Making 650,000 meals a day is no small task, but L.A. Unified School District not only does that, it also has to meet the latest USDA nutrition guidelines at an economical price.
"We're right at about $1.20 for the five different components. For breakfast we have roughly 80 cents," said LAUSD Food Services Director David Binkle.
Binkle in a recent interview says it's challenging to provide good-tasting, good-for-you meals at a low cost. But they are winning this food fight by allowing students to participate in the meal planning process through a culinary education program called "Cooking Up Change."
West Adams High student Jose Landaverde, who created a tasty salad dressing, teamed up with Esther Segura and Maribel Sandoval to develop an award-winning combination.
"Tex-Mex cornbread and black bean 'mountain.' That's not something me as a student, I would see in the cafeteria," said Sandoval.
And now she will. The West Adams team won the district culinary challenge last year.
Also on the menu: A taco salad, and a chicken and waffle combo. And believe it or not, it's healthy.
The chicken-waffle combo is from a local restaurant, but the waffle created by the kids is actually a savory waffle with potato, chive and no added sugar.
LAUSD meals are now created with no artificial flavors, colors, no added trans fats, and the sugar and salt have met USDA standards. In years past they've tried to get kids interested in a variety of foods, with little success. But with students at the stove, things are looking up.