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That’s what I remember from school lunches. Dry meat, soggy vegetables, and maybe a french fry or two. That’s why I was a dedicated brown bagger.
But in some parts of the US, energized parents, creative chefs and cafeteria ladies, and hungry kids are turning yuck to yum. They’re making school lunch taste great, and fuel afternoons of learning fractions and the location of the Yangtze River.
If you want to make school lunches in your community a little healthier, and hopefully a lot tastier, here are a few resources you might want to check out.
Action for Healthy Kids is a nationwide nonprofit that provides information, support, and tools to make schools healthier places, both in terms of nutrition and physical activity. In addition to program information and guidance, Action for Healthy Kids provides grants to schools and districts to help students eat better and move more. You can join the movement by taking the Every Kid Healthy Pledge.
Thousands of schools across the country have school gardens now. Chef Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard project kickstarted the school garden to lunchroom table movement, and the organization’s School Lunch Initiative has demonstrated how connecting lessons in the garden to what’s served in the lunchroom changes what kids will eat. Edible Schoolyard has a helpful searchable database where you can find information and inspiration from effective school gardening programs and schools changing up lunchtime.
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution offers tool kits for change, from a parents’ bill of rights to facts about school food. One of the first steps, according to the tool kits? Eat lunch in your child’s cafeteria to find out what’s being served.
There are also tools out there that you can share with any of the hard working chefs and lunch ladies that feed over 30 million kids each day. LiveWell Colorado offers culinary boot camps to train school nutrition directors and staff how to make healthy, delicious meals and develop menus that meet federal requirements. The Lunch Box offers recipes and other resources to help support school staff as they change up their offerings.