But Wait, There’s More!

Yeesh. I’m finding it a bit difficult to work with WordPress. It wouldn’t let me add any text after the photographs were posted. Decided on the path of least resistance. ūüôā

We are at the tail end of the U.S. Foodservice¬†delivery dude’s truck route. He delivered to a number of school on our end of the county, and headed back to Ft. Mill after this. He was extrememly cool to deal with the kids’ questions and to have his picture taken while working. I thank him.

The length of the route raised some questions. Matthew did a little research and found out something that worried him a little. He did the research and the scripting, but didn’t make it to school on his shooting day, so Christina was nice enough to pinch-hit for him.


A group went back to ask Mrs. Kathy who pays for all of this fuel and wear and tear on the trucks. It turns out that we do. Each delivery bill includes about $50 in shipping charges. The kids were appalled. With a little math – we go to school about 45 weeks a year – they found out that our school alone pays around $2,250 per year in shipping costs – and remember,¬†our school is just one¬†stop on the route.¬†“Do you know what we could do with that kind of money?!” one¬†exclaimed. That child was thinking, ‘new swings on the playground’, but he’s right. I could sure think of a few other things! Another grumbled about U.S. Foodservice is just greedy, but that let us talk a bit about businesses, and that in a market economy, their job is to earn money. Darryl’s dad works at the distribution center for Harris-Teeter, a local grocery chain, and pointed out how many people work in places like that. They take in a lot of money, but they have to pay a lot of people, too. School lunch isn’t just lunch. It’s an industry.

Sadly, this is the end of our school-lunch trail. I contacted the marketing department at U.S. Foodservice, and I got a very friendly e-mail back, but once I explained what we needed, some photos of what goes on inside the center, some information on where they got the food, they became uncommunicative. (Mrs. Kathy says that their customer service is pretty poor, and not to take it personally. ūüôā )¬†We tried to continue by going around, and asking a couple of local farmers how their product differs from what we eat at school, but, again, after a number of tries, got no answers. That doesn’t mean that we were out of questions, and I’ll post the last of those next.

Thanks so much for stopping by. We’ve enjoyed sharing our story, though it’s shorter than we’d hoped.

Mrs. Clarke

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Well, It Came from Somewhere!

… which Henry tries to explain to us here:


We know what Mrs. Kathy and her crew do with the food once it arrives, but where was it before it was here? How do they know what to bring?

Mrs. Kathy gets the ball rolling:


Tanner and Christina wondered why Mrs. Kathy has to order everything. We have lots of space, so why can’t we grow our own veggies? They explain:


It turns out that our supplies take a bit of a trip to reach us. The distribution center used by our school (chosen, Max and Andrew found out, because they promised the lowest price when contracts are offered, once every five years) is U.S. Foodservice in Fort Mill, SC. A group of kids met the gentleman who does the deliveries and visited while he unloaded.

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Who makes the choices?

Good morning! Today, we’ll post a couple of the issues the kids wondered about. Is it better to have your food made from scratch on-site? Who decides the menus?

As you know, Mrs. Kathy and her staff cook our lunches from scratch in our kitchen. She’s been kind enough to let the kids tour and show how it’s all done. As the kids researched, they found that large school systems, like Houston ISD, cook their meals in a central kitchen, flash-freeze it, and send it out to the schools to be reheated. “Gross!” was the common response when this information was shared. “Wow. We’re lucky.” was another.

Cole and his sidekick Shariah wanted to know if this process affects the nutritional value of the food. Mrs. Kathy wasn’t sure, and I certainly had no idea, so we turned to Bettina Elias Siegel of The Lunch Tray blog, who has been kind enough to be an expert source of information for the class. She, in turn, posed the question to the Mystery Food Services Director. You can see the question and answer on this The Lunch Tray post http://www.thelunchtray.com/the-mystery-food-services-director-answers-a-question-from-kids/¬†, which you’ll want to read because the information isn’t scripted as well as it might have been.

Take one explains that heat’n’eat isn’t necessarily processed, and that any food kept in the fridge loses nutritional value¬† http://www.youtube.com/user/egtclarke?feature=mhum#p/u/7/zHdKh3kMJxQ

Take two, in which they ask other questions worth thinking about, but don’t give much information http://www.youtube.com/user/egtclarke?feature=mhum#p/u/8/IvtFcxS1i-8¬†and Cole acts like a boy in a large space. ūüôā

You’ll notice the young lady’s bright blue tongue. A kindergarten teacher gave¬† her a ring pop as a reward for helping with her class. Candy as a reward. A whooooole ‘nother post. (Grumble.)

