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School Lunches Improving, But More Vegan Meals Needed

school lunchSchool lunches can be an important weapon in the fight against childhood obesity. Unfortunately, sometimes school lunches contribute to the problem. In its seventh School Lunch Report Card, PCRM investigates the place where many Americans first develop their eating habits: the school cafeteria.

PCRM’s School Lunch Report Card grades the nation’s major school districts on chronic disease and obesity prevention and on how well schools promote the benefits of healthy eating to students. Healthful lunches rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and other vegetarian foods not only nourish children but also help them maintain normal body weights, develop good lifelong eating habits, and reduce the risk of chronic disease later in life. For this year’s report, PCRM dietitians analyzed the lunches served in 20 elementary school districts across the country.

To receive a high grade in PCRM’s School Lunch Report Card, schools must go above and beyond U.S. Department of Agriculture requirements, which many nutrition experts agree are inadequate and outdated. The guidelines continue to permit schools to serve high-fat, high-cholesterol meals on a regular basis and do not have requirements for fiber content or plant-based meals. PCRM dietitians are looking for schools to offer a healthful vegetarian entrée daily and a cholesterol-free (vegan) option daily, serve a fresh fruit or a low-fat vegetable side dish, provide a nondairy beverage to all students, and offer programs that promote healthful eating habits.
This year’s report card showed several positive trends. There is an increasing number of healthful vegetarian and vegan options available for students, and 100 percent of schools participating this year offer a nondairy beverage, up from 73 percent in 2007 and 67 percent in 2006. The majority of school food service programs offer some form of nutrition education.

Despite these positive changes to improving children’s health, a wide disparity remains among school districts. While seven schools in this year’s report received an A- or higher, six schools lagged behind with D’s and F’s. The lowest-scoring schools had limited lunch offerings that included entrées such as grilled bratwurst and pepperoni pizza, and very few low-fat vegetable side dishes.

To read the full report, please go to HealthySchoolLunches.org.

THE 2008 SCHOOL LUNCH REPORT CARD

School District

Score

Grade

Montgomery County Public Schools (Md.)

98

A

Pinellas County Schools (Fla.)

98

A

Omaha Public Schools (Neb.)

96

A

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (N.C.)

92

A-

Fairfax County Public Schools (Va.)

92

A-

Broward County Public Schools (Fla.)

91

A-

Santa Ana Unified School District (Calif.)

91

A-

Prince William County Public Schools (Va.)

89

B+

San Diego Unified School District (Calif.)

87

B+

Volusia County Schools (Fla.)

85

B

Anchorage School District (Alaska)

79

C+

Oakland Unified School District (Calif.)

79

C+

San Francisco Unified School District (Calif.)

75

C

Sacramento City Unified School District (Calif.)

74

C

Washoe County School District (Nev.)

66

D

Garland Independent School District (Texas)

65

D

Anamoose Public School (N.D.)

61

D-

Buffalo City Schools (N.Y.)

61

D-

Caddo Public Schools District (La.)

53

F

East Baton Rouge Parish Schools (La.)

42

F



 

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Phone: 202-686-2210     Email: pcrm@pcrm.org