DONATE
FOR PHYSICIANS
HEALTH AND NUTRITION
ETHICAL RESEARCH & EDUCATION
MEDIA CENTER
LEGISLATIVE FOCUS
CLINICAL RESEARCH
EDUCATIONAL LITERATURE
MEMBERSHIP
SHOP

Connect with Us

 

 

The Physicians Committee



 School Lunches: Some Pass, Others Need Improvement

Students aren’t the only ones being graded in school these days. PCRM has released its fifth School Lunch Report Card, which grades the nation’s major school districts on the healthfulness of the food they serve and also on how well they are promoting the benefits of healthy eating to students.

Because the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) plays such an important role in developing children’s eating habits, schools have a unique opportunity to help stop the growing childhood obesity epidemic and the wide range of health problems that come with it, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer, by introducing children to healthy vegetarian foods right from the start.

The NSLP was established in 1946 to provide nutritious free and low-cost meals to students each day. Its secondary purpose was to encourage the consumption of domestic agricultural commodities. Schools participating in the NSLP receive cash subsidies, donated commodities, and free bonus commodities in return for serving meals that meet federal nutrition requirements.

Unfortunately, a staggering 80 percent of schools do not meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) nutrition requirements, which mandate that schools serve meals deriving less than 30 percent of calories from fat and less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat. This may be in part due to the conflict of interest in the commodity system, in which schools that are trying to serve nutritious meals also receive the USDA’s excess beef, pork, milk, and other high-fat products.

To score highly on PCRM’s report card, a school has to not only meet the USDA’s nutrition requirements, but also serve a vegan entrée daily, have available a variety of fresh or low-fat vegetables or fruits, serve a nondairy beverage daily, and offer innovative programs that encourage healthy eating habits, such as a school garden or a salad bar. “Childhood obesity is a bigger threat to kids than the schoolyard bully, so lunchrooms must provide healthful, low-fat, vegetarian fare,” said PCRM nutritionist Dulcie Ward, R.D. “The biggest change our report found this year is in much greater availability of vegetarian and vegan options.”

Twelve of the 18 schools surveyed earned a B- or higher, and Virginia’s Fairfax County school district was named the most improved district since last year and was also the highest-scoring district. Fairfax made the grade by providing a rotating selection of vegan entrées daily, offering a choice of two salads every day, integrating nutrition into the curricula, and providing soymilk à la carte. All three of the lowest-scoring schools had very limited vegetarian and vegan entrée options. When vegetarian options did appear on the menu, they often included cheese, which is high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Eliminating high-fat dairy products and adding soymilk or rice milk would be a further step in the right direction.

Twelve districts served a vegan entrée at least once within two weeks, and nine had vegan items on the menu regularly. This year’s federally mandated wellness policies, which must include goals for nutrition education and physical fitness and nutrition guidelines for food sold on campus, are sure to guide schools even further in the right direction.

District

Score

Grade

Fairfax County Public Schools (VA)

94

A

Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District (NC)

92

A-

Pinellas County Schools (FL)

92

A-

San Diego Unified School District (CA)

92

A-

Broward County Public Schools (FL)

89

B+

New York City School District (NY)

88

B+

Miami-Dade Public Schools (FL)

88

B+

Seattle Public Schools (WA)

86

B

Dallas Independent School District (TX)

85

B

Montgomery County Public Schools (MD)

84

B

Palm Beach County School District (FL)

84

B

Hillsborough County School District (FL)

82

B-

School District of La Crosse, Wisconsin (WI)

79

C+

San Francisco Unified School District (CA)

76

C

Oakland Unified School District (CA)

75

C

Minneapolis Public Schools (MN)

67

D+

Hancock County Schools (MS)

63

D

Memphis City School District (TN)

54

F

 



 

Good Medicine Cover

Good Medicine
ARCHIVE

 
This site does not provide medical or legal advice. This Web site is for informational purposes only.
Full Disclaimer | Privacy Policy

The Physicians Committee
5100 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., Ste.400, Washington DC, 20016
Phone: 202-686-2210     Email: pcrm@pcrm.org