California Leads the Charge in Creating Healthy School Lunches

After the recent declaration by members of Congress that pizza served throughout the nation’s school lunch programs should be considered a vegetable (because of the negligible amount of tomato paste in pizza sauce) despite efforts of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act also passed by Congress last year requiring schools to provide more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, California schools continue to lead the nation in focusing on the health of children by providing exceptionally clean food for students and not including pizza on the list of vegetables.

While deep-fried potatoes and pizza may be considered vegetable servings elsewhere in the country, districts throughout the State are revamping menus, lunchrooms and kids’ appreciation for healthy foods like with Santa Barbara County’s s’Cool Food program. The ten-year initiative is made possible by the Santa Barbara-based Orfalea Foundation started by Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinko’s. The program created chef-run “cooking camps” that teach cafeteria staff large-scale cooking from scratch, provides schools with equipment and techniques for preparing healthy meals for students.

Earlier this year, Los Angeles Unified School District chef Mark Baida also created a new lunch menu for students focused on whole foods made from scratch. Many State school districts are incorporating salad bars, and an emphasis on local and organic ingredients. Some are even growing their own.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. As of 2008, more than one third of the nation’s children and teenagers were either overweight or obese, leading to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.

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