Featured School Food Memory: Food of the Future

March 31, 2009

By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director

Astronaut
The latest school food memory du jour shared in our Fresh Voices for Fresh Choices contest made me think of a recent NPR story about astronaut food. Bob Edwards interviewed NASA Food Scientist Michelle Perchonok and discussed the evolving state of freeze dried food. While the critiques of the vacuum packed beef stew were less than stellar (and quite hilarious) it made me think of this school food story that was submitted by Erin Crouch:

 I grew up in the villages of Alaska in the 1980s, where my parents were teachers. We moved from community to community, staying a year or two in each. In some of them, we had a generator and a giant car battery to run the TV instead of electricity and in my very favorite teacher house, we had an egg chair just like 2001: A Space Odyssey left by a previous family. Inaccessible by road, our food for the year arrived by barge or float plane and was selected for its endurance.

In kindergarten, we received large round Pilot Bread crackers and powdered milk during snack time. Also known as hardtack, Pilot Bread came in a long blue box with a sailor boy on it and formed a gluey clot in the mouth, which could be chewed for fifteen minutes at a time. The powdered milk was light blue in color from being mixed up half-strength and doled out in paper cups.

But the best treat of all came when I was in second grade. The Bethel-Kuskokwim School District introduced the first ready-made meals any of us had ever seen. Flown in from thousands of miles away, the aluminum trays had three compartments and were covered by a piece of cardboard in either green or orange with a stylized plate, fork and knife on them. When you peeled back the crinkly aluminum edge, a puff of steam came out and the meal was revealed: a beige piece of meat, either carrots or peas depending on the color of the cardboard, and a small square of cherry cake. I adored these meals, even though all of the components tasted the same. To me, the salty taste was the future — one step away from my jetpack.

You can vote for Erin's entry on the contest website. While you're there, be sure to share your own memory online!

Let's work to make sure that the real school food of the future is healthy and fresh.