Suet and 17 Green Beans: School Lunch

When Orwell writes about food, he doesn't mess around. If you ever want to eat at a fancy French restaurant again, I suggest that you avoid Down and Out in Paris and London. But while the rest of us can give the steak frites a miss, schoolkids aren't so lucky. 

In his brilliant and distressing essay on the cruelties of English boarding school life in the 1910s, “Such, Such Were the Joys,” George Orwell devoted a few lines to the prevailing attitudes toward feeding children. A boy’s appetite was seen as “a sort of morbid growth which should be kept in check as much as possible.” At Orwell’s school, St. Cyprian’s, the food was therefore not only unappetizing but calorically insufficient; students were often told “that it is healthy to get up from a meal feeling as hungry as when you sat down.” Only a generation earlier, school meals began with “a slab of unsweetened suet pudding, which, it was frankly said, broke the boys’ appetites.” Orwell described sneaking, terrified, down to the kitchen in the middle of the night for a slice or two of stale bread to dull the hunger pains. His contemporaries at public school had it better, and worse: so long as their parents gave them pocket money to buy eggs, sausages, and sardines from street vendors, they scrounged enough food to get through the day.

Orwell on school lunch is just as brutal, and while things have changed since his time school lunch is still one of the worst parts of a pretty terrible education system—meager, yet obesity inducing. From The Washington Monthly's review of Janet Poppendieck's Free for All: Fixing School Food in America:

Under the National School Food Lunch Program, there are three tiers of school meals: free ones for the poorest children, reduced-price ones for those with somewhat greater means, and full-price meals for everyone else. All of the meals, including the full-price ones, are subsidized and therefore artificially cheap. And it is hard to break even when your most expensive meal costs $1.50, so school districts have increasingly turned to unregulated (and pricier) a la carte lines, the income from which goes straight back into the cafeteria program, and vending machines, which help fill out the schools’ general discretionary budgets. 

Via A&L Daily

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  • Abdul||

    Here's a good libertarian angle on that: private fast food joint are far more hygenic than school cafeterias, in part because they have to respond to market forces.

  • ||

    A better angle is that the private fast food is more hygenic than it needs to be and therefore more expensive. The schools aren't unsafe.

  • ||

    A better angle is that the private fast food is more hygenic than it needs to be and therefore more expensive. The schools aren't unsafe.

    Another angle is that government exempts itself from regulations that it applies everywhere else, or is easier on inspections. That applies whether something is "more hygienic than it needs to be" or not.

  • ||

    I would question whether decent hygiene adds any detectable marginal cost to an operation.

    I would also question whether the additional cost of hygiene outweighs both (a) the cost of restitution to patron who get sick and (b) the cost of lost business if your patrons get sick.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Philip Crosby once said "quality is free". He was right. Doing something right the first time always saves money.

  • Reformed Republican||

    Quality is not free. It costs in time and/or money. Like everything else in life, it is subject to the law of diminishing returns. There is a point at which attempting to improve the quality no longer generates a return to justify the cost.

  • TickleStick||

    Examples?

  • Brian 2||

    The software that runs the space shuttle is of exceptionally high quality, and is also exceptionally expensive to produce and maintain. If Amazon insisted on that level of quality, they'd still be drawing architecture diagrams and would plan to launch the first version of their site in 2018.

  • ||

    Security, whether airline, computer, or otherwise. Improving the quality of security has costs, and eventually there's a point where extra security is not worth the cost. (People then make a similar problem in reverse, assuming that security that doesn't solve 100% of the problems is useless. If security raises the cost or difficulty of Bad Guys doing something, then it has a positive effect even if not 100% effective. Just if too onerous, the negative effects outweigh the positive.) You'd have to reject the entire Industrial Revolution if you believed that quality was always free, too. Sometimes cheap and 90% is better than expensive and 100%.

    If you simply define "quality" as anything whether benefits are worth the costs, then your statement true, but only as a tautology.

  • ||

    Philip Crosby once said "quality is free". He was right. Doing something right the first time always saves money.

    The correct amount of quality is free, in that it pays for itself. However, that's basically a tautology anyway. It is, however, easily possible to have too much quality.

  • BakedPenguin||

    ...school meals began with “a slab of unsweetened suet pudding, which, it was frankly said, broke the boys’ appetites...

    I thought you couldn't have any pudding until you finished your meat. Roger waters lied to me.

  • T||

    Doesn't suet pudding sorta qualify as meat?

  • ||

    I think they were talking about a different kind of pudding there.

  • ||

    Pudding originally meant any food boiled for a long period of time in a bag.

    Thank you so much, George Washington.

  • ||

    Suet pudding is also known as Spotted Dick.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    I had that once but I took some penicilin and that got rid of it.

