As childhood obesity rates continue to soar, a new report issued by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) finds public school districts in Florida, Maryland, Tennessee, Nevada and Nebraska rise above federal guidelines to serve healthy school lunches.
"The days of foot-long hot dogs and greasy tater tots and are coming to an end," says Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition education at PCRM. "By offering vegetarian chili with cornbread, black bean burgers, baked sweet potatoes, and cinnamon apple slices, schools are showing students how to tackle obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease."
PCRM's 2012 School Lunch Report Card finds schools still earning poor grades, including districts in Houston, Milwaukee, and Davis County, Utah, offering students chicken-fried steak fingers, breaded catfish, pork nuggets, and other high-cholesterol menu items.
For the 2012 School Lunch Report Card, PCRM dietitians analyzed elementary school meals available at more than 20 districts participating in the National School Lunch Program. The average grade is a B (84), up five percentage points from the national average (78.7) in 2008.
Pinellas County Schools (Fla.)
Howard County Public School System (Md.)
Knox County Schools (Tenn.)
Omaha Public Schools (Neb.)
Atlanta Public Schools (Ga.)
Broward County Public Schools (Fla.)
St. Louis Public Schools (Mo.)
Miami-Dade County Public Schools (Fla.)
Long Beach Unified School District (Calif.)
Oakland Unified School District (Calif.)
Washoe County School District (Nev.)
Montgomery County Public Schools (Md.)
Dallas Independent School District (Texas)
Seminole County Public Schools (Fla.)
Anchorage School District (Alaska)
Guilford County Schools (N.C.)
School District of Philadelphia (Pa.)
Burlington School District (Vt.)
Fresno Unified School District (Calif.)
Davis School District (Utah)
Houston Independent School District (Texas)
Milwaukee Public Schools (Wis.)
This year's Most Improved Award goes to Washoe County, which improved its school lunch score by 22 points from 2008—rising from a D (66) to a B+ (88). St. Louis Public Schools receives an honorable mention for improving its score by 42 points from 2007, when the district received an F (53). This year St. Louis passes with flying colors, earning an A (95) for plant-based menu items and 22 school gardens.
Here is a copy of the 2012 School Lunch Report Card and description for Washoe County: http://bit.ly/R4WC3p
In 2008, Washoe served healthful vegetarian options about once a week, and it offered no nutrition education or innovative food programs. Now, vegetarian entrées are served three to four times a week and are clearly marked on the menu. The district also operates the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program in 34 schools, and some schools now have gardens.
Washoe still has room for improvement by offering vegan options more frequently and eliminating high-fat, high-cholesterol options such as macaroni and cheese, a grilled cheese sandwich, and cheese pizza.
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