For Miner Reporter Terry Organ's three-part series on food service at Kingman Unified School District, I decided to join him for lunch one day last week at Manzanita Elementary. It has been many years since I had a school lunch, and I wanted to refresh my memory. I was pleasantly surprised.
My daughter has complained to me about school lunches in Kingman for a couple of years. This year, the eighth-grader refused to eat them anymore, preferring to bring a lunch. While I'm not ecstatic over her decision, I do see that she is pretty good at packing in fruits and a meat sandwich every day, so I've kept my mouth shut. I figure that's better than if she was forced to take a school lunch and didn't eat any of it. Also, my wife and I make sure she gets a good, nutritious dinner every night.
I always enjoyed school lunches, at least until high school. Fast food became my lunch of choice from 10th grade on. Before that, though, I would usually eat not only my school lunch but also bartered and begged-for items from other students' trays. I was one of those students who checked the menu each morning, and if I liked it, I made sure I was first in line at lunchtime.
So, I decided last week that it might be a good idea to try it out myself and talk to a few pupils about what they think of lunches at their school. I was shocked when Terry told me that the menu for Monday called for Texas toast with cheese as the main entrée.
"You've got be kidding," I said, or something like that. "Where is the meat?"
"There's salad and peaches with it. No meat," Terry informed me.
My heart sank. I was hoping for one of those hamburgers I used to love that taste unlike any hamburger I've had since, or maybe some ham or chicken. Texas toast? Isn't that what you find next to steaks at a steakhouse?
"I can't wait," I muttered to Terry.
A few days later, Terry told me that God must have heard my prayers. The Texas toast was moved to Tuesday because it was late coming in, so Monday they'd be serving chicken patties. At first I thought, "Hooray!" but I couldn't get the Texas toast off my mind. I had to see how they could call that lunch.
"Let's go on Tuesday," I told Terry. "I've got to have that toast." I could already imagine how this column would come out. My "working" headline was, "Where's the beef?" I forgot about the lunch until Terry reminded me on Tuesday morning that we would be going to Manzanita later.
"I can't wait," I muttered.
We arrived early on Tuesday, and I got a chance to watch second- and third-graders eat their lunches. Most seemed to be eating the toast, not so much the salad. I also met Principal Gretchen Dorner, who seemed too pretty and too nice to be a principal. I remember my principals being neither.
We still had 10 minutes before fourth- and fifth-graders would arrive, but I couldn't wait any longer. I urged Terry to point the way so I could get busy. We went to the window, took our trays from a smiling woman and sat down at an empty table to begin. I dove into the Texas toast with cheese while I eyed the salad. It looked pretty good. The peaches, I knew, would be good, so I waited to eat those.
"This toast is good," I told Terry.
"The salad is better," Terry quipped between mouthfuls.
Sure enough, he was right. In fact, the entire lunch was not only tasty, it was filling. Terry soon showed up with a melt-in-your-mouth peanut butter cookie that nicely wrapped up a very fine meal.
By now, students were lining up to get their meals, so I finished up and walked along the line asking students what they thought about school lunches.
"They're great!" "Not enough food." "They're really good!" were some of the responses. The handful of students I talked to all generally liked the lunches most days. I wasn't shocked, just a bit surprised.
As we were leaving, Terry and I talked about hitting all the schools for lunch. Terry laughed, but I was serious. I usually don't get a warm lunch, and my stomach was telling me how much it enjoyed the change of pace.
"I can't wait," he muttered.