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Healthy School Lunches: Improving the food served to children in schools

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Nutrition for Kids


2002 School Lunch Report Card: Results

A Report by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

introduction | the criteria | the report card | download report

Nutrition Grades

District

Location

Points
(out of 100)

Grade

Broward County School District

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

85%

B

Dade County School District

Miami, Fla.

71%

C

Fairfax County Public Schools

Fairfax, Va.

71%

C

New York City Public Schools

New York, N.Y.

70%

C

Clark County School District

Las Vegas, Nev.

66%

D

Dallas Independent School District

Dallas, Tex.

65%

D

Los Angeles Unified School District

Los Angeles, Calif.

60%

D

Philadelphia City School District

Philadelphia, Penn.

59%

F

Detroit City School District

Detroit, Mich.

57%

F

Houston Independent School District

Houston, Tex.

57%

F

Broward County School District (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.): 85 points
The Broward County School District is the sixth largest district in the United States, with 243 schools enrolling 251,129 students. Fifteen sample menus from May 2002 were reviewed. The healthy quality of the lunches offered in this district surpassed the lunches offered in other districts due to Broward County’s inclusion of a daily salad bar, a hot potato bar with a number of vegetarian toppings, calcium-fortified juices, and the occasional offering of collard greens (a calcium- and vitamin-rich vegetable). Another unique menu item in Broward County is plantains, which is reported to be one of the children’s favorites. The only deficient category for the district is the hot vegan (meatless, dairy-free, and egg-free) entrée category. By daily offering tasty, hot vegan selections, such as bean burritos; low-fat, cholesterol-free veggie burgers instead of hamburgers or cheeseburgers; and spaghetti with marinara sauce instead of meat sauce; daily, Broward County would earn a perfect score.

The frequency of each of the following on 15 sample lunch menu days:

Low-Fat Vegetable Side Dish:

15

 

Whole or Dried Fruit:

15

 

Hot Meatless Entrée:

15

 

Hot Meatless, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free Entrée:

0

 

Vegan Entrée Option:

15

 

 

+20

for meeting NSLP nutrition guidelines

 

+5

for offering non-dairy, calcium-fortified beverage.

Total:

85/ 100 points

 

Dade County School District (Miami, Fla): 71 points
The Dade County School District is the fifth largest district in the United States, with 356 schools enrolling 368,625 students. Fifteen sample menus from July 2002 were reviewed. Dade County did not include calcium-fortified juices or non-dairy, calcium-rich foods on its menu, but it did offer a good variety of low-fat vegetable side dishes, such as mixed vegetable salads with light dressing, steamed broccoli, and corn on the cob, as well as a daily assortment of fresh fruit. Dade County offered a number of meatless entrées that included cheese; it could go one step further and make available completely plant-based meals to improve the nutrition value and score of its menus. By changing its cheese lasagna roll-up to a dairy-free lasagna roll-up with roasted vegetables and soy burger crumbles or substituting its cheese pizza burrito for a bean, rice, and vegetable burrito, Dade County could provide healthier offerings in its lunch menu.

The frequency of each of the following on 15 sample lunch menu days:

Low-Fat Vegetable Side Dish:

13

 

Whole or Dried Fruit:

15

 

Hot Meatless Entrée:

8

 

Hot Meatless, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free Entrée:

0

 

Vegan Entrée Option:

15

 

 

+20

for meeting NSLP nutrition guidelines

 

+0

for offering non-dairy, calcium-fortified beverage.

Total:

71/ 100 points

Fairfax County Public Schools (Fairfax, Va.): 71 points
The Fairfax County Public School District is the 14th largest district in the United States, with 195 schools enrolling 156,412 students. Fifteen sample menus from September 2002 were reviewed. Like Broward County, Fairfax also offers calcium-fortified juices, which were added to the menu to meet the needs of lactose-intolerant students and those who choose not to consume milk products for religious or other reasons. Unique to Fairfax County was the inclusion of jicama, a root vegetable nicknamed the “Mexican potato.” Although the district offers a daily peanut butter and jelly sandwich as a vegan option, it could improve its score by changing the spaghetti with meat sauce to spaghetti with marinara sauce, replacing the beef ravioli with soy ravioli, and substituting the pork egg rolls with steamed vegetable dumplings.

The frequency of each of the following on 15 sample lunch menu days:

Low-Fat Vegetable Side Dish:

10

 

Whole or Dried Fruit:

15

 

Hot Meatless Entrée:

6

 

Hot Meatless, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free Entrée:

0

 

Vegan Entrée Option:

15

 

 

+20

for meeting NSLP nutrition guidelines

 

+5

for offering non-dairy, calcium-fortified beverage.

Total:

71/ 100 points

New York City Public Schools (New York, N.Y.): 70 points
The New York City Public School District is the largest school district in the United States, with 1,213 schools enrolling 1,066,516 students. Fifteen sample menus from June 2002 were reviewed. New York City excelled in its daily offerings of unique, low-fat vegetable side dishes, as well as fresh fruit. The June menu included such items as fiesta blend vegetables (a mixture of vegetables and beans), garden salads, romaine salads, seasoned green beans, and seasoned spinach. New York City was also the only school district in this year’s survey to offer a vegetable patty as a hot, vegan entrée. However, points were lost for the remaining days where hot vegetarian and/or vegan main dishes were not offered, as well as for the absence of a daily non-dairy, calcium-rich beverage.

