Trays of deep-fried chicken nuggets and cheeseburgers will get a makeover at New York schools if Gov. David Paterson gets his way.
His Healthy Schools Act, introduced April 3, would require state schools to offer healthful plant-based meat alternatives—a response to the childhood obesity epidemic.
“Schools can influence children's nutrition and food choices by serving as model environments that support academic performance and healthful behaviors,” the bill states.
Many school principals acknowledge they should be offering fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, according to the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food (NYCHSF), a nonprofit group that pushes for healthful, local and organic plant-based foods.
While some schools are purchasing milk with lower fat content and nondairy alternatives, entrees are the main problem, the NYCHSF notes. Schools have roughly 90 cents to spend on a five-component lunch, with 20 cents going to federal commodity foods like beef, cheese, chicken and white potatoes.
But some creative school-cafeteria honchos have managed to make healthful eating a reality.
“At the Severn Elementary School, we are already implementing what the legislation is suggesting,” says Chris Wallace, food service director. “We offer a delicious, healthy, unprocessed, whole-food, plant-based entree every day, with nutrition education, encouragement and positive marketing. We have made great inroads in acceptability and excitement, with no detriment to the school food program; rather, it is a value-added component."
Click here to see Wallace’s April lunch selections. A typical meal includes a russet potato topped with steamed broccoli, a warm wheat roll with hummus, lentil salad and seedless grapes.