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The 10 Grossest School Lunches

The 10 Grossest School Lunches
Tanya Sharma

Ah, grade school. It was a time of innocence and playfulness, of Barbie doll exchanges on the playground, of Rainbow Brite gossip on the swings (yep, 1980s kid at your service). It was also a time of unidentifiable lunches, often advertised as something recognizable but always somehow concealed in a veil of slop. The worst part? I can remember every single awful thing about those dreadful school lunches…

1. Sloppy Joes

Unforgettable for their sheer mess, Sloppy Joes are pretty much synonymous with my childhood. From the oozing ground beef crammed between a chewy hamburger bun to the globs of ketchup that somehow always ended up on my cute little dresses, Sloppy Joes weren’t exactly pretty. They were also kind of greasy, now that I think about it. Maybe this is why I’m a vegetarian now?

2. Fish Sticks

I can remember being all of six years old and being handed a plate of fish sticks. It was my very first encounter with fish of any kind, and I was not thrilled. To this day, that awful aroma still takes me right back to the early ‘80s. Gloppy tarter sauce was also a part of the deal. Ew.

3. Beefy Macaroni

Seriously, ew. Rubbery elbow noodles sharing space with a kind of overly chewy brown substance that touts itself as ground beef is a recipe for vomit. And another reason I am a veg now, I guess.

4. French Fries

Don’t get me wrong. French fries are awesome and I could eat them all day long - a little habit I attribute to my high school days, when fries were served every single day of the week. There was nothing else offered, save for the occasional Pizza Thursday or Taco Friday. Methinks all those fries aren’t doing even the youngest of arteries any favors, though.

5. Hot Dogs

Suspiciously pale pink hot dog topped with a slice of unmelted cheese product, anyone? Um…anyone?

6. Pizza

Most of enjoy a great slice of pizza, but there’s something about school lunch pizza that places it into another category altogether. A giant rectangle with a hint of tomato sauce masked by a heavy, greasy coat of mozzarella…mmmm. School pizzas were usually bland and, if I had cared about such things back then, I’d have insisted they totally weren’t worth the calories.

7. Milk Cartons

Milk cartons were a big thing back then. I mean, The Face on the Milk Carton? Heavy stuff. But milk cartons themselves were always so annoying because they were always out of chocolate. So I would grab the sorry, watery skim and sip miserably as everyone else showed off their chocolatey mustaches.

8. Nachos

Nachos rank up there with French fries on my list of most-loved junk foods. But lunchroom nachos were a different beast altogether. Starting with a layer of sometimes-stale chips, the nachos at school featured a topping of questionable processed cheese that would grossly congeal. And don’t forget the scoop of crumbly, salty beef!

9. Bread

Bread is the standard side dish in most school lunches, but I’ll never forget the dry dinner rolls served when I was a kid. Rarely with a pat of butter, these substandard rolls set the bar pretty low - even the dinky slices of wheat bread they served in junior high somehow seemed a stellar alternative.

10. WTF-Is-This? Dessert

I can’t recall the number of times I would stare with puzzlement into the little side cups, wondering what the heck I was looking at and how it could possibly be considered dessert. From gelatin concoctions topped with raisins to cereal sprinkled with…sprinkles (really), school desserts were by far the biggest mysteries of all.

And even though I’d do almost anything to relive my childhood, there’s one saving grace: I can hit Amazon and purchase all of the (non-gross) lunchtime snacks I want.