Cafeteria lunches in the elementary school! I never had the luxury of eating in the school cafeteria. At Rupley Elementary we went home for lunch. I lived right down the street from the school and we went home where Mom made us tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, just like a Campbell's commercial.
Nowadays, though, children eat in the lunchroom and it is a scene like no other. Each child has a 5 digit number which they punch into the computer. Their account comes up and they are charged for the lunch. Things have changed in school cafeterias. Dessert has been eliminated from the menu. No more cookies or cake. However, carbs rank high in the food line. Children can choose from tacos with mystery meat surprise, very cheesy macaroni and cheese the consistency of denture paste.Rolls and mashed potatoes and plantains. There are a lot of names that fall short of the real food, like "riblets" and "chiken." Pizza is always served on Friday, a hit with the kids, as is Mexican pizza, little octagonal pizzas with what appears to be kibble on the top.
My favorite food is a corn dog. Call me an idiot but when Corn Dog day comes around, it's all I can do to not lunge at the trays as the kids go by with their weiner-on-a-stick.
Children can also get frozen pops with their lunch at times. Blue and red lips and tongues result. In addition, you can usually tell what was served at lunch by what the children are wearing on their clothes. More food gets on the child than in. Also on the floor, and on the tables.
It is hard work monitoring the cafeteria. If you are walking around, you spend your whole time answering questions during the kindergarten and first grade lunches. You walk all the way across the cafeteria, spotting a child with a raised hand.
"I don't have a spork." Fine, I have a whole pocket full of sporks here. Then the child next to him raises her hand. Soon I have a whole chain reaction of hands going up in the air.
"I have to go to the bathroom."
"She looked at me."
"He said a bad word."
"She took my sandwich."
"I feel sick."
"I want my mommy." Tears start at that point.
"Could I have some ketchup?"
I answer back, "Why do you need ketchup? You ate all your lunch already."
Shoulder shrug. No ketchup provided.
Just as you think that you are going to die if you have to answer one more question, a little girl calls you over and when you get there, she gives you a hug and says, "I love you."
I melt. I am ready to do it all over again.
I often station myself at the compactor. Now this can be a dangerous place because not everyone has mastered the art of aiming and putting the tray in the compactor in one smooth motion. It splatters and as the person helping out, it splatters on me. Call me Sticky. But it is interesting to note the eating habits of elementary children.
Most of the food, whether it is brought from home or bought in the cafeteria, goes into the garbage, especially anything that could provide any kind of nutritional benefit to the child. What is always eaten is candy, cookies, chips, ice cream (sold on Wednesdays) and juice (with 10% real juice and 90% real sugar). What isn't eaten is cafeteria broccoli, salads, green beans, and fresh fruit. Kids with lunches from home toss lovingly packed sandwiches, fruit, healthy snacks and salads. Well, they try to toss these things. I make them take them home to show Mom they are not eating them so that they will rethink what to pack.
So on a diet of sugar, sugar and preservatives, the kids then, covered with ketchup and mustard and chocolate milk stains get in line to go back to the classroom to try to learn for the next two hours.I know how that is going to go.
But my problem is a little more self-serving. Those carbs can look mighty tasty as they get swallowed up by the compactor. So far I have resisted the urge to yank a couple of chicken nuggets off the trays for a quick snack. And the corn dogs, well they are just not the same once the cornbread coating is eaten off the hot dog and all that is left is a naked wiener with a bite in it going down the chute. But I have been tempted, signs that I have been doing this for too long.