Long mocked for its inedibility, campus cafeteria food is undergoing a federally mandated transformation, and schools are realizing it’s going to take more than sprinkling kale on pizza to really change the way students eat.
A recent New York Times article examined the challenges on the school-nutrition landscape, and the fallout from a federal overhaul of mandatory standards for school meals.
More fruits and vegetables are on the menu, but uneaten portions of the supposedly healthier meals too often wind up in the trash can, concludes the reporter Kate Murphy. Federal lawmakers are debating whether to keep the new standards, signed into law in 2012:
The Department of Agriculture is urging Congress to reauthorize the act to give children and cafeteria operators enough time to adjust. But farm-fresh food, scratch cooking, and nutrition education cost money that less affluent school districts like Detroit Public Schools don’t have. The solution there was to take advantage of the Community Eligibility Provision (C.E.P.) in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which allows high-poverty districts to provide free meals to all students. That way they get more money from the government and don’t have to rely so much on sales to better-off students who have other options.
There’s evidence some school districts are getting the hang of the new regulations, and that school meals are improving in both quality and appeal. Murphy cites Detroit as just one example, where all deep-fat fryers have been removed from the campus cafeterias and fresh greens are grown in the district’s own gardens.