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Nine-year-old’s lunch blog shames school into making changes (grist.org)
271 points by mkopinsky on May 22, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 133 comments

Awesome and hilarious - I would be a very proud father or older brother.

But on a serious note, directed at the media woohoo that always ensues, demanding better food for schools Jamie Oliver style misses the constraint of a limited budget. Presumably there's some price/utility tradeoff between the cost of the food and the health/taste.

Then there's a tradeoff between teacher quality and wages, school size and the number of teachers you must hire, etc. What we should be asking is whether the nutritional value outweighs wherever else the money would be spent. Maybe it is, maybe it's not, but 'oh the school is shamed' is a little much.

Edit: of course the other discussion to have is whether there is a tradeoff between cost and health (including additional cooks needed to produce healthier food on a large scale). But I don't see this in most media discussions either.

If your political system doesn't see child nutrition as a priority, your political system needs to be burned to the ground. Are we honestly expected to believe that a first world nation can't find room in the budget to give children vegetables?

I cannot imagine a future in which they do not look back and think "Food was cheaper in their age than at any point before or since, but they fed their children worse than cattle. How could a school have computers but no fruit?".

That first sentence isn't quite right. I agree, personally, that every political system should be burned to the ground but, as usual, some Marx might give a slightly saner perspective here: the problem is precisely that there is a political system, which separates political personhood from private, civil personhood. Today, a group of people acts in social cooperation primarily through a political system. They may have an important social goal, like improving child nutrition, but the political system has already leeched the social power necessary for its achievement. Thus, any other social goals being worked out through the political system, such as economic growth, national security, even personal liberty, are at odds with the social goal you're concerned with, simply by nature of having to work through a defined, singular system. You can only push and pull a lever in so many directions, no matter how complicated and multi-axial it is. And as a sidenote, the political system itself doesn't have goals, even if its initial creation did have specific goals. They inform the system, but are not properties of it.

The intent of communism (esp. with the abolition of the state) is not, contrary to many views, some evil dictatorial master plan, but simply to put social power back into the hands of the people, allowing the existence and implementation of real social priorities, such as child nutrition.

"the problem is precisely that there is a political system, which separates political personhood from private, civil personhood."

I don't know about that! I have plenty of Politics in my life without it needing every fibre of my life to be infused with it, thank you very much. Rather, I shall go into the office tomorrow and go about business with Ron Paul supporters and Occupy SF supporters alike, and sip espresso with them in the afternoon, and I think there's something fundamentally humanizing about being able to do that.

But then, I guess that's a classic divide, as I recently saw evidenced in this opinion piece: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405270230437150457740... on the fundamental differences in the outlook on life as evidenced by commencement speeches delivered by Barack Obama and by Mitt Romney.

I'll admit this idea of political-social alienation/separation is a very abstract notion, and usually meritless in terms of immediate practicality. But you've demonstrated the reality of the notion itself: "I have plenty of Politics in my life without it needing every fibre of my life to be infused with it, thank you very much."

The claim is that "politics" as a social activity separate from universal, daily human life is artificial and an accident of modern society. That is, in the Marxian ideal you would never think "politics in my life"—that distinction between "politics" and "my life" would be a meaningless concept, since "politics" would be a nonexistent concept. You are already an inherently social being, and politics is just a particular abstraction of that sociality which seems like a good idea in modern society but prevents an "ideal" society (for many formulations of "ideal").

Think about it this way: when you vote, you are acting socially through politics. When you perform a business transaction, you are acting socially through economics. When you go to work (or leisure) with people of different opinions, you are acting socially in a way that we generally just describe as social. All these things are inherently intertwined, but modern society has done a good job making them seem separate and distinct; it has invented terms to distinguish the first two types of social activity, and has imposed rules on them. The third example doesn't have another word because it isn't consciously regulated by society—there is no abstraction for day-to-day interactions with other people. Thus, a Marxian ideal sees no abstraction for any other types of interactions with other people. They all collapsed into one: there is no politics or economics, which are abstractions of sociality.

I'm not proposing any particular change in modern society that would bring politics "into" your life, merely presenting a way of thinking about politics and sociality that explains why child nutrition (and numerous other social problems) are not also political problems.

This screams applaud lights slash appeal to emotion slash straw man. My school never provided free meals and I don't think the Canadian government should be burned to the ground. If I ever have kids, I'll trust myself much more than the government to take care of my child's nutrition.

