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Attack of the Whole Grain Pop-Tart

Editor’s Note: At Recess is an occasional humor column that takes a lighter look at schools and education. Funny things sometimes happen when you work with kids — or adults! The views expressed represent only the views of the writer and are offered in lighthearted fun. 

Always smiling. Always kind. Always helpful. These are the lunch ladies.

But behind their smiles is a smirk. This salt-of-the-Earth crew has pulled off a covert operation few have noticed. The mission? Stick whole grain into everything they feed students, even Pop-Tarts.

They claim the reason they had to do this is because the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Food Act of 2010 required it. They said they wouldn’t get a whole bunch of bucks from the government if they didn’t do it. Changes to breakfast and lunch menus already have occurred over the past few years because of the act (that’s why your child knows what fruit is now). Making sure a la carte items are healthy will be tackled next.

The multi-grain rules were put in place over the summer when no one was watching. Except the government, of course, which came close to purchasing shoe phones until they realized shoe phones did not have multi-grains in them.

The upcoming changes have raised a lot of questions. These questions aren’t from anybody important (it might be me), but they are still questions.

  • Cookies are crumbling because a bunch of whole grains have to be stuffed into them. My question: Isn’t there enough money in the budget to put about five sticks of butter in the dough to counteract the whole grain crumbling? Technically, the whole grain is there. It’s a win-win.
  • Beans are taking over. The new rules say more of them have to be on the menu. This nutritious, vegetable-like food is happening through refried beans, pork and beans and garbanzo beans (the white things you see on every salad bar and think, “hmm….nope”). Question: Could we count coffee since it’s made of beans and call it good?
  • The tasty Pop-Tarts are gone and only whole-grain ones remain. The demise of this treat is especially confusing since it contained every major food group: Bread in the crust, fruit in the filling, dairy in the glass of milk you have with it and protein in the frosting. Honest. Look on the box and you’ll see there are 3.8 grams of protein in a Pop-Tart, and what else could it be coming from except the frosting, since protein and frosting are so much alike?

This evil but technically good plot has been underway a few years. Here’s what already has happened.

  • Tater Tots, the sacred cow that crunches, used to be made from regular potatoes but now half of the order is made from sweet potatoes since they are healthier. It’s the nutrition thing again. And tater tots aren’t fried in a vat of grease anymore, they’re baked.
  • Pop, Part One: Students have gotten used to this next one, but it surprised me. Pop is no longer sold in the cafeteria. Your choices are Powerade, juice, milk and water, and there are no humongous cups, just itty-bitty ones stuck in plastic dispensers at water coolers. OK, that’s a lie. The school cups are actually nine and 12 ounces, but they seem itty-bitty when you sit one beside a 1,000-ounce Big Gulp.
  • Pop, Part Two: Pop vending machines are on timers and not turned on until after school. I missed this development, probably because, like students, I don’t read stories about the changes in school lunches. (No Miley Cyrus in them). Plus, my son convinced me it was OK not to eat breakfast or lunch because a Monster drink in the morning could get him through the day. I’m pretty sure this type of thinking is why I lost the Mother of the Year contest.

    Don't spill your big gulp over this!

So, there, I’ve blown the lid off the lunch ladies. I don’t think we have a chance of winning any battle because healthy meals have been proven to help grades, decrease obesity and a whole bunch more. The only help I can offer is a Pop-Tart and refried bean recipe

When I saw it, I just about tipped over my Big Gulp.

Linda Odette thinks lunch ladies are great and hopes they all have a sense of humor, because none of the silly comments about them in this column are true. She also wants to apologize to any men who work in school cafeterias for not saying “lunch men,” but it just didn’t sound as good as “lunch ladies.” Linda is a very nice person and if this offends you, please don’t email her because it will make her feel bad. If you like it email her at lodette77@gmail.com because it will make her feel good.


Whole Grains Headed to Cafeterias

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Linda Odette
Linda Odette
Linda Odette is a freelance writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism. She’s worked primarily as an editor in feature departments at newspapers in West Michigan, including the Grand Rapids Press, the Muskegon Chronicle and the Holland Sentinel. She lives in East Grand Rapids near the Eastown edge, has a teenage son and a daughter in college. Read Linda's full bio or email Linda.


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