For many students, Los Angeles Unified’s introduction of healthful school lunches has been a flop. Earlier this year, the district got rid of chocolate and strawberry milk, chicken nuggets, corn dogs, nachos and other food high in fat, sugar and sodium. Instead, district chefs concocted such healthful alternatives as vegetarian curries and tamales, quinoa salads and pad thai noodles.
However, it seems that many of the new, healthy meals are being rejected. Participation in the school lunch program has dropped by thousands of students. Principals report massive waste, with unopened milk cartons and uneaten entrees being thrown away.
Students Rejecting The New Lunch Regime
From The Los Angeles Times:
Iraides Renteria and Mayra Gutierrez don’t even bother to line up. Renteria said the school food previously made her throw up, and Gutierrez calls it “nasty, rotty stuff.” So what do they eat? The juniors pull three bags of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and soda from their backpacks.
“This is our daily lunch,” Iraides says. “We’re eating more junk food now than last year.”
The new menu, introduced this fall, was seen as a revolutionary step to combat the growing epidemic of youth obesity, diabetes and other health problems. It was the latest healthful food initiative by the district, which banned sodas on campus in 2004, nixed the sale of junk food during the school day and called for more produce and less salt and fat to be served.
The new menus are in line with the federal government’s updated dietary guidelines, which recommend, for instance, that fruits and vegetables make up half the plate. L.A. Unified has virtually eliminated canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, boosting spending on fresh produce from $2 million in 2006 to $20 million in 2010.
But what does that matter if students aren’t eating their lunch?
The Los Angeles Times reports that menu items such as beef jambalaya, vegetable curry, pad Thai, lentil and brown rice cutlets and quinoa and black-eyed pea salads turned out to be hugely unpopular with students.
A Mid-Year Revision Of The Lunch Menu
Dennis Barrett, LA’s food services director, is doing a mid-year revision of the school lunch menu. Hamburgers and whole wheat, low-fat cheese pizza will be back on the daily menu after students indicated they would not eat vegetable curries, tamales and the like that were being substituted.
Students have also complained about the quality of the food.
From The Los Angeles Times:
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 InnerCity 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.”
School officials have also heard complaints about mold on noodles, undercooked meat, and hard rice.
A Leader In Michelle Obama’s Campaign Against Obesity
Los Angeles Unified is the second largest school district in the country and has been a leader in moving to the more nutritional fare like that being mandated by the National School Lunch Program under First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign against obesity.
However, if the food isn’t up to par, and the students aren’t eating it, something needs to change.
What do you think?
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