Why "school lunch"? When Gretchen teaches a business communication seminar, she asks
participants to write an on-the-spot essay about a topic near and dear to everybody's heart: school
lunches. This is Gretchen's own essay on school lunches in Winsted, Minnesota.
by Gretchen Roufs, Holy Trinity Schools, Winsted Minnesota
For 12 years I had the same school lunchroom in the basement of the high school. We had
yellow plastic trays with compartments – a long skinny one for silverware and other ones that
seemed like the kind on a TV tray. I don’t remember that they gave us napkins, but I know we
had a metal fork.
To drink:: a little carton of milk. Chocolate milk on Fridays. Some kids brought their own
lunches – so they usually bought the milk only.
We had optional sandwiches daily. Jam, or peanut butter, or butter, but not mixed. We had a
big spoonful of raisins daily (my friends used to laugh about how I picked them up) and we also
had slices of cheese. We could have as many sandwiches and raisins and as much cheese as we
I think it started out at 25 cents and then went to 35 cents. Because I wore a uniform, I kept my
lunch ticket (good for 2 weeks) in the pocket of the navy blue sweater (or in high school, blazer).
The kids sat at tables – mostly by class but you could, I think, sit where you wanted. The
teachers sat together at a special long table. We didn't’t have supervisors or bosses in the
cafeteria. Tilly was the one who punched our tickets and she pretty much kept an eye on things,
while the lunch ladies served us and one was in charge of the dishwasher. Usually with a boy or
two (I think, maybe, 8th graders) to help. All age groups were there together from 1st grade
When Mr. Wright or Mr. Mahoney would walk into the lunchroom with their trays, the high
school boys would sing funny songs using their names. For Mr. Wright it was “Denny Wright,
Denny Wright, we think you’re out of sight” to the tune of the Mexican Hat Dance. To Mr.
Mahoney it was “Jerry Mahoney, Jerry Mahoney, “ to the tune of “K-K-K Katy”.
In grade school, there was always a recess tacked on at the end of lunch.
We would have hamburger gravy over mashed potatoes. Sloppy joes. Fish sticks (on Fridays,
of course). Tuna hot dish. Tuna burgers – these open-faced things with a little cheese on the
top. Pizzaburgers. Same concept as the tuna, but with pizza. Spaghetti. Green salad with
white shiny dressing (The salad was on the side, not an entrée). Vegetables, but usually one at a
time, not mixed. Tacos (but I don’t think limited to Wednesdays, as is the case in San Antonio).
Turkey (on special occasions – like around holiday time). Jello. Pie served in squares. Cake.
Ice cream in a little cup with a cover (but rarely). You had to take everything, and while I don’t
remember having supervisors, I do remember feeling very badly if I didn't’eat something (and
not too many kids left anything on their plate). Oh yeah – I can see the perfectly squared pieces
of gingerbread with the dollop of whipped topping.
I think I might need to talk with my friend Mary Jo, whose mom was a cook, and get more
details. I’m concerned right now that I can’t remember more of the entrees (or, I suppose, I
could go on line to my local newspaper, where the menus are published weekly).
We had to take our trays to the counter when we were done. We used our forks to scrape them,
threw the milk cartons in another garbage can, and stacked the trays on the stainless steel
counter where somebody behind the counter grabbed them and popped them (seemed noisy, as I
remember) in the dishwasher.
The biggest deal is that when I started to think about my school lunch, the first thing that came
to mind is the time I was caught shooting green peas at another kid. My cousin Keith (6 or 8
years older than I was) swooped into the cafeteria and saw me standing in the corner. He used
his connections with the nuns and got me released from captivity. I think it was the last time I
My school lunch
(c) Gretchen Roufs
All rights reserved.