As a teacher, I have eaten lunch in MANY school cafeterias, and I thought it would be helpful for CH's to learn about what our kids are REALLY eating in school. You might be surprised!
For example, in the town I currently work in, pizza is available EVERY DAY. I know that many kids tell their parents they had "the hot lunch choice" but really eat pizza every day.
Did you know that margarine is served in my hometown's school cafeterias? I called the lunch office to ask them why margarine and not butter, and they told me that "x-tra choice" items are not required to meet the same dietary rules that apply to "main choices". Margarine is just gross, but I see kids glopping it on EVERYTHING! Ditto for the bottled "parmesean cheese".
Our grilled cheese sandwiches have 3 pieces of bread- bread, cheese, bread, cheese, bread! Why? So the meal contains a proper amount of "fiber". As far as I can tell, the bread is white and processed... The kids peel off the top layer and then it looks really gross so they throw it out.
Here's an interesting bit of info from my town of employment (a pretty "tony" suburb). If the child goes down the lunch line and grabs a dessert before fruit or veggies, that child has not "selected an appropriately healthy lunch" and is required to choose a healthy item before checking out (which is then thrown out in the large garbage can next to the checkout). Here's the interesting part- if the child selects the lunch AND a healthy side, the dessert costs extra! Get it? It took me awhile to figure out why the cost of my lunch varied from day to day.
Milk is required-even if you are allergic or hate it. In order to avoid paying more for an "a-la-carte" lunch, you MUST take a milk. And the milk choices I have seen include: strawberry (a shockingly gross pink color), chocolate, vanilla (added pretend "vanilla" flavor), and banana (a bomb w/kids in our district). Which ones did YOU choose when your mom wasn't looking? Don't necessarily believe your kids when they say they are choosing "fat-free". Water, which is good for you, costs more than $1 extra, unless your child uses a re-fillable container and water from the fountain. If you just got the milk b/c you had to but don't want it, the big garbage can next to the register is there for your needs. I would guess that more than 1/2 the milks are tossed regularly.
Our school used to have a table where unwanted items (like milk) were placed for others to peruse, but for "health and safety reasons" this practice was outlawed. Any food items touched (including packaged items!) are required to be thrown out- a HUGE waste of perfectly good food items, including boxes of raisins, containers of milk and baggies of carrots.
I could go on and on, but I hope other CH's share what you like and don't like about YOUR school cafeterias.