The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Each autumn, I get told to do a dinner lady duty for two weeks. The fact is, the school can't process through their dinner halls the amount of children who attend the school, or even a fraction of the amount of children who attend one of the largest schools in Europe, so for two weeks, we abandon the pre-lunch hour period and the teachers have to make like dinner ladies.
Only we've no idea what dinner ladies do - if you've ever been in a school dining hall full of screaming burping gulping teenagers mid food frenzy, you'll have a rough idea why staff avoid the spectacle. So we stand around, looking useless, and feigning horror at each other.
Should a child hurl limp pizza in another's face, for instance, we'd be fairly certain that this were wrong. But should they sit five to a table, hold their bag with them in a queue, serve themselves, get free drinks, dump their dirty trays in the head's office, or eat their own lunch at a yellow desk when there's an 'r' in the month ... who knows if these are part of the standard social structure?

This year, I had the misfortune of enduring the intermittent dinner lady farce (it only lasts two weeks, because we depend upon the children discovering the hole in the fence and sneaking to the local shop for a reheated salmonella laden burger, like all the other kids do) in the same week as going to see the fast food satire 'Super Size Me'.
The images of the so-called reheated processed food sold to American schoolchildren were identical to the food sold in Britain, where compulsive compulsory competitive tendering means food contracts are sold to the lowest bidder, with no relationship to behaviour or nutrition assumed. Chicken nuggets, pizza slice, sausage roll or chicken dipper, with a chocolate chaser and a fizzy drink? If anything, the food I see for two weeks every September is far worse than the products on the American documentary.

I really cannot see any reason beyond money that we fail to sell to children any foods that aren't orange, microwaved and crispy. That we assume their nutritional needs will be properly supplemented by a Mega Blu Frosty Ice from Kwik Shopper.

Frankly, I take more time, care, and spend more money on my pet's diet than we as a community take over children's food. Given that children are the most precious commodity any society has, why are they relegated without choice or option to fewer edible foodstuffs than your average HM Prisoner?
And where are the nuggets on a chicken, anyway?