I've added a new item on my sidebar, promoting the Fed Up With Lunch blog as well as Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. CD and I have been changing our family's eating habits slowly since Pook was born. We very seldom buy anything prepared and we eat at fast food places only as a last resort on road trips. But... I am lazy about lunches. We try to send a lunchbox with the boys at least once a week, but they like the school food and are happy to eat there. The process is so simple (we even pay online) that it is easy to never give it any thought.
I have a great list of lunch ideas stuck to the side of the fridge, but we don't refer to it much. We send the same few things that are quick to pull together, and we don't send lunches often enough.
Today the boys took lunchboxes. Bug had a slice of leftover homemade pizza (Pook made the crust for us in the bread machine.), half a large apple, a refillable bottle of water and some nasty frosted-animal-cookies-that-I-bought-on-impulse-and-try-not-to-admit-that-I-like. Pook took a bowl of homemade hummus, pita chips, a banana, water and a few of the aforementioned evil cookies. (Usually they take the same lunch but Bug forgot his yesterday and so is taking it today instead. Pook ate leftover pizza yesterday.)
They are missing out on this: (from the school lunch menu)
breaded chicken sandwich OR breaded fish sandwich on wheat bun
carrot & celery sticks with ranch dressing
and mac'n'cheese for all.
And the choice of chocolate or 2% milk or "real 10% fruit juice" (actually referred to as "fortified juice drink")
So, the food isn't so awful. There are fruits and vegetables, some of them fresh and not canned. However, they don't cook on site; everything has been frozen or bagged and delivered.
The worst to me is not the food, and is a completely different issue as far as teaching kids bad habits for life. The county uses styrofoam trays, plastic baggies with plastic spoons and plastic straws and napkins thinner than tissues. We were challenged by a summer nature camp to make waste-less lunches and we no longer have anything disposable in them besides paper napkins in the lunchboxes.
The school system can do better. So can we.