Two days ago, the Los Angeles Times ran an opinion piece by Robert Gottlieb, director of the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College, with an update on school food in the Los Angeles Unified School District. While the piece is notable for its failure to make any mention of Jamie Oliver (who made LAUSD his target on last season’s “Food Revolution”), it does offer an overview of recent, promising changes in the district:
. . . a new food procurement approach was established. Instead of relying as much on commodity foods from the government and single-item purchases, new vendors or suppliers were selected in part on the basis of their ability to increase the portion of fresh fruits and vegetables supplied by farmers operating within a 200-mile range. Costs for the food purchased with this goal in mind turned out to be lower.
Even more dramatic have been the menu changes introduced this fall. Out are the canned cherries and apples that went into sugar-laden desserts. Flavored milk is no longer offered. Cafeterias now feature fresh local apples and strawberries and plain, low-fat milk. Hyper-refined mac and cheese and fatty, cheese-laden pizza have been replaced with more healthful entrees. And the new menu items reflect the region’s cultural diversity, with offerings such as tamales filled with vegetables,vegetarian sushi and Greek salad.
What was disheartening to me was the reaction to these changes in some quarters. According to Gottlieb:
Some critics have accused the district of creating an “elitist” menu. One principal complained that it was a “chef’s menu,” while a parent argued that the food was “better than what the students should be getting.” Attempting to develop more cultural diversity caused one parent to complain that the district was not serving “American food,” while another argued that the food was “too much what the people in Los Angeles look like.”
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