Two Schools One Problem
Childhood is a time for fun. Sometimes that fun involves sugar and other forms of junk food. I’m totally on board with that.
Just yesterday I was making chocolate syrup with the kids. One measured out the sugar, the other scooped the cocoa powder. I explained the difference between dry measuring cups and liquid measuring cups. And together we looked at the bottom of the water’s meniscus to make sure we were adding just the right amount.
And once the syrup was cool they enjoyed it on some Blue Bunny all-natural vanilla ice cream. Sure, the milk comes from factory farmed cows and the eggs come from factory farmed chickens, but the ingredients are just milk, cream, sugar, skim milk, egg yolks, natural vanilla extract and vanilla beans. That’s getting pretty damn hard to find nowadays. Even Ben & Jerry’s now has guar gum and carrageenan.
But the stuff they get at school? It’s killing me.
Little Miss Fussy’s story is mostly harmless. She brought home a goody bag of treats, and one of them was a box of Hi-C Smashin’ Wild Berry. That little lady was very excited about her “juice box.”
Except it’s not a juice box. Juice boxes are by definition filled with juice. I don’t know the last time any of you thought about Hi-C, what it is, and what it’s made from. But on the front of the box it’s officially by law a:
BERRY FLAVORED FRUIT DRINK WITH OTHER NATURAL FLAVORS MADE WITH 5 JUICES FROM CONCENTRATE
But it’s only 10% juice and berry juice specifically makes up less than 1.5% of the contents in the box. Mostly it’s water and high fructose corn syrup blended with a little bit of apple and pear juice topped off with some “natural flavor” and citric acid.
The good news was that it made for a good lesson. I laid ten pennies out on the table. Made a stack of nine, with one off to the side. And I explained to Little Miss Fussy that those nine pennies were everything in the box that were NOT juice. And of the penny that was juice, the berry juice made up about the space on the penny above Lincoln’s head to the edge of the coin.
Then I quoted some lines from her current favorite song, Thrift Shop:
I call that getting swindled and pimped
I call that getting tricked by a business
She lit up. I think she got it. And she’ll get to enjoy her Hi-C too. Except now she knows it’s not a beverage, but rather liquid candy. And she can have it for dessert on a day that she eats an otherwise well-balanced dinner. You know, because the small little box has the equivalent of six and a half teaspoons of sugar. Dang.
Young Master Fussy faced a similar problem of school-based comestibles masquerading as actual food. His school has a lunch room. And we try to make good choices after reviewing the weekly menu. He is limited to two of their lunches a week. The rest he brings from home. And we’ve agreed that none of his purchased lunches from school should contain meat.
We try to not eat meat when we don’t know where it comes from.
As a result his lunch-treats are pretty much limited to mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce and bread sticks, pizza, pancakes, waffles, and stuffed shells with cheese. This week, however, something new and potentially appealing appeared on the lunch menu: Max Sticks with marinara sauce.
To me that sounded simply like a jumbo cheese stick. And I was going to push Young Master Fussy to give it a try. But then I thought I should check out this Max Stick online and see if I could gain any intel.
I forgot that there is usually a reason why something that sounds like a cheese stick is called anything else but a “cheese stick.” And that’s because it doesn’t quite have as much cheese as you might expect.
Okay. Here are the ingredients taken out of block form so they are easier to read:
- enriched wheat flour (bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid)
- whole wheat flour
- soy flour
baking powder (sodium bicarbonate, sodium aluminum sulfate, cornstarch, monocalcium phosphate, calcium sulfate)
yeast (yeast, starch, sorbitan monostearate, ascorbic acid)
dough conditioners (wheat flour, salt, soy oil, L-cysteine, ascorbic acid, fungal enzyme)
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
pasteurized part skim milk
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese Substitute
oil (soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil with citric acid)
milk protein concentrate
modified food starch
sodium aluminum phosphate
mozzarella cheese type flavor
- cheese (milk, culture, rennet, salt)
- milk solids
- disodium phosphate
- magnesium oxide
- zinc oxide
- calcium pantothenate
- vitamin B-12
vitamin A palmitate
I’ve also learned thanks to Food Service Direct that these products from ConAgra food are:
Made with Ultragrain – a proprietary whole wheat flour with the taste and texture similar to white flour but with all the goodness and nutrition of whole wheat flour! The Max is your exclusive source for pizza items with Ultragrain in School Foodservice Main Menu application CN approved: 2 breads, (1/2 serving of WHOLE GRAIN) 2 meat/meat alternates Varieties: Mozzarella Fits 54 sticks to a pan (bulk) Offer 2 or 4 for a la carte to boost profits! Serve one pizza stick as a fun side item. Performs great out of the microwave! Holds in a warmer for 3 hours.
That and a case of 192 pieces sells for the not-so-shockingly low price of $68.85 or just shy of $.36 a piece. If a school offered four of these 1.93 oz sticks as suggested above, they would be giving their students 640 calories of junk fat and sodium. Specifically, 28g of fat, 10g of saturated fat and 1,640mg of sodium.
After sharing the list of ingredients with Young Master Fussy he demurred from this lunch option and decided to opt for waffles instead.
But now after opening this pandora’s box, I kind of want to know what’s in the waffles.