So What DO Sasha and Melia Get For Lunch?

13 08 2009

Everyone has surely heard by now about the uproar over the ads in the metro that mention “President Obama’s daughters” in the context of their school lunches being healthier and involving more choices than most public school lunches.  The White House, according to Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s president Neal Barnard, would like the ads removed immediately to protect the girls’ private lives.  But regardless of which side of the privacy debate you’re on, the real question is “What are the Obama girls eating for lunch?”  Well, per a January 2009 posting, Sidwell Friends does have a pretty good-looking menu.  Check it out:  

Sidwell Friends menu - 2009-08-12 at 15-53-59

The descriptions of the food are almost poetic in some cases, I agree.  Cheese tortellini with garden marinara, fiesta rice, all natural nacho bar (as opposed to an unnatural nacho bar?), vintner’s salad …  Wait!  What the he** is a vintner’s salad?  A quick Google search reveals it to be a salad with watercress and gruyere (here’s a link in case anyone wants to make one).  Hm, OK, that does sound a bit fancy.  But is the menu really all that different from a regular public school menu?  Let’s compare it with a menu from Barcroft Elementary in Arlington, Virginia:

Barcroft menu

Honestly, at first glance I thought these menus were intrinsically the same.  Each includes “healthy” options like fruit and vegetable, each ensures all food groups are represented, etc.  But on closer inspection, I’m not so sure they are equal at all.  Here are some differences I identify.  Can anyone point out others?

  1. The Sidwell Friends menu includes organic foods.
  2. The Sidwell Friends menu includes local foods, which would likely imply that the school cafeteria actually prepared from scratch (or close to it) the meals containing those foods as opposed to purchasing the meals ready made.
  3. The Sidwell Friends menu has no (count em, zero!) fried foods.  The Barcroft menu includes several, such as corn dog nuggets, chicken tenders and chicken nuggets (I’m assuming), crispy chicken patty, and “fish treasures.”  (Did I mention that the Barcroft menu uses poetic elements, too?  Just not quite as deftly as Sidwell Friends.)
  4. The Barcroft menu could easily be described as “kid food.”  That’s not really true for the Sidwell Friends menu.  I would be very happy with a meal from the Sidwell Friends menu.  This point is important because–while many kids are able to escape obesity throughout their childhoods regardless of what they eat–training future adults to consume corn dog nuggets, crispy chicken in various forms, italian subs, and pizza for lunch is not helpful to their waistlines in the long run. 
  5. The Sidwell Friends menu makes vegetables seem like (a) part of the normal meal and (b) something you’d actually want to eat.  Tomato basil soup, roasted butternut squash, garden vegetable pie, and garlic green beans?  Yum, yum, and yum!  On the other hand, on the Barcroft menu, the vegetables are generally shoved to the end of the menu and seem to fall into two categories:  raw veggies or veggies straight from the freezer bag (peas and carrots, corn, steamed spinach).  Sure, yeah, they’re veggies all right, but you’re not going to get anyone excited about eating them … or even interested.

So, it seems as though those ads may have a point.  Too bad that mentioning the Obama kids reportedly gets the White House to “hate” and “punish” you, according to some Republican political consultant interviewed for the Post story on the issue.  Wait a second, does that mean they’re going to come after me for this blog posting?  Did I just hear a knock on the door?  Gotta run!




4 responses

15 08 2009

Great! I have had the (dis)fortune to sample APS school lunches a few times when visiting my son at Taylor Elementary last year. The food *sounds* decent, but it wasn’t good. He begged to buy lunch, and honestly, I agreed as rarely as I could as it was far too over-processed (the burgers didn’t even look edible!) The fact that APS offers Smuckers Lunchables as their pbj option is ludicrous! I’m all for organic, local, all natural, but I think APS would be well served to take baby steps away from the junk they are serving now!

15 08 2009

Wow! Agreed, Jennifer. I’m wondering whether Arlington’s schools actually have real kitchens, or if they are mostly just these “heat-and-serve” facilities?

18 08 2009

It’s all about money. Sidwell Friends charges tuition and has $ to put into their food services. Public schools try to provide affordable meals for the varying economic levels. As a former FCPS teacher, I ate those school meals every single time I forgot my lunch. While there are some fresh veggies, the amount barely makes up a serving size, but mostly it’s canned vegetables. How else can they keep costs down?

18 08 2009

Absolutely. You are right. It IS all about money. But I guess the follow-up question I would ask is this: Would an extra $1 per lunch plate (a) make a big enough difference nutritionally and/or tastewise (because, frankly, who cares how many vitamins are in the canned green beans if no one’s eating them!) and (b) pay dividends in the kids’ attention span, test scores, or overall health that would make it worth taking that money away from some other part of the school budget?

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