A recent statewide poll released by The California Endowment, a health foundation that promotes nutritious school lunches, found that 82 percent of students and 91 percent of parents surveyed support the latest changes in school lunch nutrition standards, overall. The changes include a greater variety of produce, more whole grains, portion size guidelines and calorie limits.
After hearing summarized arguments for and against calorie restriction, about 64 percent of students and 56 percent parents said they thought the calorie limits should continue, the California Endowment reported.
Students who made headlines with this music video parody, “We Are Hungry,” seem to feel differently. They argue that active students, especially those who play sports, simply need more fuel. (Some student-athletes at Berkeley High told me the same thing a few years ago, when I was doing a profile on Ann Cooper, who transformed the district’s lunch offerings.)
A news release from the Endowment responded to the objections raised in the video with a quote from the public opinion research company that conducted the survey:
“It is simply not true that students are rejecting the new school lunches, either because they’re too small or for any other reason,” said Dave Metz, a partner at Maslin, Maullin, Metz, & Associates, the public opinion research agency that conducted the survey on behalf of The Endowment. “To the contrary, there is overwhelming evidence that California students and parents prefer the new lunches and want the nutrition standards retained.”
The poll included 600 phone interviews with parents and about 500 internet interviews with students in grades 7 to 12.
As I reported recently, Oakland Unified is making ongoing school lunch upgrades. It’s also included money for upgraded kitchens and a central commissary in its budget for Measure J, should the local school bond measure pass in November.
In other school lunch news: The California Endowment awarded Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith with the “Health Happens Hero” award and went on to praise the food service department, directed by Jennifer LeBarre:
Oakland Unified has long been recognized as a school meals innovator and a model for large urban districts. As part of Superintendent Smith’s broader strategy to reform the school district, Oakland Unified launched a universal free breakfast program in 2010 and has steadily increased student participation in its meal programs since then. Superintendent Smith has also worked to acquire new cooking equipment, purchase more locally grown food, increase the number and availability of salad bars, partner with community organizations to develop a long-term for revolutionizing school food in Oakland, and upgrade meal service facilities so more campuses can prepare fresh meals from scratch. Oakland Unified is also well-known for the quality of its menu offerings—new entrees for the 2012-2013 academic year include grass-fed beef hot dogs, hand-made chicken enchiladas, and black bean/tofu vegetarian enchiladas.