Doctors name healthiest school lunch programs; Los Angeles tops the list

Oct. 19—In recognition of National School Lunch Week, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has named its 2011 Golden Carrot Awards for innovation in school foodservice. Los Angeles Unified School District received the grand price and its $3,000 award.

LAUSD, led by Dennis Barrett, food services director, and David Binkle, deputy director, was given the award for its new menu, which was created to fulfill the proposed guidelines of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The district also was honored for its “I’m In” campaign, which links healthy eating to other school aspects, such as graduation.

Other winners were: Gianna Casetta, founder of SOAR, a Denver charter school for offering a diverse range of vegetarian menu options; and Rose Jones and Jennifer Sharp, R.D., foodservice professionals with Greenville County Schools in South Carolina for their redesigned lunch menus and culinary training.

The Golden Carrot Awards were created in 2004 to recognize programs that encourage students to eat fresh fruits and vegetables and that offer vegetarian, low-fat, whole-grain and nondairy options.

Read more about the program here.

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On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

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We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

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We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
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Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

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