The two girls sat in the first row, squarely in front of the Arlington School Board, swinging their legs back and forth, waiting patiently for their spokesman to be called to the podium.

After half an hour, sixth grader Jackie Brady was called to address the school board. She walked quickly to the podium with her teacher, John Nottingham, who moved a footstool in place so Jackie could stand on it and reach the microphone.

"We feel you can prepare better lunches," said Jackie, a member of Glencarlyn Elementary School lunch improvement committee, who then complained to the board of the "soggy cookies, stale vegetables, frozen milk, and greasy food" which she said is standard fare at Glencarlyn. She presented the school board with a petition containing more than 200 signatures - including those of most teachers and the principal - requesting improvement in the school lunches.

"She's right," said school board member Richard A. Barton to an amused school board.

"I had lunch at Glencarlyn today," said school board vice-chairman Mary Margaret Whipple. "Actually the lunch I had was okay, but the kids told me it was the best they'd had in a while."

"I think there are problems," said Barton. "My kids do not eat lunches at elementary school, except pizza."

"We've had various school lunch special studies," noted Whipple. "I don't think (another) is required, but we might want to consider having a standing advisory committee, the way we do with other things." The other school board members nodded in agreement.

After last week's school board meeting a group of sixth graders, often with 10-year-old hyperbole, discussed the situation. "The food is not fresh," said Jackie. "It's not pleasant to look at or eat.The meat is limpy."

"We got green gravy that looks like slime," said Dawn Avery, warming to her subject. "Our teacher told us that we should get a petition, get a committee going and go to the school board."

"They came to me for advice," said their teacher, John Nottingham, "and I got tired of hearing about the lunches so I told them some of the things they could do. The kids really handled everything on their own. It's a good lesson in participatory democracy," he said half-jokingly.

"We feel the lunches are quite satisfactory," said George Allin, head of the Arlington school lunch program. "I was at Glencarlyn on May 26 and no one mentioned a thing. We're going to go through the (preparation) process to see if we can improve the end product. But kids are geared to fast foods like they get at McDonald's and that's what they want."

"Take it from me," said Jackie Brady, covering her mouth with her hand like a bookie passing along a hot tip. "I've been eating the school lunch for three year and I haven't grown an inch."