Government provided <anything> will never work fine. Because that is always subjected to bureaucracy, processes and averaging. You will always have lowest averaged quality, because things are always subject to costs, bidding and all other kinds of processes involved to maintain sanity during administrative control. And this is considering every body works with honesty. While the fact is with no quality control and regulation it becomes easy to serve bad quality food for some profit in return. Or it can always be worked with bribes.

These sort of things serve a perfect mess for bribe business and other sort of bureaucratic shit.

Also like so many people have mentioned, its not governments job to provide food to your kid. In fact I find it scary that governments run and set school syllabus. Schools and education form perfect weapons for brain washing. Ideally schools must be private run, with regulations.

> Government provided <anything> will never work fine

I beg to differ. I'm French. Not everything about our government is satisfactory (very far from it) but the one thing that's fantastic is the food in our schools: fixed menus (no pick and choose where kids would take fries and nothing else), with real meals of two main courses + cheese + desert (usually fruit).

And it shows, too; while children's obesity rates have been getting worse, they are nowhere near those in the US or UK. In fact there are virtually no fat kids under 12; after that age kids tend to be more "autonomous" (meaning more TV and more fast food lunches) but when they're young and in the school system they are incredibly healthy.

What happens when kids have special dietary requirements?

For instance Jewish kids whose families want them to eat kosher food, or kids with various food allergies, etc.

When I was a kid (30 years ago) there were zero "special dietary requirements" and zero "food allergies"; if kids didn't want to eat the food then they didn't eat it and that was fine (frowned upon, but fine) -- but there weren't any special menus for religious reasons or medical conditions.

Now things have changed a little; you can specify that your kid doesn't eat pork or is allergic to nuts -- but that's about it.

I cannot talk for the French, but in Sweden they usually handle special food requirements rather well. The children with special needs are all known to the kitchen staff so they get what they need directly from them.

A little variation on your statement...

"If parents don't see child nutrition as a priority, their priority list needs to be burned to the ground. Are we honestly expected to believe that a first world nation's family can't find room in the budget to give their own children vegetables and prepare food for them ?"

Since when is the political system responsible of what your children should or should not eat ? Is that even the role of the political system? And if your answer is "Yes", where does that involvment in private affairs stop ?

Are we honestly expected to believe that a first world nation's family can't find room in the budget to give their own children vegetables and prepare food for them ?

Well yes, it is sad but true that a first world country, in spite of its wealth, can be home to very poor families.

Of course bad nutrition is also a cultural problem, there are many parents that could do a better job at feeding their children. But how would you address this cultural issue without some kind of government intervention? Doing nothing but blaming the parents doesn't help much.

No one is denying the right of parents to provide food for their children. But when, as an option, food is provided by the state (such as in state schools), it should be a priority to get the menus right.

To answer your question, I don't think there is any private matter that is completely beyond the scope of government. What is more private than our sexual lives? Yet I'm happy that the government runs information campaigns on STD prevention. On the other hand, I do think that coercive powers should be severely restricted.

"But how would you address this cultural issue without some kind of government intervention? Doing nothing but blaming the parents doesn't help much."

I don't understand why whenever this is an issue in society, it becomes something that the government has to go and fix. In the not so distant past, (let's say, at least up until the early 1950s), a number of problems were adressed by private (as in, non-governmental) initiatives (from profit and non-profit organizations, or simply community, family support). Now, we expect government to take care of everything. There seems to be no space for other solutions. Private initiatives seem to have completely disappeared from most people's mindset. This kind of mindset is even pervasive in the economical system where many people now believe it is the role of Government to "stimulate" the Economy. As if, the Economy was a "by-product" of government intervention!

I DO think there are clear limits between government scope and private scope, and in most modern countries this is something that the Constitution usually clarifies. You find that such limits are usually lacking in countries which tend to turn to despotism and dictatorship. When you break these boundaries, you end up (after a while, step by step...) with governments suppressing freedom of speech and telling people how they have to think. That is exactly why there are several Privacy Advocate groups which pay a lot of attention to this kind of issues.

Ah good point. Indeed much of what the government does could be accomplished by private groups.

So why should the government get involved? Let's look at the case of school meals. Many parents want them but it's not provided by the state school, so parents will team up to make it happen privately. This means negotiating with the school for access to a building on the premises, forming a committee to organize the whole thing (so having elections at periodic intervals to appoint the committee), hiring cooks, cleaners, security, etc., setting up a system for collecting money from parents, and finally establishing a process for decisions such as what to put on the menu.

