LA Launches New & Improved School MenuWed 07 Sep 2011
Story by The Food Revolution Team
Following the ban of flavored milk earlier this year, more change is coming to the second largest school district in America, as Los Angeles Unified is about to implement a new school lunch menu.
Although we are yet to see the new food served in LA schools, the new menu looks quite promising on paper, and LAUSD has taken steps to make sure that it incorporates better ingredients and yummier tastes that appeal to kids. LAUSD serves 650,000 students each day, and with 80% qualifying for free or reduced price breakfast and lunch, it is vital that these menu improvements take place so that kids get a choice of healthy and appealing food at school each day. The true test will be in the implementation – does the food come out prepared as it has during taste tests, and does it encourage better food choices by students?
The ban of flavored milk in June was a HUGE step towards better health, with excess sugar and empty calories that are simply not needed being removed from the daily menu. Now LAUSD is set to remove corn dogs, chicken nuggets and pizza, and limit the amount of processed and canned foods available to their students. Instead, more local, fresh fruit and vegetables and a variety of new, ethnic foods are set to be introduced to the daily fare. There will be lots more vegetarian and whole grain options than in the past.
LAUSD meals are still being produced in a pre-packaged, processed model, so the “fresh” food that the Food Revolution stands for remains a way off. Meanwhile, “competitive” foods are available in vending machines and on nearby street corners, meaning much work to be done to encourage good choices by students. Yet we are encouraged by the new menu, as well as baby steps being taken in LAUSD toward an improved classroom breakfast and even scratch cooking.
In preparation for the switch from processed to fresh, the District has carried out numerous taste tests in the LAUSD central kitchen for thousands of students from across the city. As we all know, kids can be the biggest food critics, and if more nutritious, wholesome options end up the trash, we are back to where we started. These taste tests have included every single menu item–such as vegetable tamales, edamame, anchochile chicken with Yakisoba, pad thai, hummus with whole-wheat pitas and a variety of new salads. Only the meals that received a “thumbs up” from the kids that will be eating them will make it to the new menu for this fall. Throughout the year, LAUSD will be tracking which items are consumed to make adjustments moving forward.
Following the ban of flavored milks by Superintendant John Deasy, the LA Unified School District has begun to reclaim its place as a leader in school food, with many other school districts now also removing or contemplating removing sugary milks. Here at the Food Revolution we hope that this trend will continue, with other schools districts also beginning to switch out highly processed meals in favor of more wholesome, fresh, nutritious and appealing options!
Good Luck LA!
The Food Revolution Team
View the new LAUSD menus here.
Note: Whilst we are thrilled to hear the LAUSD are taking more actions towards improving school food and the health prospects of their students, this article is based on proposed changes to the menu and the Food Revolution Team are yet to see the new foods being served as part of this menu.
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