The hot school lunch -- it's not so hot!

Jennie Cook is passionate about food and health and has been a moving force in the Los Angeles public schools.

You may have seen her on TV in Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution program in Los Angeles. She and other crusaders filled plastic milk jugs with sugar to stress how unhealthy the school food is, and work for the removal of sugary flavored milks.

With a background running a restaurant and now as a caterer, plus her work in teaching teens how to cook, Jennie is well qualified to offer practical solutions that can help reverse the epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes in children. She has teamed up with pediatrician Rebecca Crane to create the to promote their recommendations. In addition to healthy unprocessed food, they are calling for the public schools to offer children filtered tap water as a beverage with lunch. This is such a reasonable request, it’s a wonder it has not been implemented all over the country.

Here’s another very logical suggestion Jennie offers — replace unhealthy hot lunches with healthy cold lunches. “As crazy as it might sound, I would like the USDA to consider ending the hot lunch program and instead implement a cold lunch program. I’m envisioning a canteen of sorts, of simple whole foods that can be procured by the students at any time during the beginning of the day and held by them to eat as needed.”

Sandwiches - You don't need a high-tech kitchen to prepare a nourishing lunch

Like cold showers, hot lunches often sound better than they really are. But most people who prepare their lunch at home don’t fix a hot meal; sandwiches have been the mainstay for generations. For a busy, money-strapped school system, a cold lunch offers solutions to many problems:sandwich4873284

  • the costs can be low
  • food can be prepared in advance without worrying about it getting cold
  • students don’t need to use up most of their lunch time waiting in long lines
  • minimal training would be required for the staff
  • schools would not need to install expensive kitchen equipment
  • like sandwiches, salads do not require special equipment

Some schools already have a “grab and go” plan where students pick up a bag lunch and take it to one of numerous eating areas on the school campus. For elementary students, the classroom often serves as a place to eat.

Currently, some schools serve a processed version of a sandwich called Uncrustables. Another peanut butter & jelly wannabee consists of two pieces of a dry graham cracker-type on the outside, with a synthetic tasting peanut butter substance inside, and microscopic traces of what is probably intended to be grape jelly. Of course, it comes wrapped. For schools that have not banned peanuts, a better and more economical option would be some real peanut butter, real jelly and some loaves of bread.

Brown bag winners

Looking for sandwich ideas? Here are a few of the sandwich option ideas from the Arlington, Vermont schools:

  • Cape Cod wrap – turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and cranberry mayonnaise
  • Buffalo chicken on a bun
  • Turkey, cheddar and apple slices on a bagel
  • Italian sub, provolone, salami, ham, w/lettuce and tomato
  • Tuna sub
  • Turkey Reuben with Swiss, kraut and Russian dressing
  • Curried chicken salad wrap
  • Turkey BLT on wheat bread
  • Ham & cheddar bagel
  • California club wrap w/turkey, cheese, avocado, bacon, lettuce & tomato
  • Chicken salad in pita bread
  • BLT wrap with cheddar
  • Turkey and provolone focaccia with pesto mayonnaise
  • Chicken Caesar wrap

Egg salad sandwiches can be even tastier by adding some crumbled bacon and healthier with baby spinach leaves in place of lettuce.

Grated carrot or zucchini can be hidden inside of sandwiches or wraps.

Slices of apple or pear give a sandwich an added crunch and flavor.

Sliced cucumber can replace tomato when it is not available.