We basically end up with a small task-specific government with its own laws (such as how decisions are made and how people are elected to the committee). So not only is it redundant with other local (e.g. city) governments, it also increases the complexity of everyone's life dramatically, as you have to deal with the public government plus all the private organizations, each with their own quirks.

This is why I view politics as a generic platform for debate on societal issues, and government as a framework for taking and implementing decisions. For this to be efficient it is important to have strong local governments at several levels (e.g. city, state, country) and choose wisely their respective prerogatives, such as city level for school meals, state level for school programs and country level for school certification. That does not mean there is no room for private initiatives, it just illustrates why government involvement could be a good option, sometimes.

As for the Constitution stuff, there's no question that a government should be monitored carefully and have limited powers (e.g. cannot force children to eat school meals), but this is different from saying it cannot offer school meals.

You should watch Jamie Oliver's show he spends a great deal of time talking about budgets. Healthier food doesn't need to be more expensive, he has proved it a bunch of times.

Yeah I’ve seen him devise recipes to fit within budgetary constraints. He found it very challenging because the budget is like 40p per meal or something ridiculous like that. So he’s well aware of the problem. I think one of the things he campaigns for is more funding.

He talks about budgets only after publicly embarrassing school district representatives and performing some outrageous stunts (ie. filling a school bus with sugar). I just don't think his approach was the best way to get people on his side. But of course a different more subtle approach wouldn't make for entertaining television.

>>Healthier food doesn't need to be more expensive

Healthier food isn't tasty either. But our brain perceives anything non tasty as unhealthy.

That's where things get messed up. Healthy + tasty food is actually expensive.

Growing up in central Canada I never had a school that provided meals. Now that I'm in the US I find it odd that schools (of all ages) can provide lunch for students.

My son now gets his food at school - while it's nice that we don't need to prepare his lunch beforehand, I'd much much rather have my school district's food-related costs be used towards teachers and learning.

I have prepared lunch for my son when he was in elementary, it is not a hard thing to do.

The biggest thing with this is that there are some parents who are unable to prepare food for their child due to financial costs.

For some kids, a school meal might be the only thing they eat, or the largest meal of the day.

Its a complex issue. I've been to schools in England where they would have liked to ban students bringing their own food in to school at all (mostly because of an excess of soft drinks and packaged crisps). To me, however (as someone who always had a packed lunch in Australia) there was something very 'police state' about this. It seems to really be saying that the state doesnt believe that parents are capable of bringing up their own children (not just that a few might need financial help to do so)...

There are many families where it is an issue of finance and time preventing them from making their kids healthy lunches. There are also a great many families where it is an issue of broken culture and defeated people that actually could provide nutritious meals. Of course if it's only one kid in a poor school that comes every day with simple cheap home-made food, that child risks serious ostracism.

Well if you don't even expect parents to care about what their children eat, how can you expect parents to care about education ? It boils down to the same thing.

Besides, I hear this argument often but I don't buy in the "finance" issue to get good food. Getting veggies/rice is cheap enough and can be cooked pretty fast. You don't need meat 3 times a day to be healthy. Just 60 years ago, people were eating 10 times less meat than now and they had no issue becoming smart (and probably smarter than now, seeing the extremely poor achievements of school education nowadays).

Basically lunches in School is an extension of the School system: you ensure people have to rely on you, everyday. This is toxic in so many ways. Kids never learn what it takes to prepare food, because they never see their Mom/Dad prepare food for them. It makes them value food as a commodity. It also "breaks" another link between parents and children, since you rely on a separate organization to feed your own kids, on which you have little knowledge and control.

Seriously, providing lunches at school is just a broken solution to the broken culture problem you mention. It does not fix anything, and provides comfort that it's OK to be part of that "broken culture". It just makes things worse in the end.

Had the same experience in Australia, you could buy your lunch but it was more a once in a while or emergency thing. Quality was fine as the low amount of orders were all done by hand.

Once thing looking back I think we should have had, access to a fridge and microwave, would have allowed for more options and given kids a bit more responsibility.


Healthy food is not pricier unless you get fancy. Legumes, quinoa, and vegetables aren't more expensive (though they do have smaller margins!) than the crap that they had been serving previously.

