The Los Angeles Unified School District’s experience with its school lunch program reaffirms the truth behind the motto, “keep it simple, stupid.”
Two years ago, the nation’s second-largest school district in L.A. overhauled its school lunch program in an attempt to give kids access to a more exciting and healthy variety of dishes, from sushi and chicken tandoori to broccoli and beef with brown rice.
What they found, however, was that the students were not nearly as excited about the new menu items as the adults implementing the changes. Food services chief David Hinkle reported that while there wasn’t any one menu item that “the kids said, out and out, ‘get rid of that,’” the overall student feedback was the lowest it’s ever been.
So, the school district has once again overhauled its menu plan, with this coming school year’s menu projected to include the standard enchiladas, lasagna, and beef sliders of years past.
The district claims that they will still try to sneak some “goodness” into the food, aiming to cut down the fat, salt, and sugar content of their foods in accordance with federal nutritional guidelines. For example, Binkle stated that they will now make their popular chicken-and-waffle lunch meal with a potato and chive, yeast-raised waffle with no added sugar.
This regression may make for happier kids, but will it make for healthier ones? You might wonder whether the food services agencies should be so responsive to children who may not have their own nutrition needs in mind.
Regardless, the school food service’s main goal is to “provide nutrients for education,” which arguably can only occur if the students eat the food they’re served. Hopefully by working together with the students, the L.A. school district can create a meal plan that appeals to them while meeting some level of nutritional standards.