Nostalgia Nook: School lunch memories


Megan McKay, Staff writer

School lunches, whether good or bad, are some of the most memorable shared experiences from growing up in the early 2000s. There were always two types of people at school early on. There were those who spent their school years eating lunches packed from home, and then there were those who bravely spun the roulette wheel of cafeteria food. I personally envied those who had a stay-at-home parent who spent the time to cut their apple slices and pack them Lunchables with fun little notes. Although I always begged my parents for the overpriced, plastic-wrapped pizza Lunchables growing up, I wouldn’t trade those for the cafeteria rectangle pizzas.

It’s astounding how many people can recall the amazing foods they ate for lunch in elementary school. From Pizza Friday, Breakfast for Lunch, Ice Cream Day, or an assortment of cheese and fried food; we were all obsessed. I would always make my way through the school lunch line and grab the signature pizza and can still imagine the rectangle pizzas or pizza cheesy sticks covered in grease. The shape of the pizza is important because, not only was it a novelty, but rectangle pizza fit perfectly into the entrée compartment of our school lunch trays. Even if the sauce did taste a little off, we still rejoiced when Pizza Fridays came around each week. Although it wasn’t the most delicious or healthiest of foods, the pizza brings a sense of nostalgia because it reminds me of being young.

Elementary school specifically meant much better times— having no responsibilities and just being kids. Some can still taste the wooden vanilla flavor from the ice cream or the classic ice cream sandwiches. It was never about taste because as kids we would always be hungry either coming in from or going out to recess. Whatever we were served was our fuel and would be eaten no matter what, especially when paired with a milk carton.

Not only was the food always a treat, but the lunchroom atmosphere is something most adults will never experience again in their life. The wide array of lunch tables segmented apart with kids screaming and laughing is a unique environment that I commend the lunch ladies for dealing with. You can’t forget about the Nut Free table too. Personally, I had to experience what that table was like and would always feel like I was missing out with my friends; I would sometimes try to be sneaky and find ways to escape to my friends’ table.

Today, you can buy old school lunch items online to transport you back to much simpler times. Everything from French toast sticks, rectangle pizza, chicken nuggets, smiley face fries and treats like ice cream cups and popsicles. School lunches were certainly not the most nutritious meals or the tastiest, but they represent growing up and the experience of going through elementary school. Students will not remember the long lunch lines but rather the nostalgia associated with the memories of being young in the cafeteria with their childhood friends.