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News mixed on healthy school lunches


Two recent articles make it clear that it’s not always easy to make the change to healthier lunches served at school. A recent story in the Daily Camera finds that the Boulder Valley School District’s ambitious plan to switch to healthy foods made from scratch is losing money and still generating criticism that the food is too bland.

Last school year, participation in school launch rose only 2 percent over the previous year, according to the Camera, when 10 percent growth in participation was needed to make up for a significant, and expected, drop in “a la carte” sales. The result? The program is $360,000 in the hole.

See this video shot by EdNews Parent intern Alex McNa about the challenges of scratch cooking in his interview with EdNews Parent expert and head of Boulder Valley schools’ nutrition services, Ann Cooper.

Then, there was this recent Education News Colorado article, “Lunch ladies” fight back, chronicling a talk to school kitchen workers by Montana dietician Dayle Hayes, who draw applause when she blasted celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who attacked one school because it served pizza and chocolate milk for breakfast. She criticized Oliver for only focusing on the bad and none of the good things school cooks do.

Yet the cost and agony may just be worth it. A three-year UC Berkeley study recently found that students “fed a steady curriculum of gardening, cooking and nutrition have significantly better eating habits than children who don’t get the same instruction,” the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Ann Cooper, the self-described “renegade lunch lady,” spearheaded the changes in those California schools. The question is, can she be similarly successful transforming school lunches here?

Key findings in the Berkeley study:

  • More than half of the families of students in the study reported eating dinner together every day. However, fewer than 30 percent of households reported involving their child in meal preparation.
  • Parents with children in schools that coupled improvements in school lunch with classroom learning and cooking and gardening classes were more likely than students in schools with lesser-developed programs to say that school affected their child’s knowledge, attitudes, and behavior in relation to food.
  • 60 percent in highly developed programs said school changed their child’s knowledge about healthy food choices, compared to 36 percent in lesser developed programs
  • 42 percent in highly developed programs said school changed their child’s attitudes about food, compared to 19 percent in lesser-developed programs.
  • 35 percent in highly developed programs said school improved their child’s eating habits, compared to 16 percent in lesser-developed programs.

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