    Bad dum Bum

  • ||

    There's groaty dick, as well.

  • A.G. Pym||

    Dont' forget "drowned baby," too.

  • Fluffy||

    My kid goes to public school preschool and eats like a king.

    He's there four hours a day and they feed him three times. He barely eats at home any more.

    Cost to Fluffy: $0.

    Suck it, taxpayers!

  • ||

    Fluffy,

    If you don't mind me asking, what is your yearly household income?

  • ||

    I miss the generic "orange drink."

    Orange Vitamin Water is fairly close, which is fortunate since Gatorade won't make any flavor other than Ice Blue Donkey Cunt and Extremo Mango Electrico.

  • ||

    Orange Ade
    in the half pint carton with a pack of Nabs. 15 cents when I was in grade school.

  • ||

    I forgot to add. Go to wal-mart. Get a can of Great Value brand "Orange Early Rise" drink mix. It is sugar free and as near as I remember, tastes just like the orange ade we used to get at break here when I was a little shitter.

  • ||

    Good idea. I shudder to think how much sugar was in that little carton when I was a kid.

    We also had "grape drink." Which they never, ever had enough of. They'd get like 30 of them for 2,000 kids.

  • ||

    They have it in grape too. but the orange is incredible. I can finally eat peanut butter/cheese crackers again. But mostly,I was thinking of your flaccid pancreas.

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    Grape drink is often referred to as purple drink by the "sufficiently urban".

  • ||

    Cut me some slack there Snoop P.O.G. It was pointed out to me awhile back that a fat, balding, married, middle-aged white man looks silly when trying to be down wid it.

  • mrsbrotherben||

    ONLY when you're trying to be down with it?!?

  • ||

    Really, "grape" and "purple" are pretty much interchangeable. I doubt anything resembling a grape got anywhere near it.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I thought you had to add codiene cough syrup for it to be "purple drank".

    For suburban white kids, purple drink was $.99 / gallon at Cumberland Farms. It was great mixed with Everclear.

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    You're right about "purple drank," Penguin. The vowel makes all the difference.

  • ||

    So "purple drank" is really just a Flaming Moe?

  • FrenchHash||

    I Take it you diabetic as well? awesome

  • Principal Skinner||

    Don't forget to buy some orange drink!

  • Ted S.||

    You mean the "orange drink" in that giant clear plastic thing that recirculated like water in a fishtank?

    Yikes.

  • ||

    You think that's food you're eating?

    Huh.

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    It's certainly comestible.

  • ||

    Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    Can't argue with that.

  • ||

    Does anyone make worse food than the Brits? Between that and their 1984 governance guidebook, they should be on the shit list with North Korea and Iran.

  • Zeb||

    They certainly have a lot of weak spots, but the Brits do get a few things right. Their cheese and their breakfast is better than anywhere else.

  • ||

    "In heaven the chefs are Italian, the police are British, the lovers are French, the engineers are German, and it's all organized by the Swiss. In hell the chefs are British, the police are German, the lovers are Swiss, the engineers are French, and it's all organized by the Italians."

  • Happy Time Flavors||

    Last year, right here in beautiful Utica NY, there was a school lunch scandal. This editorial actually explains the situation pretty accurately.

    http://www.uticaod.com/viewpoi.....on-lunches

  • ||

    The comments are hilarious.

    Catherinem1
    Please be careful as not to bash the parents, some don't get the paper work from there children to fill out. Their are alot of parents out there that can't afford to send there children to school with lunch or breakfast. Its sad to say, you never hear a child who's parents have money but yet can slide through the system because their parents are well known. I just feel awful that those children had nothing to eat and still paid the price. Can we all come together as a city and go out our way to feed those that are less fortunate but yet gifted with a brain to think, so lets feed them so they can grow up strong, healthy and intelligent. Onedia County lets put away the recourse of a policy that will just back fire on the poor.

    It's like she spent a hour raping English.

    Please be careful as not to bash the parents, some don't get the paper work from there children to fill out.

    OK, inelegant. Maybe a simple typo.

    Their are alot of parents out there that can't afford to send there children to school with lunch or breakfast.

    Obviously goes past typos. But still legible.

    Its sad to say, you never hear a child who's parents have money but yet can slide through the system because their parents are well known.

    What?

    I just feel awful that those children had nothing to eat and still paid the price.

    Isn't the point that they didn't pay the price?

    Can we all come together as a city and go out our way to feed those that are less fortunate but yet gifted with a brain to think, so lets feed them so they can grow up strong, healthy and intelligent.

    Fucking trainwreck of a run-on sentence. And "less fortunate but yet gifted with a brain to think" the acephalic poor can just starve, I guess. Or maybe just the stupid ones?

    Onedia County lets put away the recourse of a policy that will just back fire on the poor.

