Oakland school lunches get a C+

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine gave Oakland’s school lunch program a C+ in its latest report card, down from a B last year, based on self-reported information from the district.

(I’m not exactly sure why the lunch program slipped. It wasn’t in the report, but I’ve asked for the details.)

Each year, the committee reviews the lunch menus and nutrition education programs of 20 school districts in different regions of the country to check for fruit and low-fat veggie side dishes, non-dairy beverages and healthy entrees.

The committee did observe an encouraging trend: that more schools are finding ways to cut the grease and ramp up the nutrition despite rising food costs. The report noted that 36 Oakland schools had fresh salad bars, and that some offered a Harvest of the Month program, in which kids get to sample different seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Curious about what Oakland kids are putting into their bodies each day? The menus are posted online.

If you care to compare: Oakland did edge out San Francisco’s public schools (which received a C), and was deemed much healthier than Buffalo City Schools, in N.Y., in which “elementary school lunch menus are packed with meatball
subs, Egg McMuffin Sandwiches, and other high-fat items.”

image from a la corey’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Sue

    I don’t have any idea what’s happening either, but this is interesting.

    Last year, and for several years previously, my boys have bought the school lunches. This year, they’ve asked to bring lunches from home, so we’re doing that instead.

    Neither has complained about bad food – younger son was unhappy with the crowding in his middle school cafeteria, and not having any time to hang with friends because the long lines used up most of his lunch period. He also wanted to eat with friends who were bringing their lunches, and apparently they don’t eat in the same place as the school-lunch crowd.

    Older son hasn’t really explained his preference.

    But at $3 each, compared to $2.75 last year for the high-schooler, and $2.25 for the then-elementary kid, it’s also a money-saver for our family to have the boys bringing their lunches instead of buying them.

  • Katy Murphy

    Here’s an explanation I just received, via e-mail, from a staff dietitian at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, about Oakland’s lower grade:

    “In 2008, there were more points to be earned for having a variety of low-fat, cholesterol-free entrées available, i.e., 100% vegetarian or vegan. Oakland claimed to have none. Also, there were more points to be earned this year for having incentive programs to encourage healthy plant-based meals. Oakland received zero for that as well. On the upside, Oakland reports to have something in place for the next school year, “wellness kiosks.” That alone would push them back up to a B. Hopefully more vegan options will be available which would put them in the A range.”

  • http://www.jeaneger.com Jean Womack

    If you want a good lunch, go to one of the John Swett Unified schools in the Rodeo-Crockett area. They have salad bars.

    Great reporting, as usual, Katy!

    Jean Womack

  • John

    “C+” huh, certainly another good reason for locking down OUSD high school campuses at lunch time.

    Perhaps as an incentive to getting that ‘B to A+ rated’ off campus lunch students could: (1) meet a ‘normal crotch dress code’ requirement; (2) promise to use crosswalks and wait for pedestrian lights; and, (3) not drop trash on streets and sidewalks?

    Regarding the latter, ‘low hanging crotches’ would mean one less place to store junk & fast food wrappers & containers. Maybe issuing student ‘litter crotch bags’ (with large print use instructions) would help? Although, given the City Council imposed ‘street trash tax’ on struggling Oakland businesses, perhaps it’s not considered a ‘student issue’ when someone’s being paid to pick up after them?