Posted tagged ‘school days’

School Lunches

October 11, 2009

When I was a little girl, packing a lunch to school every day was an accepted fact.  Everyone did it.  At least everyone who rode the bus to school.  We all had the same thing.  Sandwich…wrapped in wax paper or a foldover plastic sandwich bag.  Cookies.  Apples or some other kind of fruit.   And a carton of white milk from the milk wagon.  Day after day.  If your lunch box came with a matching thermos, there was soup in the winter.  Or an occasional chocolate milk mixed with syrup at home.  Good times.

Our only respite from this was a once a month ‘Hot Dog Day.’  your lunch was ordered days before with little yellow envelopes and the appropriate number of quarters.  Then you would get hots dogs and chips…..cooked, wrapped in paper napkins and counted out by a contingency of volunteer Moms in the school kitchen.  I can still drag up the smell of those steaming hot dogs delivered to each classroom in brown paper grocery bags.  MY Mom was the Hot Dog Chairman for a number of years when I was in grade school so we were privy to some of their ‘secrets.’   For instance, they would steam the buns before hand by putting them in a paper bag, wetting the bag down and slip it into the hot oven until it was dry again.   (But don’t try this in a gas oven.  I found out the hard way….)  Just for fun they instituted the rubber hot dog plan.  Each classroom’s bag contained one wrapped rubber hot dog.  If you got that one when they were passed out, you got your money back.  Or there was an occcasional ‘Cupcake Day’ you could purchase a cupcake (made and donated by those volunteer Moms) for a dessert.  And then there were rare days when you could purchase ice cream from a student safety patrol member who monitored the locked freezer in the hall. 

This was our elementary school version of ‘hot lunch.’  Once a month.

Now I am a Teacher in an elementary school.  I have seen the school hot lunch program in our district morph through many, many changes in the last 30 years.  Only one school where I worked cooked lunches on site.  Everyone else justed heated up foil wrapped containers that were filled at the high school kitchens the previous day.  Students had one choice or they packed a lunch from home.  Then came the packages that were silver or gold foil, meaning they had two choices to pick from.  Ordering and prepaying for lunches in the classroom was an horrendous odeal for teachers until your class got the system right.  Little ones might order something in the morning but want something different by the time lunch time rolled around. If they took it, the count was off for the rest of the kids.  Lunches were delivered to your classroom on a cart for a while and then we gravitated to the long table sin the multipurpose room.  .  

I took a walk through our school cafeteria the other day.  Now there are crates of low fat and whole milk in white, chocolate and strawberry flavors to choose from.  There are now three choices of lunches that vary from day to day.  In any given week kids might have chicken patty sandwiches, chicken nuggets or fish sticks…tacos, spaghetti or a stir fry with rice….breakfast for lunch….Chef Salad…….or a curious thing called a ‘Grab and Go’ (usually yogurt, graham crackers and cheese slices with fruit).  There is an occasionally frozen fruit juice treat and the week before Thanksgiving vacation there is a turkey/dressing/potato/corn lunch with pumpkin flavored cookies.  AND our cafeteria serves breakfast in the first few minutes of the school day.  Its usually fruit, cereal, pop tarts, bagels and graham crackers with fruit and milk.  Amazing.

We’ve come a long, long way since ‘Hot Dog Day.’