Andrew and Max wanted to know who decides what goes on the school menu. Thanks to the help of¬†the county’s¬†Director of Child Nutrition, Denise Lamar, Max and Andrew produced this clip: http://www.youtube.com/user/egtclarke?feature=mhum#p/u/6/glD2clXGoNI

Our next post will be about ordering and getting the food to our cafeteria. Thanks for stopping by today!


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An Introduction to Our Kitchen

This is a PNN production.

PNN is my class’ own ‘news’ channel. We produce a couple of shows a year for our announcements. Today we go global! As the kids’ teacher, it’s my job to facilitate, and that’s pretty much it. The segments are kid-generated, kid-scripted, and kid-shot.

On that note, dear readers, please let me point out a quick couple of things before we begin. First we LOVE comments! However, please keep in mind that this is a group of fourth-graders. They are nine and ten years old, just learning to think for themselves, and have very little control over the choices their adults make for them. Second, this is kid-shot video. If your stomach (like mine) gets queasy easily, some of the video may make you a bit carsick. You’ve been forewarned. ūüôā

Today, you’ll get an introduction to our school kitchen. Our Cafeteria Manager, Mrs. Kathy, has been overwhelmingly welcoming, flexible, informative, and enthusiastic in taking part in our project. She was only mad for a short second last week¬†when a group of kids forgot to tell her that they were in her pantry filming and about gave her a coronary when she stepped in. She has tolerated kids asking her questions when she was already pretty busy. Thank you, Mrs. Kathy and staff!

Our video introductions: (The WordPress video uploader and I are not getting along. Here are links.)



Tomorrow, does scratch-made food have benefits that flash-frozen lunches don’t? Who decides what we’re eating?

Thanks so much for stopping by! We hope to see you again tomorrow!

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Before We Get Started…

I wanted to drop a little perspective. One of the questions the kids were to answer was, “What do kids in other countries do for lunch?” We have a couple of other posts that address that. However, this spring, my brother, who works in the far corners of the world hanging movie theater screens, (very much a niche profession) sent the kids in my class a couple of pictures from Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, Africa where he’d recently finished a job. He told them that he had asked around to find out what kids there eat for school lunch and was unpleasantly surprised to find out that it’s not an issue there. The kids in Malabo don’t go to school. They go to work in the Cacao fields.

Taken in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea

This was a bit of an eye-opener, even though I read Iqbal aloud in class near Thanksgiving, and the kids produced a news show on child labor for our Friday announcements. BTW, parents, this book is a really good springboard for discussion about life and poverty in¬†other places. Definitely a great “read-together”. I’ll post (most of) their news report once I get their food work up.

Anyway, whether you agree with what’s going on in your school’s cafeteria or not, at least the kids are able to eat in a cafeteria. At school. Five days a week. Yeah.

Tomorrow, I’ll get the first section of the kids’ work up. Thank you so much for stopping by today!

Mrs. Clarke

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The locations of Frito – Lay factories – by Mason

A note from Mrs. Clarke: This is the Mason whose cafeteria lunch is photographed in the post linked to the right, “It Was the Best …”¬† He stumbled across this (lack of)¬† information as he was researching the locations of Frito-Lay plants. Yes, he wandered off-topic, but since he’s the kid who actually ate the chips in question, it seemed like a good side-trip. As he was working on his post, I asked him if what he did or didn’t see on the website would affect his choices about what to put on his tray in the future.

Mason’s post:

I was reading Frito Рlay locations and it gave me the 3 locations of their factories. They are Plano, Texas; Orlando,Florida, and Jonesboro, Arkansas

This is new info to me. I think they left out the ingredients so we we would only know the positives not the negatives they put in their food. Plus, they leave out the negatives ,but of course, the put they the positives. That makes me feel sick because people could have gotten sick from their food, so that’s why they need to put all the info on their websites

I think i will think twice about getting their food because they I dont know all the stuff in their food.

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The Secret to Jello – by Seth

I found out jello is made of tissue from pig or cow bones and someone said that it was wrong. I went to 3 web sites and they all say the same, so is it true. I looked at a lot of different websites to see if what Cole said, that they use different stuff now, is true. I keep finding the same ingredients, so now I’m wondering if anyone else knows what the ingredients are now?

A note from Mrs. Clarke: In an earlier post, we mentioned that Cole’s dad works in food production, and had said that Jello’s gelatin no longer comes from hooves and such. It’s bugged Seth a lot, and he has looked at several reasonably reputable sources that confirm his understanding about the gelatin’s origins. Please comment below if you have reliable information or links to such that would help him in his research. I’m really pleased that the lesson that you have to check several sources has gotten across to the kids. It’s an important lesson.

Thanks for stopping by!

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This Week’s Round-Up

– by Mrs. Clarke

We’ve had to pay a little homage to the testing gods this week, so our access to computers was somewhat limited. Still, we did get some time to continue our search. Most of the kids found themselves looking at ingredients and nutritional information, and were surprised by what many of the websites they were using did and didn’t provide.

