When it comes to school lunches, is the turkey pepperoni in that calzone really an improvement? Some, such as advocacy group Food For Lunch, say it's not enough of one.
New menus have been approved for LAUSD school breakfasts and lunches, boasting at least somewhat of a nutritional improvement, but says Food For Lunch founding member Jennie Cook, too many of the items are still heavily processed.
In an email to us, Cook explains, “We're not against anything LAUSD food services is doing. They have a daunting responsibility to feed almost one million kids 2 meals a day on pennies. And they're doing it! We support and applaud their efforts. We're for more plant-based offerings, WATER, more fresh fruit and vegetables. LESS PROCESSING.”
Since its inception last year, Food for Lunch has been working to get more, well, food, in our school lunch menus. As Cook says, “Let's stop teaching our kids that everything comes in a bag or a box wrapped in cellophane. Let's teach them how to peel an orange and how to eat a kiwi.”
And what specific issues does cook see with the menus? She tells us, “They are still meat-centric, not nearly enough whole grains (brown colored white bread does not qualify as whole grain in my book), too many new flavors. Where are the rice and beans and tortillas? Where are the whole fruits and vegetables? WHERE ARE THE SALAD BARS??”
Cook sees healthy food as LAUSD's responsibility. She explains, “If the USDA suggests 5 to 7 servings of fruit/vegetables a day and the majority of the kids depend on the school lunch program as their primary source of nutrition, offering 3 to 4 servings of fresh whole food at breakfast or lunch makes sense, right? When an additional 6 cents was added to the plate cost from the Nutrition Act a few weeks ago, a cafeteria director was complaining that it would only buy 1/2 a banana. I say buy that banana and give it to the kids! Every little bit helps.”
What did your school lunch look like? Ours often consisted of nachos and chocolate chip cookies, both of which we're glad to see no longer make the cut.