Mixed Response To LAUSD’s Revamped Lunch MenusTue 04 Oct 2011
Story by The Food Revolution Team
Last month we excitedly reported that the LAUSD was continuing to lead the Food Revolution beyond their flavored milk ban by revamping their menu’s - limiting the amount of processed food and instead introducing more local, fresh fruits and vegetables and a variety of new, ethnic meals.
In preparation for the switch from processed to fresh, and in order to ensure that only the items that got a thumbs up would make it on the new menu, the District carried out taste tests for thousands of students in the LAUSD central kitchen during the summer months.
Although we are yet to see the new food being served, it is crunch time for the LAUSD as students have said goodbye to corn dogs and chicken nuggets and hello to vegetable tamales, pad thai and ancho chile chicken with Yakisoba.
While we have been pleased to report that the district is developing a reputation for being a leader in the school food revolution and striving to provide a fresher and more nutritious fare for the 650,000 students it serves each day, it seems that the new menu is receiving mixed reviews from both students and parents alike.
According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, the LAUSD has received more than 5,000 emails and letters about the new menu, which are somewhat split between supportive and concerned, with reviews including that it is a ‘chef’s menu’, ‘not American food’ and even ‘better than what the students should be getting’.
We too have seen some reviews on the new menus by parents of students in the LAUSD on our Los Angeles Food Revolution Facebook page, whilst some parents are pleased that some of the old staples such as chicken nuggets are no longer on the menu, they are worried that everything has gone to the ‘other end of the spectrum’.
However, others have commended the changes appearing in their schools and are embracing the new food choices:
‘My son started Kindergarten at an LAUSD school today. I had surrendered to knowing I'd have to pack lunches daily because school food is so frightening. I was very pleasantly surprised by many of the menu options. They're even serving sushi this Friday, my son's favorite food. Looks like I can actually trust school food from time to time and save the headache of packing lunches every day!’
While it is early days and the new menus will come as a bit of a shock from what parents, teachers and students are used to; it is a positive step in the right direction by the LAUSD. With 80% of students in the LAUSD qualifying for free or reduced price breakfast and lunch, it is vital that these kids get a choice of healthy, wholesome food at school every day.
It will take time and effective use of feedback to shape up the menus and see what is liked and disliked, and throughout the year the LAUSD will be tracking which items are consumed to make adjustments and take into account the response from both students and parents.
In the mean time it is important to remember that it may take repeated exposure and numerous tries of a new food before a child will begin to like it – especially when it is drastic change from corn dogs and chicken nuggets to vegetarian sushi and ancho chile chicken.
While there is still much work to be done, it is important that we support the changes being implemented in the daily fare which is now offering a far greater proportion of healthful, wholesome, and sustainably grown food.
If you are in the LAUSD then we want to know your views on the new food being served within the cafeteria, let us know your thoughts by posting on our Food Revolution Community page.
Don’t forget to upload photos of your school lunches onto our School Lunch photo wall to compare with meals across the world!
To find out more about the changes that have occurred in LA cafeterias over the years, read the Cafeteria Food Fight article.
The Food Revolution Team
Images: Los Angeles school lunch images from the last school year taken from The Best and Worst School Lunch Photo Wall
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