Coinciding with the release of surprising positive national research indicating the first decline in the number of obese school children, including in Los Angeles, the Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution on Tuesday to improve the district’s food and nutrition policy.
Sponsored by Board President Mónica García and District 4 Board Member Steve Zimmer, the resolution directs Superintendent John Deasy to report back in six months on adherence to the Los Angeles Unified School District's (LAUSD) nationally recognized nutrition policy, which emphasizes healthy meals.
LAUSD has been taking bold approaches to getting students to eat healthy in comparison to the rest of the nation, according to a recent New York Times story. Quinoa salads, pad Thai and other vegetarian fare were introduced on the menus in 2011, only to be rejected by students. Since then cafeteria managers have been trying entrees like whole wheat pizza, fajitas and smaller fares.
"Today, the board is sending a strong message that we are looking at all aspects of nutrition in our schools - adequate time to eat, making meals nutritious and appealing, listening to students, parents and community voices and connecting our cafeterias, our school gardens and our classrooms," Zimmer said in a press release. "These are essential conditions for building a healthy learning environment for all children."
Students also must have enough time -- a minimum of 20 minutes -- to eat, and all schools must also serve breakfast either in the classroom or during the nutrition break.
Emphasizing low-fat choices, vegetarian options, whole grains, fresh fruits, salads and milk in place of sugary drinks, the LAUSD menu exceeds the federal United States Department of Agriculture guidelines and the federal Institute of Medicine's nutrient recommendations.
Among the other provisions, the resolution also calls for improving the appeal of school meals as students are introduced to different foods; increasing access to fresh produce through salad bars and the use of vegetables from school gardens and local farms; providing more education about nutrition and establishing an even stronger working partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health in the fight to reduce childhood obesity.
"Our students benefit from healthy eating options that nourish their bodies and minds keeping them focused in school ready to learn," said Board President Mónica García. "Today, LAUSD makes a strong commitment to ensure our students are receiving the highest quality nutrition in our schools."
LAUSD’s Food Services Division currently serves more than 109 million meals per year, providing lunch and also offering the largest breakfast program in the nation.