Several of them were reading about the Little Hug drink in Hunter’s home-brought lunch:

from Jackson:

The nutrition information “was left off of the Hugs website because it’s water with corn syrup and chemicals, like ester gum.”

from Andrew:

“If they showed the nutrition facts, there would be negatives. It’s 5% real fruit juice.” To which he added later in discussion, “That means it’s 95% other stuff, like corn syrup and chemicals.” He’s pretty good at math. ūüôā

Haley continued with her reading to include Capri Sun, a popular drink in our cafeteria. She wrote that they “have only 3% juice and the rest is sugar and water. …On TV it never says that there’s only 3% of real fruit, that could tell them that what your kid is drinking is basically just sugar and water.”

Or, put more bluntly, by Mason, writing about the lack of nutrition information on the Frito-Lay site – “They say positives so that people won’t know the negatives. They have left out the ingredients because it would be saying, “This food is crap.” They should change the website so that we can get all the information we need.”

No, I don’t generally condone the use of the word ‘crap’ in the classroom, but, in this case, that’s hard to argue. He’s got a post that’s a little more in-depth that we’ll get up shortly.

A couple of kids noticed that the Hug (American Beverage Co.) and Frito-Lay factories are pretty far away. I’m hoping they’ll notice that it means that we spend a lot of gas moving our food from place to place, and the impact that can have. It’s also time to get a glossary of all of those food additives into the kids’ hands.

Have a wonderful weekend! Thank you so much for stopping by!

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This Week’s Round Up

– by Mrs. Clarke

No, we haven’t blogged a lot. In fact, we were hoping for a couple of other posts, one about U.S. Foodservice¬†and the role they play in bringing us our food, and another about the Jell-o¬†in Hunter’s home-packed lunch. The bad news – U.S. Foodservice has been unresponsive. so it’s time for me to get a little more involved. The good news – the Jello post was put off because the kids turned up some conflicting information that¬†requires¬†some more research ¬†so that they can report accurately.

This is what teaching and learning are all about – creating critical thinkers: Seth and Andrew found a website that describes Jello as having come from hooves and such. Gross. As he was sharing what he’d learned with the greater group, he described what he’d read and added an, “OMG! I’m never eating Jell-o¬†again!” To which Cole replied, “That’s not true anymore. It used to be, but my dad used to work in the part of the plant that makes Jell-o, and he says that it’s just sugar and stuff now.” That’s a good lesson – never take your information from just one source. The post has been put off until we can interview Cole’s dad (who comes for lunch pretty regularly) and do some more reading.

As the group was researching Hunter’s¬†Cheez Doodles, they found that they’re really mostly corn, have almost no cheese,¬†and have cheese flavoring.¬†I explained that’s why the z is in the name, which led to a child asking, “Why does the government let people think it’s cheese if it’s fake, then?” Questions lead to questions; that’s how this is supposed to work. I knew this would come eventually, and it lets me get those way-boring government lessons in a much less painful manner.

We did have one success, though. Aneska got a response from a family member in the Dominican Republic, who explained that kids don’t eat lunch at school; they go home. “Why can’t we do that?” was the first question – we’re within walking distance of two huge subdivisions – and “Why can’t we use the microwave and warm up stuff from home?” was another. Good questions for the principal.

So, this week, our to-do list includes: Call U.S. Foodservice, communicate with our local Wal-Mart about their food distribution, look up food rules about “fake” food, which will lead to questions about the FDA and who runs that, make contact with e-pals to see what kids in other places do (as well as with Abby’s cousins, who live in England), set up an interview with Cole’s dad about his role in food production (and what he knows about Jell-o), and get some questions ready for our principal.

On that note, let me mention that I am very lucky to teach in a system and with an administrator that lets teachers teach.¬†¬†I left a better-paying job in a large neighboring system because they focused so tightly on test scores, sending us our scripted lesson plans that followed a “Sit down, hush up, and do the worksheet.” mentality. I have never regretted the move.

We have a busy week planned. I hope yours is wonderful!

Mrs. Clarke

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Lunch in the Dominican Republic – by Aneska

In the Domincan Republic, the schools don’t serve lunch to the kids. The kids go home to eat. So their shifts are 8-12 to 1-4, so they have 1 hour to eat. But they can buy a snack,¬†eat a snack that people bring to sell¬†during the half hour snack break,¬†or¬†they can bring their own snack from home. They have snacks like just patelito¬†bread alone, a patelito, cheese and ham sandwich, or sometimes, if you’re lucky,¬†and it’s not gone when you get there there, is …¬†¬†ICE CREAM!

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