I don't. No excessively horrid memories either, which is almost worse - the meals weren't anything special either way.
Last year, I spent about half the school year, or maybe a little more, eating lunch every day with our youngest son (I'll call him Danger!Boy). Most days, I brought a lunch from home, but some days, I was in a hurry, or just couldn't be arsed to get around to packing a lunch, so I bought lunch at the school.
Lunch at school isn't the way it was when I was a kid. It's better, and worse, and just... different.
I polled some folks on Facebook about their least favorite lunch options, and the results of my utterly unscientific poll are below:
Kind of a wide range, but we're talking a time range from the 1940s to the 1980s, and geographically from all over the US, from Canada and the UK.
For most of the 2010-2011 school year, I ate lunch at the elementary school with Danger!Boy every day, and I can tell you that the offerings at the school aren't as varied these days. Sure, the school lunches are slightly more nutritious, but that's not saying much. There are vegetarian options, but they generally go with chicken, both for cost and to avoid dietary issues. The food isn't cooked at the school any more - it's cooked at a central location, and reheated at the school
These are primarily cost-saving measures, allowing schools to provide low-priced, nutritious lunches for students, and I can't fault them for trying to get as many balanced meals out to as many students as possible.
I'm led to understand by Only Daughter and the First Born that it's a little different in middle and high school - there are more options, and they're generally more appealing, though there's less effort spend making sure the kids get properly balanced meals.
Schools tend to get short shrift budget-wise in the US, and after the Arts, meals suffer the most from every cut. I've followed Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution as it's developed, and I have to say I agree with him - it's worth it to spend a little more to give our kids quality food. We don't generally get exposed to a lot of real food at school, as Michael Pollan describes it. It's heavily processed, and grown hundreds or thousands of miles away. Our vegetables tend to be bland, bred for transport and durability on the shelves of the produce department. I understand the need for institutional cooking to be cost-efficient, but at the same time, using local produce, and cooking the food fresh on site would help our kids develop a taste for variety, and mixing regional cuisine with something new for the kids would also help broaden their horizons. There are a lot of teachable moments around new cuisines, and finding ways to build those into the curriculum is a way to unobtrusively stretch education into currently empty areas.
This is, I realize, very much in the realm of wishful thinking, but it's something I've been mulling over for a while, and will continue to do. It costs me nothing to consider it, and it's a worthwhile topic for discussion.
Readers, what are your thoughts? If you could change one thing about school lunches, what would it be?