Bridging the Opportunity Divide

The District Where Healthy School Lunches Are Actually Succeeding

October 28, 2014
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The District Where Healthy School Lunches Are Actually Succeeding
Students at Lefler Middle School are eating a well balanced lunch thanks to LPS and the Director of Nutrition Services, Edith Zumwalt. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Why the Lincoln, Neb. public school system stands out above the rest.

School lunches are healthier than ever under First Lady Michelle Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Federal law now requires schools to serve more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as well as cut down on food that’s high in calories, fat and sodium.

The new school lunch standard is wonderful in the fight against childhood obesity. However, its actual implementation has been fraught with controversy. School lunch companies are complaining that the tough nutritional guidelines are too rigid and claiming that they’re causing a steep loss in revenue. Picky eaters are also revolting about the taste of their foods, and many just end up going hungry when they throw whole trays of food away.

But there’s one school district where kids are actually eating — and even enjoying their meals.

MORE: Celebrity Chefs Urge New York City to Provide Free School Lunch for Every Student

As the Atlantic reports, the Lincoln Public School System (LPS) in Lincoln, Nebraska “has gone above and beyond the legal requirements, dishing out a daily vegetable smorgasbord. On top of veggie burgers and black-bean chili, the school system serves up local yellow watermelons, black and green peppers, cherry tomatoes, blueberries, ripe plums and fresh cantaloupe.”

And according to the Journal Star, all of the district’s high schools, most of its middle schools and about one-third of the elementary school have a fruit and vegetable bar. Chicken nuggets are coated in whole wheat crumbs and lasagna made with low-sodium sauce and whole wheat noodles.

“Last year, we spent over $1.1 million dollars on produce. So we do serve a lot, and I’m really excited to see that children don’t waste it, that they eat it. That is really cool,” says Edith Zumwalt, the Director of Nutrition Services in LPS.

For its efforts, the district was recently given the “Golden Carrot Award” from the Physicians Committee (PCRM), a nonprofit medical organization of 12,000 physicians. The award came with $1,500 prize for the nutrition services program. Remarkably, LPS was the only public school to win; private schools in California and Arizona also shared the award.

Following the award, the school district even received praise from one Kourtney Kardashian, who’s apparently a big healthy food advocate and has teamed up with the PCRM. “As a mom who makes her healthy eating a priority, I’m so impressed to see that Lincoln’s lunch trays are filled with colorful, locally grown cherries, savory carrots, yellow watermelon, fresh blueberries, and plums,” the reality star writes in a letter to the school.

Clearly, healthy food doesn’t have to mean bland. Hopefully more schools can take up this philosophy too.

DON’T MISS: This State Is Making Sure No Child Is Ever Denied a School Lunch

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