The cost of the materials is only a small part of it. Preparing and cooking fresh food requires much, much more effort than prepared packaged foods. Microwavable or similarly low/zero-prep food products require very little labor, require only a few steps before they are served, and create almost zero items to be washed and cleaned. You would be surprised how much cheaper a flat of microwave burritos is compared to an equally caloric-dense flat of fresh or bulk goods.

Also to consider is the cost of a skilled laborer -- someone who can actually cook -- versus a minimum wage worker who only needs to unwrap a package, press a button, and plate it.

Given the success of various "healthy fast-food" restaurants, it seems nearly everyone can be taught to cook the simple stuff.

But I was thinking, here, of quinoa prepared in a rice cooker (comparable in difficulty to microwaving a burrito), salad, and pre-made vegetarian chili. There's no way the total cost of this is higher than calorie-equivalent microwave mexican fare.

E.g., Costco organic quinoa is about 700 kCalories/USD (plus 25g protein, 15g dietary fibre). Given a big enough rice cooker, I could teach any minimum wage employee how to spend 30 minutes and prepare quinoa enough to feed a school of 6000 for around a dollar per student. With another 30 minutes I could even make it palatable.

I don't want to undermine your basic point here -- I hope that you're right. Quinoa in particular might be a problem though, since it's already increasing in price due short supply. Mass adoption by America's schools would probably result in making it unsustainable both for the schools themselves and for South American communities that rely on it.


It doesn't look like quinoa can only be cultivated in particular regions, but rather that it takes time to get good crops going. The price should come down in a few years.

Deep-frozen vegetables are even cheaper than fresh ones and still have nearly all the nutrients, plus they usually come cleaned and preprocessed. Put it in some boiling salty water, wait a few minutes and you're good to go. How much easier can it get?

Mmm mmm. I remember as a kid, my favourite food was plain boiled vegetables. Like all kids, I just couldn't get enough of them. How I'd pester mum again and again to boil up some vegies. Yummy!

Very true. It's definitely easier to make packaged food cheap than to make fresh food cheap. Regarding labour costs however, there's also a chance that the people currently pressing the microwave buttons, would actually be able to (and perhaps even enjoy to) cook real meals. In that case these costs need not necessarily be much higher.

> Preparing and cooking fresh food requires much, much more effort than prepared packaged foods. Microwavable or similarly low/zero-prep food products.

Microwaving corn on the cob is pretty much as low effort as it gets.

Corn is a grain, not a vegetable. Dietarily, Americans do like to treat corn as a vegetable, but it should be more thought as as a starch.

Someone has to remove the husk, de-hair it first, and chop it to size, not to mention dress it with butter or etc. Each single one. Compare that to the amount of effort it takes to microwave a 20lb bag of creamed corn that is already dressed, and ready to be scooped onto a plate.

Go inside a small kitchen at 4pm or so and watch the amount of effort it takes to even chop onions in preparation for dinner service.

You can buy cobs of corn that are already processed in bulk.

No you don't. You take the whole thing, with the husk on, and microwave it. Then you give it to the kid, and they pull the husk off, eat it, and throw the husk and cob into the compost bucket.

If you are worried about healthy meals, you probably don't put butter on it at all.

"... The UK has the highest rate of childhood obesity in Europe, with 25% of young people being classified as obese or overweight. The Government’s Foresight report suggests this will only get worse, with 40% of Britons expected to be obese by 2025 ...." [0]

Are these constraints factoring in the long term health benefits & lower health costs?

[0] "Why is school food important?" ~ http://www.jamieoliver.com/school-dinners/

it's not school food making them fat.

It's parent spending money on highly taxed cigarettes, sports clothes and lottery tickets then moaning that all they can feed their kids is processed shit. Ban cigarettes entirely, stop the lottery and give benefit claimants vouchers rather than cash and health problems will decline instantly.

This comes from experience working in schools (I do part time reading with primary school children). The unhealthy kids with poor education smell of cigarettes and are on benefits WITHOUT EXCEPTION.

Not sure about the vouchers idea. You can already get milk vouchers and I've seen people exchange them for things other than milk.

If you look at the supermarkets in the UK, they issue "e-vouchers" which can only be used against certain people. These people are identified by a non-photographic ID card (ClubCard/Nectar). They can easily be replaced with a benefits card with a photo that does the same.

