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Q & A: Mrs. Q Is Fed Up With School Lunch

Meet Mrs. Q, a teacher from Illinois who has pledged to eat a school lunch each day for the rest of the year and document it on...

Meet Mrs. Q, a teacher from Illinois who has pledged to eat a school lunch each day for the rest of the year and document it on her blog-the tremendously addictive Fed Up: School Lunch Project. She's doing so anonymously, covert cell phone camera in hand, in hopes of also keeping her day job. And in honor of this week's school lunch contest (deadline is midnight on Sunday), a little inspiration to get us away from the corn dogs and tater tots and towards something a bit, well, healthier.

GOOD: Tell us a little bit about how you came up with this idea and what motivated you to finally get started?

MRS. Q: I can't say there was one specific moment where this came to me. It was probably building in my mind for a long time. It's been hard for me to see what the kids are eating and not get down about it. I felt powerless to do anything.

GOOD: What's the response been like so far?

MRS. Q: The response has been pretty overwhelming because many people think this is a great project. I'm sort of shocked. Everyone is cheering me on and I really appreciate the support.

GOOD: Will you continue eating a school lunch each day until June or next January?

MRS. Q: Well, I said that I would eat lunch through the full year 2010 (minus the summer) and that's what I set out to do. Now if I lose my job then I won't have access to "school" lunch and that would be the end of that. So as long as I'm employed and my doctor clears me (and the way to the cafeteria isn't blocked by administrators), I'll stay true to the original goals of the project. My husband has also made it clear that if and when the project stops being fun for me, that I should stop. So far, I'm having fun with it (punctuated by moments of fear that I'll be found out).

What's your background, how old are you, where do you live, what subject do you teach-basically anything you can tell us that won't risk you being identified.

MRS. Q: I'm a mom and I live in Illinois. I feel like I can't reveal more at this time. I really want to share and I probably will once the project is over
\nGOOD: What's been the most surprising thing about the experiment so far?

MRS. Q: The most surprising thing has been the response the blog has received. It seems like it's going viral, which I didn't expect. I didn't think this project would be popular or interesting to many people, and especially not this quickly. I'm hopeful that this is going to make a bigger difference than I expected. The second most surprising thing to me is that recently I enjoyed the pizza, which I never enjoyed in any way in the past. It makes me wonder if I'm getting used to this food. The third most surprising thing is I have gotten very few negative comments. For instance, I thought I'd be getting way more hate mail.

GOOD: Has it led to any weird cravings-tater tots at midnight, fruit cups on weekends?

MRS. Q: The lunch has not led to any weird cravings, but many days I've binged on chocolate after school because I've been so hungry. I think I might be gaining weight.

GOOD: What's your favorite school lunch?

MRS. Q: The tex-mex and chili meals were the best. They resemble comfort foods that I enjoy at home. I'm a casserole kinda gal.

GOOD: What's your general appraisal of the quality of the food we give kids to eat every day at school?

MRS. Q: I can't speak to all lunches served in this country or even all of the lunches within one district. There is so much variability, but I would say that there is a trend that the communities with more money have better lunches. Of course those kids also have the option of packing their own lunch too. Overall, based solely on the comments that the posts receive, I would say that many school lunches are similar to what I see and eat every day.

Remember how in "Super Size Me," Morgan Spurlock, the documentarian, starts getting really sick from all the fast food. Any negative health consequences so far?

MRS. Q: I haven't mentioned this in the blog, but I was diagnosed with IBS two years ago by a gastroenterologist (after testing). Usually I keep it under control by eating a low-dairy and low-wheat diet. But since I can't control my lunches anymore, I have definitely seen an uptick in digestive issues. It's something that I get through and it's no big deal. Yet another reason I'm looking forward to the summer. I haven't decided what I'm going to do, but I'm definitely going to need some kind of cleanse (dairy and wheat and high fructose corn syrup-free kinda thing).

GOOD: How do you maintain your anonymity?

MRS. Q: I eat alone, which is actually fine. Teachers don't get very much time to eat and of course we never go out of the building for lunch so it's not hard to sequester myself.

GOOD: What's your posting protocol?

MRS. Q: I take a very quick pic with my cell phone at lunchtime and after work, I blog by cell. When I came up with the idea for this project in December, one thing I was concerned about was lugging my camera to work every day, then bringing it back home, uploading the pictures to my hard drive, and then uploading them. I almost didn't do the project because I couldn't imagine finding the time to do all those steps every day. So I did some poking around in blogger and I realized that I could blog by cell phone. After that, I started up the project.

GOOD: How much time do you spend blogging each day?

MRS. Q: This is turning out to be quite labor-intensive. Blogging, twittering, and answering e-mail can take up to 1.5 hours per night.

GOOD: Is there a book here?

MRS. Q: The story is developing; I'm living the plot right now. While I consider myself a writer, I'm not a journalist and those are the deep waters I'm entering with this project. The closest thing I came to being a journalist was when I wanted to marry Dan Rather in the fifth grade! Let's see how the project goes and we'll know towards the end if there is book material here.

Illustration by Jo Tran.

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