I have always had an interest in food oddities. There's a recent move in our culture towards neurotic food awareness and a lot of it seems colored by contempt for the what middle-america eats. Yes, we're upset about deplorable conditions for animals and eating locally and so on, but we do that because we're privileged enough to be able to it. Meanwhile, millions of people are forced to rely on cheap processed food. We eat to the level we've been educated and then as well compared to that as we can afford. But I don't have contempt for processed foods. When I ran track in high school I used to run about 3.5 miles from the school to the Amherst Village Green. I rewarded myself by making utterly ridiculous impulse food purchases. I think it's safe to say that had PB&J been an option I would have bought it.
As is I would have never had the opportunity to experience it were it not for the GED classes that are run at the other end of my office. HFI Heartland Foods' "PB& J, the PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY Graham Cracker SANDWICH" is a "2.2 oz portion contains one grain-bread serving and 1.0 oz meat alternative for the school meal pattern requirements."
Here are the nutritional value as presented on the label:
Total Fat 18.07 grams 28%DV
Saturated Fat 2.69 grams 13%DV
Sodium 270.41 mg 11%DV
Carbohydrates 30.91 grams 10%DV
Dietary Fiber 1.14 grams 5%DV
Protein 11.71 grams
Calcium 2.8 mg, Iron 3.5 mg, 31%
That's right. The good nutritionists over at HFI have their nutritional content down to an absolute, exact science. Some companies would be satisfied to merely round up to 320 calories, but HFI has done their homework out to the second decimal. Really, if you think about it they're just setting a good example for the students eating it.
The origins of the PB&J are something of an enigma. According to the packaging these little bundles of meat alternative are made in scenic Moosic, Pennsylvania, however there's no reference to the factory in any account of Moosic I've been able to locate.
The HFI brand is currently owned by Preferred Meal Systems, Inc. Preferred by who, you might ask? I'd be hard pressed to tell you. PMS (they probably hate it when people call them that) also manages such brands as "Tasty Stuffed Delights" and "Kids Are People Too."
Perhaps the latter brand shows a little more respect for kids taste. Sadly, PB&J falls short, particularly on the "J." I've personally consumed close to a dozen of these, each time hoping against hope that this time I'd find the Jelly, because in truth, with a thin layer of Jelly these would be plenty tasty. But after thorough, scientific dissection the most I've ever been able to find is small purple smear on one of the Graham Crackers.
Recently the GED program has moved to bean burritos as their meat alternative, and while I'll miss PB&J conceptually, the burritos are a definite improvement in flavor.