story today and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk about it. This school in Portsmouth described this meal on the menu in a manner in which parents reading the menu at home wouldn’t have a clue to the fact that what you see in the picture is what you’re actually getting. According to the original story at WAVY.com this is what was on the menu for the day this meal was served:
Spicy Cajun Fish w/Brown Rice
Cold Cut Turkey Sub (w/g)
Assorted Chef Salad (Croutons & Crackers)
Steamed Carrots & Side Salad
Fresh Orange or Canned Fruit
1% & Skim Milk
That’s one creative writer they have working over there at the Portsmouth School District. I wonder if I could get a job doing the same thing. Here, let me try:
Farm Fresh Lightly Breaded Fish Strips
Toasted Multi-Grain Artisan Bread w/ aged Vermont Cheddar Cheese
Fruit Salad (Assembly Optional)
2% and Whole Milk
It only took me five minutes to put this mock plate together and STILL it looks more appetizing than what’s being served in Portsmouth, V.A. When the Portsmouth Public School District was questioned by the staff at WAVY.com about photo of the school lunch the following statement was released from Food Service Coordinator Jim Gehlhoff:
“We appreciate this parent’s concern about the presentation of this school lunch. Poor lighting and food presentation make this lunch unappealing. Other lunch options on the day this photo was taken included a chef’s salad and turkey sub sandwiches. The meal in this photo and other meals served by Portsmouth Public Schools meet nutritional and USDA requirements. The presentation of the meal pictured concerns us and we plan to address presentation of food items in a training session with all cafeteria managers. Our goal is to provide healthy food options that students will want to eat. We will take actions to ensure that presentation is addressed.”
Well, I’ll say this. It’s not your food presentation, and it sure as hell a’int your lighting. It’s the crap you’re putting on the tray. And I don’t know what disturbs me more, the fact that this is approved by the government or the fact that the school systems in this country are so broke that they can’t even fake the front of a healthy meal. I’ve seen poorer countries do it, there’s no excuse. We’ve got to do better.