“Fed up with lunch”

That’s the title of a book by teacher Sarah Wu, who’s documented a year of eating the lunches served to her pupils at school. USA Today reports:

In January of 2010, an elementary school teacher decided to eat school lunch every day for a year and write about it anonymously as Mrs. Q. on her blog, Fed Up With Lunch.

She secretly photographed the meals, ate them and then described the taste and texture of heavily processed chicken nuggets, an unusual peanut butter and jelly sandwich that made her sick, mystery meats and reheated vegetables. She developed a following of thousands of people.

This week she is revealing her identity for the first time — Sarah Wu, 34, a speech pathologist in the Chicago public schools — and releasing her new book, Fed Up With Lunch (Chronicle Books). “With the blog, I really wanted a public record of these meals that I couldn’t believe were being served to kids,” she says. “I thought the book would reach a wider audience.”

It all started one day when Wu didn’t have time to pack her own lunch and bought a school lunch instead. It was a hot dog encased in soggy dough, six tater tots, a Jell-O cup and chocolate milk, she says. “I thought to myself, ‘I cannot believe this is the food the kids are eating’.”

There’s more at the link.

I’ve never had a school lunch in my life. When I was a schoolkid in South Africa, we were expected to bring our own lunches. Kids from poorer families seemed to have no trouble bringing them, just like kids from better-off families. I’m still not sure why so much money and effort are expended on US school lunches when the quality of the food – that I’ve seen when visiting schools as a pastor, and that reported by people like Ms. Wu – seems to be so very poor. Seems to me like throwing good money after bad, the same as much of our expenditure on a failing educational system . . . but I’m sure there will be those who disagree.

What say you, readers? Are school lunches a good thing, particularly when their quality seems to be so abysmally poor in so many school districts? Let’s hear from you in Comments.



  1. When I was a primary school student in Dade County, Florida in the early 1950's I attended a school which consisted of one room cabins resting on cement blocks.

    There was no cafeteria, gym or library.

    My mom was not an inovative food person so my lunch-time years at the school consisted of 1 pint of school provided (warm) milk and a crean cheese & olive on white bread sandwich. Every day it was exactly the same.

    I never complained because most of the other kids had less.

  2. This is in Chicago public schools you really expect any good food to be served there at any time.
    The whole state is obamavillie, all money arrives non of it is ever seen again. just typical gumment run crap. Crap in crap out, just like a stupid computer.

  3. I think it comes back to the parents… or in the case of many of the kids, parent. As M. Wu points out, the school lunch is often the best and healthiest, if not only meal of the day for many of the kids… which leads to a whole nother thing about the welfare state, entitlement mentality, drugs, and the whole vicious circle of poverty.

  4. I eat food from our school cafeteria five days a week for lunch. The folks who work there cook GOOD food. The place is clean, they know what they are doing, and we eat quite well indeed.

    Of course… we also TEACH culinary at our school.

    Not every place is like us.

  5. My kids eat the school lunch every day – at least, what they can stomach. They complain about vegetables that are extremely overcooked, even by "southern standards", very over-salted food, tasteless at best, completely inedible at worst food. They tell me that probably half the food actually served goes into the trash cans. Even the pre-packaged milk is from some off-brand nobody's ever heard of, and doesn't taste good to them. They take their lunches a lot.

  6. A friend who worked at a convenience store once told me of one of the "entitled" mothers who would walk her children to school every morning for the free breakfast, then on the way home stop at the convenience store and buy a quart of malt liquor and two scratch-off lottery tickets.

    I'm sure there was just no way she had money to feed her kids…

    The Hairy Wombat

  7. My son lasted three days at his secondary (11y-16y) school before begging for packed lunches with "real, edible food, not the fried sawdust & gristle mix they use for sausages and burgers at school, served with wood-chip fries….". He's 19 now, and has never eaten at the school or college canteens since then. Another benefit – he knows how to cook well for himself, and knows the worth of good food.

  8. I actually had a pretty positive experience with school lunches in northern Virginia; almost everyday from kindergarten through 12th grade. (If I wanted a homemade meal, I got to make it myself– my mom did daycare out of our house, and her excellent meal were dinner. 🙂

    That said, look into Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution– he's made it his mission to revolutionize how people think about healthy food, especially when it comes to children's lunches. (He was, of course, stonewalled by the los angeles unified school district.)

  9. On the one hand, yes, the quality is as bad as she portrays it (I'm a few hours south of Chicago in one of the bigger cities in Illinois, but WAY outside Chicago metro area.)

    On the other hand, most of my students don't get breakfast at home. Still, I look at their food and I wouldn't want to eat it. I eat a cup of oatmeal at work for breakfast, a slim-fast shake for lunch most days (I get out of the noise and go for a walk during lunch) and a snack like some yogurt at the end of the day. Even so, I don't envy them their pizza and hot dogs and whatever else–it's not appetizing food.

    A further twist: many Chicago schools do not allow meals sent from home unless a student has documented food allergies. If you're not allergic to milk or peanuts or whatever, you either eat the school's meal or go hungry, even if your parents want to send a lunch with you. Now, they say, and I can easily believe, that too many parents were sending their little darlings with nothing but a bag of Hot Fries and a liter of Mountain Dew . . . . . but the fact remains, if you wanted to give your kid a turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato on rye, with an apple and some crackers or chips and a juice box, you're out of luck in most of CPS. Then they turn around and serve your kids that . . . . . stuff.

  10. "I'm still not sure why so much money and effort are expended on US school lunches when the quality of the food – that I've seen when visiting schools as a pastor, and that reported by people like Ms. Wu – seems to be so very poor."

    Because, Peter, it provides certain agri-business types with a reliable place to dump food that ought to be slopped to pigs instead–and to make good money doing so. Follow the money.


  11. I carried my lunch to school every day in grade school as they didn't offer lunches. You could buy a milk and I'd get one to supplement my sandwich, fruit, cut up carrogs and a treat. In high school there were lunches but the food was jut gross and most of us passed, and just got an apple, some chips and a milk if we didn't bring something from home.

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