    OK, the city council meeting is adjourned.

  • ||

    She doesn't just get their/there wrong, she actually reverses it 100% of the time, meaning she learned it the opposite of correctly and applies that. Plus she seems to do apostrophes in exactly the reverse way as well.

    It's amazing how hard that is to read.

  • mr simple||

    maybe she didn't get a good school lunch

  • N U Tricious||

    "maybe she didn't get a good school" lunch. I suggest you spank the lunch till it learns to behave.

  • Happy Time Flavors||

    If you enjoyed this, you will love the Utica Topix!

  • Billy!||

    the food served in schools is a disgrace. It is the most disgusting, greasy crap in existence. Even as a child I found it inedible, and I ain't picky (or particularly healthy) eater. It's just fucking disgusting.

  • ||

    I don't have kids, so maybe I'm missing something, but how can any parent let their kid eat the crap that's served in schools? It's borderline child abuse. I mean how hard is it to slap a piece of meat and a slice of cheese between a couple of slices of whole grain bread, throw it in a bag, toss in a piece of fruit and some nuts, and give it to your kid to take with him/her in the morning?

  • ||

    Certainly harder than giving them a baggie full of cold burger or steak.

  • N U Tricious||

    Pablo, "I don't have kids, so maybe I'm missing something" : reality

  • KD||

    I've read that in some schools, it's illegal to take your own lunch unless you can prove from a doctor that you're crazy allergic to everything. That's what's really scary, is the lack of freedom NOT to eat it, much less what they serve.

  • Xeones||

    Man, i've having flashbacks to "chicken" "patties" and slabs of "pizza" that looked vaguely like the real thing but tasted and smelled nothing like it.

  • ||

    Chicken patties man. The pic for this post is complete fiction: real pieces of chicken? and corn on the cob? c'mon.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    The pizza looked like overused, high traffic area, shag carpet. And for some twisted reason I never liked pizza until I was in college (incidentally I think necessity changed my palate, the local pie was 3 bucks for an XL...also kind of scary)

    Dude how old are those wings?
    About four days.
    You are going to get sick.
    Nahh, I am drinking a Bloody Mary with it, the Vodka will kill anything.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Unless Katie's just looking for an excuse to quote Orwell, I can't see why she's running this link. Poppendieck is nothin' but a damn socialist, wanting the damn guvmint (or is that "gummint"?) to take over the whole damn school lunch program and run it for free (well, for $24 billion, coming out of the hides of rich folk like you and me).

    Plus, she wets her pants when she sees a cafeteria worker letting a kid have an extra brownie just because he wants it and can pay for it! I'd hate to have to eat the meals Poppendieck would serve kids, but I'd hate to pay for them even more!

  • ||

    As Woody Allen said, quoting two old ladies, about how life is:
    lady one, "This food is so bad!"
    lady two, "And the portions are so small!"

  • Kroneborge||

    Seeing as how (despite Libertarian hopes to the contrary) we will almost assuredly be paying for the little buggers healthcare (especially in their old age) it's only fitting to make them eat healthy now.

    Plus throw in some more PT for them. Kids should be fit, and play outside.

  • herbert||

    Kids playing outside? Where I can watch them? Oh My.

  • Your Tax Dollars At Work||

    Who lives in the east 'neath the willow tree?
    Sexual Harassment Panda.
    Who explains sexual harassment to you and me?
    Sexual Harassment Panda.

    "Don't say that! Don't touch there!
    Don't be nasty!" says the silly bear.
    He's come to tell you what's right and wrong;
    Sexual Harassment Panda!

  • strat||

    As long as it's not preparation for calistenics to the strains of the national (or corporate) anthems.

    I fear it's not just government schools who can manage to beat the life and creative stimulation out of something as vibrant as physical play.

    I remember being stunned in Paris when I saw how large the Americans were by comparison to the locals, myself admittedly included.

    I bet if we pitch Archer Daniels Midland on the PR value of rotating public school kids through working a stint harvesting crops, they'd be lobbying the Hill in a heartbeat. Problem solved.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Kroneborge,

    Seeing as how (despite Libertarian hopes to the contrary) we will almost assuredly be paying for the little buggers healthcare[...]

    ...Under penality of listening to self righteous leftist ideologues bitching about how people cannot "afford" health care day after day after d...

    it's only fitting to make them eat healthy now.

    Indeed - as soon as school stops giving kids lunches so that bum moms get of their assess and actually buy groceries to make their kids lunches that are truly healthy . . . you know, like before there were school lunch programs.

  • KD||

    Rhetorical question: Why do schools have cafeterias at all? Why is the government responsible for feeding children? If parents are truly poor enough that they can't give their kid a sandwich for school, I'm pretty sure the food stamp program would take care of that. (Not that I necessarily am condoning that either)

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