Just a question but is School Lunch free in Scotland ? If everything is subsidized you can't seriously complain about the quality of food, imo. If you were paying for it (and I don't mean through other taxes, but paying directly for it) and still got something as poor as this, certainly you could complain.

It's the eternal debate between leaving your responsibility as a parent to feed your child and taking the matters in your hands. In Japan there are still a fairly high percentage of mothers (even working ones) who prepare meals for their kids going to school. That's caring.

Doesn't really matter how much extra money you can spend on the teaching if the kids are all sugar crashing and can't concentrate.

I get the impression that had she been American, the school would have suspended her for her actions.

Of course, the justification wouldn't have been "her actions," but the reasoning would go something like this:

1. She is a student using personal electronics on school property during school hours without permission. This is explicitly disallowed in the handbook she and her parents would have been compelled to sign. This is not about food - she broke the rules.

2. That's great that she wants to be a journalist, but you never know what's going to happen with children in possession of cameras. Sexting! Cyberbullying! Violation of privacy! And with the Internet these days... She is not old enough to appreciate the consequences of what can happen with cameras. Maybe in 11th or 12th grade she can join extracurriculars that introduce students to photography in an age-appropriate, supervised, and controlled environment.

As a matter of policy, the school recommends that parents who give their children smartphones use parental controls to disable the camera, restrict internet access to school-approved websites, and always monitor calls and text messages. If a child needs the Internet for research purposes, a parent should always sit next to the child and supervise.

3. All personal electronics are distractions and disrupt the learning environment.

These arguments play very well with the mainstream American media. In fact, the media makes these arguments all the time, probably more vigorously than school officials would.

This PR problem would have been trivial to crush had administration desired to crush it.

The more conspiratorial side of me likes to think that school is a prison camp used by vested interests to teach American citizens from a young age that they have no rights and to stymie any sort of real intellectual development by providing large globs of homework and projects.

But some people require more than the standard to weigh them down. Like in Harrison Bergerson.[0] And the only reason that they don't force extra work to match is that citizens would recognize the inherent unfairness and be offended that their children weren't thought worthy of extra work. So instead they paint it as a way to make your application look better to colleges. (Think hi-cap.)

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrison_Bergeron

Disclosure: I am in high school.

> school is a prison camp used by vested interests to teach American citizens from a young age that they have no rights and to stymie any sort of real intellectual development

There's a pretty strong argument made that that is actually the case and its intentional, backed by actual history.

Have you read The Underground History of American Education? It's extremely interesting and well referenced. Read it free here, or get the print book on amazon if you like. http://johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/index.htm

So the equivalent amount of schooling in all other industrialised nations is a separate thing? It's just in the US that it was engendered as a prison camp? There's a fair amount of tinfoil in that claim.

For what it's worth, I did once read in a (To me obviously left leaning.) textbook that the nation-state and nationalism were invented by France through the use of something approximating the modern school system.

I searched the web, but couldn't find another source for you. Sorry.

Honestly, you're giving the entire institution of education waaaayyy too much credit. I think they're just trying to teach children with as little expense possible, in a way that panders to the lowest common denominator and what you see in public education today is the end result. Homework is just a happy byproduct of a poorly structured industry :p They can't be evil geniuses and inept at the same time can they? At least that's how I view it.

I think educational institutions attempt to shape young people in a way they imagine makes them contributing members of society.

At least, that was the starting point. What it has boiled down to (getting back to pandering to the lowest common denominator, the bad system structure in it's entirety and desire to spend the least amount of money + the fact that it's flipping hard to get kids to do what you want, ask a parent) is that they are now basically just hoping young people don't get into trouble. Just get through to college without ruining your life or the life of someone else, and hey.. maybe you'll even learn something.

This type of system doesn't breed the next Steve Jobs, but it probably does get a few extra kids of the street and maybe impart some knowledge.

Totally accurate; nice summary; have seen this myself; was thinking the exact same things while reading the article. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_War_on_Kids recommended to those who are skeptical.

Nothing is your post is overly dramatic or exaggerated in the least.

As a person a few years out of high school myself, I was more shocked by your disclaimer for exaggeration than by the post above.

Everything said seems normal and logical for the schools I've encountered (and the local/regional/national media) to report, given their dispositions and previous conduct.

