Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Changes To School Lunch Seem Mighty Tasty

In anticipation of the upcoming Child Nutrition Act, some schools are already featuring healthier options. But do vending machines have a place?

school lunch

Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture (flickr)

School lunches will become healthier starting next year. Many schools are already getting a head start on serving more healthful items.

It’s back to school time across the United States, and some schools are making major changes to their school lunches.

‘Historic’ Changes

For the first time since 1995, national school lunch guidelines have been overhauled by the USDA.

The Child Nutrition Act will ensure school children are getting more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and less fat, salt and sugar.

As a part of the overhaul, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 will make applying for reduced or free lunches easier in an effort to reduce child hunger.

Maine schools are already making changes ahead of next fall’s “historic” changes. Wakefield schools have already increased their whole grains and removed their vending machines.

Lunch From A Vending Machine?

Miami-Dade schools haven’t removed their vending machines — they removed their lunch ladies.

Star Food Healthy Express machines offer local and healthy items at the touch of a button. Students simply enter their ID number, and the money is deducted from their account. Students on reduced and free lunch won’t have to deal with a cashier.

45 high school and 10 middle schools will receive the vending machines.

Cooking From Scratch

A Colorado district decided to combat obesity with real ingredients. Greenley schools have 60 percent of their students qualifying for free or reduced lunch, and while Colorado is still considered the least obese state, Weld County’s obesity rate was climbing.

In come old-fashioned techniques, filled with vegetables and whole grains. Fewer processed foods meant a shorter ingredient list and better quality.

“The biggest myth is that it costs more money,” food consultant Kate Adamick says. School systems actually save money when cooking meat themselves, for instance, she says.

Finally, Greenley also plans to use an executive chef — George Coates III (or Chef Boomer). He wants to start a “food revolution” by providing high-quality, interesting food for children. They will take that home with them, starting a cycle of recipes and sharing with their families.

Read More:

  • Coming next fall: New regulations for healthier school lunches (Lewiston Sun Journal)
  • School Lunch Overhaul Means Healthier Options, and Higher Costs (NHPR)
  • Vending Machines Replacing Lunch Ladies In Miami-Dade School (Miami New Times)
  • Schools Restore Fresh Cooking to the Cafeteria (New York Times)
Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Bloomington, Indiana. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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