LAUSD showcases healthy foods during National School Lunch Week

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School lunch has been served since the 1960s, but districts are trying hard to cut sugar, salt and bad fats while upping the produce quotient.

Farmdale Elementary Principal Oscar Sandoval had his favorite lunch growing up, and he is proud of what Los Angeles Unified School District is doing to keep kids well fed.

"I'm going to be honest with you, I really loved the sloppy joes they had growing up in the schools," said Sandoval.

Celebrating National School Lunch Week, his students worked in the garden, ate from a produce stand featuring unusual fruits and took cooking lessons from healthy chefs.

The school lunch programs have been around since the 1960s, but there are lots of changes on the menu. There is reduced salt and sugar, food is baked, not fried, and there's even specifics on produce.

"Students have to receive a variety of vegetables we're required to offer each week: a bright orange colored vegetable, a dark green, a bean, also a starchy vegetable. No artificial colors, none of the nitrates, no MSG, no trans fats," said LAUSD Senior Nutrition Specialist Ivy Marx.

And the baked "fried" chicken they serve is antibiotic free.

Marx says the district serves more than 700,000 meals a day, offering up breakfast, snacks, lunch and even supper. For many children these regular, healthy meals are critical.

"Eighty percent of our students qualify for free and reduced meals. Perhaps the healthiest meal they're going to get for the day," said Marx.

Meatless Monday is a weekly happening and students may request a vegan option at any meal. To cut waste, they've created a "save it for later" program that allows kids to keep fruits and some snacks for later in the day if they've had enough lunch rather than tossing.

The federally funded program also stresses the importance of gardening, planet-friendly containers and using locally sourced food.
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