Yes, things were a lot different back in the day when I was a youth. Which wasn't as long ago as you might think. It's both very alarming to me the way things are handled in schools, and that so many seem to think it is a good thing and that so few realize the dangers. To someone who went to school even 20 years ago who hasn't been following the changes the above post might seem an outlandish scenario that could never happen in America land of the free.

Appreciate the freedom you guuys have to homeschool your kids. In my contry, parents that didn't enlist their children into schools have gone to jail.

Beat me to it. Agreed. There's no way we'd put up with that kind of insolence over here.

You know. I can read the arrogance in your statement, and I think that's exactly how the school would respond, with exactly that tone. I think that was your point.

It's terrible that we would respond in such a way, rather than fixing our ways and feeding children a healthy lunch when they get the assisted lunch plan (this is often given to kids that honestly cannot afford other food, and may be their only real meal of the day).

You nailed it. Of course all usual caveats apply. I won't be surprised to find a few excellent schools out there; but, I expect them to be the exception, not the rule. Education in this country is a national disgrace. Have kids? Get yourself on the local school board.

Yeah, I wouldn't bet money on it, but I wouldn't be surprised if it happened, either.

This was food, not prayer. I've heard of complaints about food being met in a positive manner in LA (California) and where I finished high school in South Carolina.

As a vegetarian growing up in England, I remember having non-packed lunch at primary school only once: I was given a hamburger, and told to take the burger out. At the time I just took it in my stride, but on reflection...

I became vegetarian when I went to University and had my very own Baby Belling.

My school dinners in the UK were cooked in a kitchen in the school by cooks my Mum knew, the veg and meat were bought locally and there was always meat and two veg except Fridays when there was fish. I quite liked them. I have fond memories of those chocolate brick puddings with the minty custard served from metallic effect jugs (60s we are talking).

The trouble started in the UK when they outsourced catering so the cook was not a school employee and did not live over the road. You began to get meals served from a central kitchen and produced as cheaply as possible using frozen veg/mechanically recovered meat. Budgets were low.

Enter Jamie.

Good for this wain. You can get yourself excluded from a UK school for writing things on the Web, but school meals are a 'safe' area of dissent.

School dinners in the 80s: healthy, fun and £1. In 1990 the kitchen was closed down and we all had to eat packed lunch in a classroom. Decided there and then never to vote Tory.

I do hope you're joking.

Not at all.

Well, FWIW, when I experienced strikes that brought the country to a complete standstill, meant power cuts, no running water, etc, I decided I would never vote Labour.

There is speculation that one of the greatest mathematicians of all time, Ramanujan, died because of just that-- a lack of vegetarian food in England.


Yes, plus a rather bad bacterial infection, probably as a result of a low resistance.

That was in the 1930s. Things have changed (I can walk down the road and get a reasonable South Indian curry in a cafe where UK Indian people go).

I am really happy and surprised at the same time, to know that children in first world countries get facilities like eating such awesome food provided for free in school.

In my country(India), its a extremely far fetched thing to even assume that somebody can provide such good quality food for free in school. When I was in School around 12 years back, We would carry a lunch Tiffin packed at home, sometimes I would go completely hungry if my mom was in a hurry so some slip happened while making the Tiffin.

And yes, cakes, pastry, vegetables are all big things. My lunch used to be far more modest.

I hope someday in my country we would capable of providing this kind of facilities to kids.

It's not exactly free. It's 2£ (GBP) per meal, so about 176₹ (INR.)

The situation in India is certainly much worse than that in Great Britain, though. I really hope the country will be able to stem the tide of poverty, overpopulation, and corruption.

>In my country(India), its a extremely far fetched thing to even assume that somebody can provide such good quality food for free in school.

Hostel food?

I just want to point out a MUCH more serious attrocity being committed here: This poor, sweet child is so under-educated in the UK that she doesn't even understand the difference between "dinner" and "lunch".. We must rectify this injustice! Will someone think of the children!!!


I can understand her confussion, it gets dark by 11AM in the U.K. By noon, one tries to stay indoors, safe from rain and soccer-hooligans.

Dinner can mean lunch in Britain. Also, tea can be biscuits and cake in the afternoon, or the main meal in the evening, which can also be called supper.

Google 'define dinner';

din·ner/ˈdinər/ Noun: The main meal of the day, taken either around midday or in the evening.

I believe the winking face at the end was to imply some form of sarcasm or joke.

