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Healthy School Lunches Flunk Out in Los Angeles

Healthier cafeteria foods fail to make the grade in th LA Unified School District.

The Los Angeles, California's Unified School District, the second largest public school system in the United States, failed to make the grades when they attempted to provide more healthy lunches for their student bodies. The LA Unified School District has led the way in trying to provide more nutritional fare. This time, in trying to comply with the mandates of the National School Lunch Program and First Lady Michelle Obama's campaign against obesity, they failed to make the grade.

According to an article in the December 17th issue of the Los Angeles Times, the new menu, with items such as beef jambalaya, vegetable currie, pad Thai, lentil and brown rice cutlets, and black-eyed pea salads, proved to be quite unpopular with the students.

The Los Angeles Unified cafeteria system is geared to feed 650,000 student every school day but the more nutritional fare being offered drove those students away from the cafeterias by the thousands. The same article in the LA Times went on to say that the food waste is rampant with entire entries and full cartons of milk going into the trash.

Mid-school Year Diet Revision

Dennis Barret, the LA food services director is turning to the tried and true. Hamburgers and whole wheat, low-fat pizzas will be returning to the daily menu. Barret told an LA Times reporter that the new, more nutritional menu was a disaster that resulted in a 13 percent reduction in the number of students signing up for the lunch program. Students, Barret said, were “Brown Bagging” it, bringing their own junk foods and sodas to school with them.

Listen and Learn

David Binkle, the deputy director of food service for the LA Unified School District said that, “We are trying to put healthier foods in place and make food that kids like, and that is a challenge.” he went on to say, “But we want to be responsive and listen and learn.”

Before the new menu was introduced, extensive community taste testing was done over the summer. Of the 300,000 comments received on the new foods, 75 percent were favorable, but even those students who liked the food during the taste testing did not eat it once it was being served in the cafeterias. The students, according to Binkle, were only embracing half the fare being served. The salads and the vegetarian tamales were particularly popular.

Andre Jahchan, a 16-year-old sophomore at Esteban Torres High School, said the food was "super good" at the summer tasting at L.A. Unified's central kitchen. But on campus, he said, the chicken pozole was watery, the vegetable tamale was burned and hard, and noodles were soggy.

"It's nasty, nasty," said Andre, a member of Inner City Struggle, an East L.A. nonprofit working to improve school lunch access and quality. "No matter how healthy it is, if it's not appetizing, people won't eat it."

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Comments (4)

Just proof that you can't force things like this. You have to educate. Teach the kids, for heaven's sake.

How I wish the public school bodies here can do this, informative and a great share Jerry.

I brown bagged it to school for years, my mom NEVER would have sent us to school with pop or junk food. The issue is not just the school, it is what kids are taught to eat at home too.

Surprise, surprise, the free market trumps central planning every time....

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