L.A. rethinks its healthy menu after participation drops

Dec. 19—Following a drop in participation, the newly created, healthier menus at the Los Angeles Unified School District will be altered.

In preparation for new meal patterns regulations under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, the foodservice department at LAUSD created new menus for the 2011-2012 school year. The district removed entrées such as pizza and chicken nuggets and added more plant-based and ethnic items.

Before the new menus were implemented, David Binkle, deputy director of food service, told FSD he expected a 20% decrease in participation and a 43-cent per meal increase to produce the healthier menus.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the department originally saw around a 13% decrease in participation. Now, that rate has recovered a little to between a 5% and 6% decrease in participation.

Binkle told the paper that the department would revamp its menus, adding items like pizza, made with a whole-wheat crust, low-fat cheese and low-sodium crust, and hamburgers offered daily. The department also is removing some of the ethnic dishes, including beef jambalaya, vegetable curry and pad Thai.

Click here to read the entire Los Angeles Times article.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

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.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

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.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

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
chartwells teaching kids

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...

FSD Resources