Happy Birthday, TLT! (Reflections on a Year of Blogging)

On May 25th last year, I had lunch with my writing group and tentatively raised an idea that had been niggling at me for a week or two.  I’d recently joined our district’s Food Services Parent Advisory Committee (reluctantly because, after all, my own kids won’t even eat school food), and then, realizing how much I had to learn about the byzantine National School Lunch Program, I’d read Janet Poppendeick’s Free For All: Fixing School Food in Americaa consciousness-raising experience. Between what I’d learned from my reading and what I was hearing at our PAC meetings, suddenly I felt like I had a lot to say.

“Um, I’m not really sure, but think maybe I want to blog about school food?”  To which fellow writer Jenny Staff Johnson replied with complete certainty, “Of course you should.”

Buoyed by her reaction, I went home and searched for a domain name and the next morning, May 26th, The Lunch Tray was born.  For a person who’s not very spontaneous, it’s funny how little forethought I gave to what would turn out to be an all-consuming project.

And when I say “all-consuming,” people, I’m not kidding.  Guess how many words I’ve posted on TLT to date?  Ballpark estimate: over half a million.  Holy (organic) guacamole.

OK, now everyone raise hands if you can remember when the blog looked like this:

If your hand is in the air, you absolutely win the “TLT Early Adopter Award” since that first, ugly layout was replaced within two weeks, proving some things actually do improve with age.

In the intervening year, I’ve “met” so many people, from dedicated readers who’ve shared their insights and experiences, to experts, fellow bloggers and even a few celebrities doing some really amazing things in the kid-and-food world.  It’s been such a nice surprise that writing for my own pleasure would ultimately introduce me to a community of engaged and stimulating people who have taught me so much more than I could have imagined.

So thanks to all of you who’ve made this past year so fulfilling.  In return, if you’re moved to leave a comment on this momentous occasion (and really, how could you not be?), I’ll use a random number generator at 12pm CST tomorrow (May 27) to award three readers the prize of their choice — a highly-sought-after Lunch Tray fridge magnet, or a genuine, vintage school lunch tray (yeah, I just might have a few of those left over from the recent lunch tray photo shoot.)

And now I’m off to celebrate TLT’s first birthday with a vanilla cupcake from my fave cupcake shop.

And no, I will not be eating it in a public school classroom.  😉





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  1. says

    Congratulations!! The site seems so well established and beloved that I’d always assumed you’d been around for ages; your tweet about turning 1 caught me off guard. Well done, here’s to another awesome year!

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      Thank you, Melissa, Shira, Lauren and Stella! I’m so glad we’ve “met” via TLT!

  2. Mike P says

    Love the new lunch tray image! Is it in honor of the birthday, or did I just miss it recently?

    You’re doing a fantastic job. Thanks so much for the mountains of information you provide. Happy birthday!

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      Mike – I actually changed it last week. I considered unveiling it on TLT’s “birthday” but simply couldn’t wait to use it. (Details here). I was coming to hate that old photo! Thank you for the kind words, and you know how glad I am to have met you as well. :-)

  3. Korey says

    Happy birthday, TLT! I’ve been following for a while, but haven’t yet joined in on the discussion. Looking forward to more posts in the second year…and beyond, hopefully!

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      Korey: Glad you came out of hiding! :-) Please join in our discussions when you feel moved to do so, and thank you for the birthday wishes.

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      Thank you, Charles, for the birthday wishes but also the newbie-blogger-handholding and most of all, for the excellent bizarre food links! Couldn’t do the Buffet without you!

  4. Donna says

    What?! You aren’t celebrating with organic strawberries and whipped cream? or Stacy’s Pita Chips? I remember when TLT was a mere idea you were ruminating about and look at the tremendous contribution you’ve made. I look forward to much more fun and learning on TLT!

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      Ack! Of COURSE I should be celebrating with Stacy’s! (I probably didn’t think of them because with bathing suit season around the corner, they are BANNED from my pantry.) And thank you for all the support and help with TLT. I need to tally up how many posts begin with “My friend Donna told me about . . . .” Probably fifty at least! :-)

  5. Gretchen says

    Congratulations, Bettina! Thanks for teaching me so much about what’s happening in the school food world, as well as for your excellent writing and funny anecdotes. I look forward to getting my “lunch” each day!

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      Thank you, David, and thanks to Foodservice.com for being such a supporter of TLT!

  6. says

    I just want to say how much I enjoy reading your perspective and your measured voice on the issues. Congrats on year one!

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      Thank you, Mark – and I also love checking out all the great work that the Healthy Schools Campaign is doing.

  7. Melissa brown says

    Happy Birthday! I came across your blog a few months ago via FB, and it is one of the few blogs I read daily. I don’t have kids in school yet, but I really appreciate your perspective on food issues. Keep up the great work!

  8. Timmi Dobesh says

    So happy to see you made it through year 1! Love reading your blog, best wishes to you and your blog!

  9. Jenny V says

    Congratulations on a whole year of blogging about food and kids. You’ve done such a great job. Keep it up!


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