My son does not like spaghetti sauce. He’s not a big fan of tomatoes in all its forms in general. Whenever we make spaghetti he just has the noodles with some cheese on it. Either Parmesan cheese or sometimes he likes shredded cheddar. As long as he eats something, I don’t really care.
That’s brings us to an incident that happened at the summer school lunch program today.
But first I must say, that I respect the summer school lunch program and it’s mission. In my school district there are several schools that offer a free school lunch during the summer months to all children under the age of 18 in the district. The purpose of this is to provide all children with at least one nutritious meal during the day, and more importantly, to provide a meal to low income children (free school lunch is usually offered at schools where there is a high number of students on the reduced lunch program). Sadly, for many children that one free meal at school is their only meal all day. As a social worker I believe a program like this is highly needed and very wonderful.
Today I took my son to the summer lunch program. He likes going there because he gets a variety of food rather than his usual lunch staples at home (ham sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, etc.). He also enjoys socializing with the other children, and if mommy is feeling especially nice that day, playing on the playground after he eats his lunch.
Every single day at school lunch they offer a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and something else. The something else today was spaghetti. I’ve already told you my son doesn’t like spaghetti sauce so when he got up to the front of the line I asked the lunch lady if he could only have noodles. She said yes and proceeded to give him a bowl of just noodles. He took the rest of his food and we made our way out of the lunch line and into the cafeteria. Until the lunch lady who sits at the cash register (adults have to pay $3 for school lunch, hence the need for a cash register at a free lunch place) stopped my son and this was our exchange:
Lunch Lady: Stop! He has to have sauce!
Me: He doesn’t like sauce.
Lunch Lady: He has to have sauce for it to be considered a complete meal. It won’t count if he doesn’t have sauce. Even if he just has it on the side.
Me: That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Cole go sit down.
Lunch Lady: BUT HE HAS TO HAVE SAUCE!!!
Me: If you want to put sauce in a cup and throw it a way to “make it count” than go ahead. But I don’t understand the point of wasting food.
We then proceeded to sit down at a table. My son put shredded cheddar cheese in his noodles, just like he likes them. We sat in peace for a few minutes before the woman in charge of the lunch program came over to talk to me. This was our exchange:
Head Food Nazi: I just wanted to explain why she was saying he has to have sauce.
Me: I understand why. What I don’t understand is why it’s better to waste food than to give it to a kid who really wants it.
Head Food Nazi: Well the government rules say that if we serve a meal it has to be complete, and spaghetti with sauce is considered a meal. We have all these different governmental rules we have to follow.
Me: Look, I’m a social worker and I know what it’s like to have to follow the government’s rules. If it’s really that big of a deal get a cup of spaghetti sauce and put it on his tray and we will throw it away. I still don’t understand the point of wasting food when other children could eat it.
Head Food Nazi: That’s just what the rules tell us to do.
Me: I asked the lunch lady in line if he could have just noodles and she said yes.
Head Food Nazi: I know, and I explained to her our rules.
Head Food Nazi: Ma’am, if you don’t like the rules than write to your Congressman.
Me: I do all the time and I plan to. I also plan on talking to the school district.
Head Food Nazi: Well if you’re going to get this upset, the next time you come you’ll have to wait outside while he (my son) gets his food.
She then walked away.
Dude, she threatened me over spaghetti sauce.
I might add here that I wasn’t upset. I may have come across as snotty because I am, but I was not upset. She was the one who was getting upset. I don’t think she liked the fact that I was challenging her authority. She never did give my son a cup full of sauce so that it would “count.”
This is where I liked to point out that this rule is completely stupid. I happen to know for a fact that this one school throws away thousands of pounds of food away per year due to “the rules.” And that’s just this one school. Times that by the thousands of school in our country and you have a lot of wasted food. The purpose of this program is to feed lower income children . And yet they’re throwing away perfectly good food that could be donated to food banks and homeless shelters. If you take a jello cup and then don’t eat it and don’t open it, you can’t give it back to be given to another child. They force you to throw it away. If you don’t eat it you have to throw it away. How does this make sense? This is the one of the most RIDICULOUS thing I’ve ever encountered. To the school, to the school district, to the USDA it is more important that food is wasted so that it can be “counted” than shared or redistributed. That seems pretty effing wasteful to me, especially considering how bad the economy is right now. Not to even mention how much this wasted food could truly help people in need. And isn’t that the whole point of the program?
Will I be banned forever from the summer school lunch program? I don’t know yet. I guess we’ll see what happens when I show my face there on Monday.
I will be writing letters to my Congressman and two State Senators. And I’m thinking of placing a call into the school district.
I fought the man today. And the man is the lunch lady.