Correct :)

From her blog (http://neverseconds.blogspot.com.es/2012/05/i-had-really-coo...):

>Today I have been sent lots of photos from America. This one was sent in by Kimberley who works in the Glenview school district, near Chicago, Illinois. Dad timed me to find Chicago on the globe and it took me 48 seconds but it was not fair as I was looking for it spelt SHicargo.

I hope I'm that kind of dad someday. Cheers to her father for the encouragement and for meeting with the school council. And of course cheers to Martha.

If you watched Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution show to this point, it was quite depressing how little was done about it on the American show. We unfortunately live in a world where we value money over people's health.

I have heard the argument that with a fully private healthcare system there is no financial benefit to lobbying/pushing for a healthier society as the healthcare sector can only make money off people who are ill - therefore it comes down to who can afford to shout the loudest at those in charge. I guess until there is a way to profit off prevention rather than cure there will always be this sort of conflict of interests.

This is of course a mute point for this child as Scotland (for now, lets see how the independence referendum goes) is NHS (national health service) based.

And I agree, Jamie's Food Revolution has highlighted this issue very well. The poor attitude toward health seems universal however as one of the most poignant scenes in any of his shows is the one of UK parents passing deep fried fish and chips through the school fence at lunch time!

>> Scotland (for now, lets see how the independence referendum goes) is NHS (national health service) based

Scotland leans left, there's no way the NHS is going even if independence is granted.

That's true, forgot that

'moot' point, not 'mute'. A moot point is a point which is debatable and not final.

Thanks, unfortunate typo.

> where we value money over people's health.

This is sort of a nonsensical statement, as money is simply an external means by which to make such relative comparisons of value between things which are good. Perhaps you meant to assert the accumulation of savings is valued over health related expenditures? Debt levels would suggest otherwise.

Where we value the ability to obtain goods and services over people's health.

Not savings, but purchasing power. Better?

Food, food preparation, medicine, and health treatments\consultations are considered goods and services. Could you give some specific examples of things which can be said to be externally valued by a collective "we" which are neither goods nor services, the principle you are using to measure the collective value of non-goods and non-services, and the operation which allows you to relationally compare the value of non-goods and non-services to the value of goods and services?

My question is: where are the parents in this? I don't know about the UK, but in North America there are few things a school fears more than angry parents. A group of angry parents can rain hellfire down on a school board and principal.

Why is there no outrage that their children are being served slop?

Did /your/ parents know what you ate at school?

I don't know about his school, but every month my kid's school sends a lunch menu home with the "what's happening at school this month" letter. So we do know what he's eating, and by looking at his purchases online it's pretty obvious what he likes.

But to answer the original question you do not know what he is _actually_ eating.

Whatever the lunch menu says he is eating and the actual quality of the food served could differ in the extreme.

Practically the only way you could know this is if the school posted pictures of the actual lunches being served. (Like this kid did)

I commend your school for sending menus however, better than others I have heard of.

Wow. This must have changed from when I was a kid. I never saw such a thing!

Good. Looking at the utter shit they feed children in the UK under the guise of school dinners, it's nice to see someone documenting it. I send my children in with a proper packed lunch and their friends take the piss out of them because it's NOT processed shit.

I don't get humans sometimes.

> "I don't get humans sometimes."

We pick on people that are different - not people that are better or worse. The quality of the food your children have is not why they're singled out.

How often do you get Humans in your meals?


Very funny ;)

Wow. Fantastic result for a young blogger. However I don't think the new meal looks that much better, apart from the sprinkle of salad.

Before: Pizza, Corn, Potato Chip, Cupcake

After: Pasta, Potato, Cake, Salad

Exactly. The bar should be set a LOT higher.

I agree, but credit where credit is due: for immediate short-term changes that won't break the tight budget it's not a bad start.

They appear to be carbo-loading. If I ate that lunch, I'd be asleep an hour later.

She writes remarkably well for a nine year-old, quite witty. I may have smirked a couple times.

Indeed. It almost makes me question whether this was a real 9 year old, or a teacher that wrote lower than their level (but not low enough) and that was outraged by the activities ... and then signed it their child's name.

Possibly the family talked about the lunches and the Dad asked her to take photos and tell a story about it....

It's clear he's helping with the tech aspect (i.e. number of hits), so he could be helping with editing/spelling/content too.

I don't see a problem with that.

According to the radio interview[1] it started out as a writing exercise.

