Better School Lunch Ritz Crackers

Published on November 20th, 2013 | by Becky Striepe

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School Lunch Fail: Children’s lunch “supplemented” with Ritz crackers

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School Lunch Ritz CrackersAre Ritz crackers part of a healthy school lunch? Yes, according to one Manitoba school.

Mother Kristen Bartkiw packed her two kids a lunch of roast beef, potatoes, carrots, oranges, and milk and sent them off to school. That afternoon, she was pretty surprised to find a “penalty note” from the school, including a fine for $10CDN, because the school had been forced to “supplement” her lunch with….Ritz crackers?

I have to be honest you guys: I don’t think red meat and milk make for a healthy school lunch, but I also don’t think that adding Ritz crackers improves matters. What the what?

Apparently in Manitoba, schools enforce Canada’s Food Guide with an iron fist. Much like here in the U.S., that Food Guide stinks of lobbyist dollars. Here are the “healthy” requirements:

  • 1 milk
  • 1 meat
  • 1 grain
  • 2 fruits/vegetables

Honestly, it’s hard to decide where to start here, so let’s just focus on the Ritz crackers, OK? I doubt that when the Canadian government suggests that grains are part of a healthy meal they mean saturated fat-laden, refined flour-filled, salt-packed processed crackers. If the school had given these kids some brown rice or quinoa, maybe they’d have a better case here, but Ritz crackers seem a little bit ridiculous.

Bartikiw also mentioned that Manitoba has a “great” hot lunch program as a result of these guidelines, so I tried to find a little bit more information about that. I turned up this lunch menu from a Winnipeg school, which doesn’t strike me as particularly healthy. I do think it’s great that Manitoba is providing affordable lunches for kids who can’t afford it, healthy or not, though. The Canadian Food Guidelines might be a little bit misguided, but any program that prevents kids from going hungry is beneficial in my book, even if it’s not perfect.

I would love to hear from other Manitoba parents. Have you gotten fined for the lunches your packing? What about vegan and vegetarian kids? Do plant-based proteins and milks fulfill the milk and meat requirements?

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Image Credits: Gawker, Nomadic Lass

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About the Author

My name is Becky Striepe (rhymes with “sleepy”), and I am a crafts and food writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for making our planet a healthier, happier, and more compassionate place to live. My mission is to make vegan food and crafts accessible to everyone!. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .



  • Rachel

    Honestly, the more I read this blog the more condescending the authors seem to me. What could have been a good informative article about nutrition mistakes being made in schools (things that parents all over should be aware of) lost so much credibility when it began by attacking the lunch the mother packed. A lunch consisting of an extra lean meat, a starch, vegetables, fruit, and dairy is a nice, well-balanced meal. The vegetarian and vegan authors seem to be so against animal products as a whole that they completely ignore the health benefits allowed by cuts of meat and .

  • Rachel

    Honestly, the more I read this blog the more condescending the authors seem to me. What could have been a good informative article about nutrition mistakes being made in schools (things that parents all over should be aware of) lost so much credibility when it began by attacking the lunch the mother packed. A lunch consisting of an extra lean meat, a starch, vegetables, fruit, and dairy is a nice, well-balanced meal. The vegetarian and vegan authors seem to be so against animal products as a whole that they completely ignore the health benefits allowed by proper cuts of meat and cow’s milk .

    • http://glueandglitter.com/main Becky Striepe

      I appreciate your point of view, and I am sorry to hear that you find mine condescending. You’re right: I am not a fan of animal products because of their negative health and environmental impacts. As a vegan and an advocate for plant-based diets, I feel like I would have been remiss to not mention that red meat and dairy are not the healthiest options out there for protein, calcium, etc. I’m sorry that my mentioning that red meat and dairy have health drawbacks comes off as condescending to you. Those are my views on the topic based on research that I have read and the effects I’ve seen on my own health and the people around me who are eating a vegan diet or one even based mostly on plants.

    • http://www.progressivekitch.com Tanya Sitton

      I think there’s a difference between condescension and difference of opinion. There’s a lot of evidence out there about damage to health/ environment/ etc. related to meat and dairy; I’m not sure there’s a way to talk about that without causing offense to meat and dairy eaters, without avoiding the topic altogether. Is there?

      Disagreement isn’t disrespect, and it isn’t condescension.

      Thanks for reading, though, and I’m glad you shared your thoughts here. Take care!

    • http://www.gas2.org Jo Borras

      Not only do we eat meat in our family, we raise our own animals, name them, feed them, give them the best life we can, then slaughter and eat them. I’m pretty sure it horrifies Becky, Tanya, and the rest of the EDB staff, but disagreement doesn’t equal condescension or disrespect. If anyone here is playing the “my way or the highway” game, it seems to be you.

      That said, I’m truly sorry other people being vegans threatens you so much. Whatever the issues behind that are, they must be pretty terribad.

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