As part of a campaign against obesity, diabetes and other nutritional-related issues, the Los Angeles Unified School District has introduced a menu of black bean burgers, tostada salad, fresh pears and other nutritious items. However, for many students, L.A. Unified's trailblazing introduction of healthful school lunches has been a flop, writes Teresa Watanabe at the Los Angeles Times.
After the district got rid of chocolate and strawberry milk, chicken nuggets, corn dogs, nachos and other foods high in fat, sugar and sodium, participation in the school lunch program has dropped by thousands of students.
With principals reporting massive waste, L.A. Unified's food services director, Dennis Barrett, has announced that the menu would be revised.
"We're trying to put healthier foods in place and make food [that] kids like, and that's a challenge," food services deputy director David Binkle said.
"But we want to be responsive and listen and learn."
The new menu is part of a growing culture of youth nutrition awareness. And this was the latest healthful food initiative by the nation's second-largest school district, which banned sodas on campus in 2004 while also banning junk food during the school day and called for more produce and less salt and fat to be served.
In the new menus L.A. Unified has virtually eliminated canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, boosting spending on fresh produce from $2 million in 2006 to $20 million in 2010, and receiving awards for improving its school lunches, including one from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and another from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
But Barrett has called the new menu a "disaster".
"Participation plunged by more than 13%."
It has pointed out that while, in the last month or so, the overall program is beginning to steady. With students starting to embrace about half of the new menu – the salads and vegetarian tamales in particular have been popular – some students are still not eating.