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As the new school year kicks off, we ask ourselves will the food and nutrition lessons of years past be learned? Will budgets be found to provide real food, not cheap processed glop that amalgamates fats, oils, sugars, and fortified vitamin sprinkles to be considered healthy by USDA standards?
To our surprise, the answer is YES! The second largest school district in the country, LA Unified, has been working hard this summer, learning from past mistakes to offer food that is both healthy and palatable to children. There’s a fine balancing act here because in addition to fickle taste buds, there are also severe financial limitations.
Sadly, four out of five children in the Los Angeles district are eligible for a free or reduced price lunch / breakfast at school. By the time they reach middle school, almost half are either overweight or obese. The school district has been trying for several years to improve school lunch, with moderate success.
Chocolate milk has been booted, more fresh fruit and vegetables have been offered. But last year, when vegetarian lunch options were provided to kids, they failed miserably. This summer, the district piloted new dishes in several schools that run year long to see what works best for kids. They added to federal funds appropriated to the program in order to afford more fresh food. And they worked with non profit advocacy groups to tweak the offerings:
“You can offer more fruits, veggies and so on, but just because the meal is healthier doesn’t mean that kids will eat it. (Fast food) is ingrained in our culture, and it’s a slow process to change that mentality.” Read more from the LA Daily News…
Hopefully the new dishes will find favor with kids, but as any parent knows, given the option, most kids will opt for the less nutritious foods.
What food changes are happening in your children’s schools?