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School Lunch Week

Author John Cech
Air Date 10/13/1999

School Lunch Week Transcript

It’s School Lunch Week and the kids on the playground aren’t singing about the joys of macaroni and cheese or yogurt and fruit, or even pizza with four toppings. When I asked them what they’d like for lunch — what they’d really, really like — for lunch they burst into song. What they sang about may not be well-balanced, and one of the ingredients certainly isn’t legal for kids, and I know they didn’t ask Jimmy Buffet for permission, but here’s what they told me without teachers, parents, or nutritionists nearby:

Brief Sound Clip

Now that’s a lunch to dream about. And they probably need to have an anthem like that to sing together and rouse their spirits because what they’re going to meet in their lunchrooms is seldom that. Rather than a cheeseburger in Paradise, it’s more like mystery meat in the Underworld. It’s one of the things that most of us want to forget about school, or that we end up joking about. Remember some of the rhymes about food and school we used to say, like “On Top of Spaghetti”? Mary and Herb Knapp have recorded dozens of parodies like these in their book about children’s folklore called, One Potato, Two Potato which is subtitled: “The Secret Education of American Children.” I’ll spare you any recitations, since you may be eating.

But in honor of the week, I’ve one recipe for this generally negative opinion about school lunches that remains, despite all the good efforts of those hard-working folks in school cafeterias across America. Here it is: Once a week, let kids do what they’d really like to do with their food most of the time: mess around with it. Give them each a copy of Joost Elffers’ wonderful book, Play With Your Food, and let them take their cues from him, turning peeled bananas into octopii, pears into teddy bears, and mushroom caps into Michelin men; let the kids become, for a day, a cafeteria full of young Archimboldos, finding faces in green peppers, and making turtles from watermelon rinds, ants from cherries, and catytdids from okra. Ah, now can’t you hear a different song starting to find its melody?

Posted in Education, Holidays