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Organic meals for students' health, mind

November 6, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Only one in five school age children gets five or more servings of produce daily; with less than a third drinking milk on any given day. But one Los Angeles charter school is looking to change those statistics by offering organic and locally grown food for their children. It appears to be a typical school lunch burrito at first glance, but there's a lot more going on than meets the eye. Para Los Nino's Bob Karcher says this one is made with brown rice, free range beef and organic beans. The fruit is locally grown and the milk is free of antibiotics and growth hormones.

"Simply putting the right food in front of the children every day starts to build habits that stays with them for life," said Karcher.

At Para Los Ninos Charter School in downtown Los Angeles, over 400 students from low-income families get free breakfast, lunch and snacks daily. It costs $3 to $4 a meal to make. Donors and fundraisers help put school dollars towards this unique program from Revolution Foods in an attempt to fight obesity, improve test scores, and well-being.

"A lot of cases, [it's] the only opportunity they have to eat a good strong healthy meal," said Karcher.

Of course, this food certainly helps keep students full and satisfied. It also provides some lessons about good nutrition for their mind and body.

"What they eat and how they eat is so important to their success in their education," said Karcher.

Along with preparing fresh meals daily, Caroline Chiles from Revolution Foods says nutrition education is served as well, which they make fun through puzzles, games and newsletters for the families.

"When it comes down to the student level, for them to take these choices outside of the school room, they need to understand why," said Chiles.

The Los Angeles Unified School Lunch Program has made significant progress in the last two years. Almost all schools offer fat-free or low-fat milk, serve fruit and vegetables, and over 80 percent serve salads and yogurt.

But the meals remain high in fat and salt and are highly processed, and that is something educators want kids to do without.

"It's a big component of helping them perform throughout the day, physically as well as mentally, so they can have better test scores and have healthy lifestyles," said Karcher.


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