[1] http://dl.dropbox.com/u/17908017/VEG%20You%20and%20Yours.mp3

I get the impression from reading it that it's her content but her dad is doing the editorial for her which, given it's a 9yo with a blog, I'd call pretty sensible parenting.

That's a reasonable and less conspiracy-esque theory. It seems more plausible than my idea -- though it wouldn't surprise me if a teacher actually did do that.

It would almost be funny if it wasn't sickening, how things only get done when publicity and TV celebrities get involved.

How come fruits and salads are suddenly possible now when they were not before?

It's crazy. I attended several British state schools in the 80s (none of which seemed to be brimming with cash) and we always had a full meal on proper plates - a meal that would look little different to what I have at home now. Seeing random stuff thrown at a plastic tray is really depressing.

Good grief, my Scottish school (Banchory Academy) had huge portions of fairly stolid, if unspectacular food. Always plenty of veg and a meat, and a dessert.

Portions have downsized to airline proportions...

And this is in Scotland. Can you imagine what it is like in the poorest countries in the world? This is why we need a permanent, open Internet on all nations, because as soon as the truth comes out, someone does something about it.

In the US we have corporate industrial processed food lobbyists influencing what ends up in the school cafeteria's. We're used to having quick, processed junk food and most people probably wouldn't want it any other way out of ignorance of what 'real' food costs and can taste like. 'Poorer' countries eat much less processed foods and more of the local 'real' foods.

That food looked pretty bad so pretty sure it's actually better in some of the "poorer" countries.

There was some old post about school lunches over the world. Google finds me this: http://todayilearned.co.uk/2011/04/20/what-kids-of-the-world...

No, not really. Each day we see atrocities from poorer countries, richer countries. The light of truth shines on it and very rarely is anything done about it on a scale like this.

In this case I think the celebrity involvement helped, but really it was the father engaging the local government.

A few weeks back, All Things Considered had a really interesting piece on a school lunch program in Bangalore:


Obviously, that's just one program, and in just one city in just one country, but I thought it was pretty neat.

This right here is modern media effecting change. A few decades ago this would have never happened. I am hopeful that more kids will learn to blog and write about things that are so often opaque to society.

School lunches were never great, but they've gone down hill stupendously since I was younger.

Making my son's lunch for him every morning might be the single greatest favor I do for him on a day to day basis.

For what it is worth, about half way through this school year my daughters school (and presumably all US schools) had to start following new healthy eating guidelines imposed by the government.


Does all of the USA and UK have school provided lunches? Here, where I am (Canada), schools don't provide a lunch to the students, and the cafeteria food that can be purchased is quite unhealthy (pizza, fries etc.). I'm in high school right now, which might be why it's different, but I don't remember being provided a lunch from the school in elementary school either.

It's sad that such a thing needs international attention and Jamie Oliver to add some normal food and vegetables to a kid's lunch.

If anything it shows the patchwork attitude and the total lack of pride, or care for quality, of the people involved.

This is something that seems systemic to the (western?) world though...

This is great. I'll never forget the day I bit into a shard of metal in my pizza in high school.

This is why I think the internet is cool.

I wonder if the blog is registered under her parent(s)'s account. I would expect a 9-year-old user is outside the Blogger ToS.

Yes, due to COPPA, the blog will be suspended if Google finds out that it belongs to a 9-year-old.

What is all the uproar about?

I looked through the pictures..didn't see any rice with maggots or anything terrible...

Did I miss a post?

Is this something to do with the portions or taste or time to eat?

(I'm quite serious, not trying to troll).

Lack of fruit and veg; unbalanced choice with plenty of carbs but weird protein etc.

Whether that's because she choose odd things (and she is only 9, so maybe they should be helping her chose better) or because that's the only selection is open.

Can't help but wonder how the school will retaliate.

I'm remembering my schools lunches, and frankly that looks miles better than that served in my public school in Wisconsin.

I hope the school made changes despite the possibility of Jamie Oliver creating a media storm.

Please, sir, may I have no more?

Yes, Dickens would seem to describe how the school views the children. "Please, sir, I want some more" is all that they should be saying.

Slightly off topic, but Dickens is a fantastic writer, I haven't read anyone as good as him (or even close) at writing engaging stories. Shakespeare is better with languages, but Dickens writes better.

And if you want to read him, gutenberg has him (http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/730).

Highly recommended.

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch in South African schools.

Isn't this a little too smart for a 9-year old?

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