The frequency of each of the following on 15 sample lunch menu days:

Low-Fat Vegetable Side Dish:

13

 

Whole or Dried Fruit:

15

 

Hot Meatless Entrée:

6

 

Hot Meatless, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free Entrée:

1

 

Vegan Entrée Option:

15

 

 

+20

for meeting NSLP nutrition guidelines

 

+0

for offering non-dairy, calcium-fortified beverage.

Total:

70/ 100 points

 

Clark County School District (Las Vegas, Nev.): 66 points
The Clark County School District is the ninth largest district in the United States, with 259 schools enrolling 231,655 students. Fifteen sample menus from May 2002 were reviewed. Although Clark County offers calcium-fortified juices daily, it lost points by offering low-fat vegetable side dishes on only 7 of the 15 days. It did offer a bean burrito as a hot, vegan entrée on one day. Clark County could improve its score by replacing meat-based Sloppy Joes with a healthier vegetarian Sloppy Joe made from soy crumbles and by using low-fat vegetable patties instead of higher-fat meat patties.

The frequency of each of the following on 15 sample lunch menu days:

Low-Fat Vegetable Side Dish:

7

 

Whole or Dried Fruit:

12

 

Hot Meatless Entrée:

6

 

Hot Meatless, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free Entrée:

1

 

Vegan Entrée Option:

15

 

 

+20

for meeting NSLP nutrition guidelines

 

+5

for offering non-dairy, calcium-fortified beverage.

Total:

66/ 100 points

Dallas Independent School District (Dallas, Tex.): 65 points
The Dallas Independent School District is the 12th largest district in the United States, with 221 schools enrolling 161,548 students. Fifteen sample menus from May 2002 were reviewed. The Dallas Independent School District offers calcium-fortified orange juice to help meet the calcium requirements of its students. It also offers a number of legume and black-eyed pea side dishes, which are high in fiber and packed with nutrients. The district’s nutrition department reported the frequency of veggie burgers, baked potatoes with vegetarian toppings, and rice-and-beans selections on the menu, but these did not appear on the days PCRM surveyed. If these hot vegan items had appeared in its daily menu, the Dallas Independent School District would have scored significantly higher.

The frequency of each of the following on 15 sample lunch menu days:

Low-Fat Vegetable Side Dish:

12

 

Whole or Dried Fruit:

10

 

Hot Meatless Entrée:

3

 

Hot Meatless, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free Entrée:

15

 

Vegan Entrée Option:

0

 

 

+20

for meeting NSLP nutrition guidelines

 

+5

for offering non-dairy, calcium-fortified beverage.

Total:

65/ 100 points

Los Angeles Unified School District (Los Angeles, Calif.): 60 points
The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest school district in the United States, with 659 schools enrolling 721,346 students. Fifteen sample menus from July 2002 were reviewed. Los Angeles Unified offered healthy green salads and fresh fruit on most days. However, the district was lacking in meatless and dairy-free entrées, as well as in non-dairy, calcium-rich beverages. Including calcium-fortified juices and a daily hot vegan entrée, such as a vegetable patty, soy hot dog, or veggie burrito, would help its nutrition score. The Web site for the Los Angeles Unified School District stated that 40 percent of its students are overweight or obese, and making these healthy changes might help reduce that number.

The frequency of each of the following on 15 sample lunch menu days:

Low-Fat Vegetable Side Dish:

13

 

Whole or Dried Fruit:

11

 

Hot Meatless Entrée:

1

 

Hot Meatless, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free Entrée:

0

 

Vegan Entrée Option:

15

 

 

+20

for meeting NSLP nutrition guidelines

 

+0

for offering non-dairy, calcium-fortified beverage.

Total:

60/ 100 points

Philadelphia City School District (Philadelphia, Penn.): 59 points
The Philadelphia City School District is the eighth largest school district in the United States, with 261 schools enrolling 201,190 students. Fifteen sample menus from January 2002 were reviewed. Philadelphia only had eight sample days where a low-fat vegetable side dish was offered, and most of those offerings were corn. To improve the variety and nutrition quality of their menus, this district should include a daily vegetable choice, such as steamed broccoli, green salads with low-fat dressing, oriental vegetable medleys, and raw carrots with low-fat dip. No hot vegan entrées were offered; however, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich could be chosen on a daily basis. Also, for lactose-intolerant children with a doctor’s note, Lactaid® milk was provided. However, due to the health complications associated with dairy product consumption, offering non-dairy, calcium-rich beverages is ideal.

The frequency of each of the following on 15 sample lunch menu days:

Low-Fat Vegetable Side Dish:

8

 

Whole or Dried Fruit:

12

 

Hot Meatless Entrée:

4

 

Hot Meatless, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free Entrée:

0

 

Vegan Entrée Option:

15

 

 

+20

for meeting NSLP nutrition guidelines

 

+0

for offering non-dairy, calcium-fortified beverage.

Total:

59/ 100 points

Detroit City School District (Detroit, Mich.): 57 points
The Detroit City School District is the 11th largest school district in the United States, with 263 schools enrolling 162,194 students. Fifteen sample menus from May 2002 were reviewed. Detroit City offered a low-fat vegetable side dish on only 8 of the 15 selected menu days. Adding green salads or raw vegetables with low-fat dip to the daily menu would give the district a perfect vegetable score. Also, Lactaid® milk is provided for students who are unable to tolerate cow’s milk. A healthier step would be to offer calcium-fortified juices to all students on a daily basis. For healthier menus, Detroit City should offer daily hot vegan entrées, such as vegetable patties instead of the chicken and hamburger patties, soy hot dogs instead of the rib barbecue on a bun, and a bean burrito instead of the bean and beef burrito.

The frequency of each of the following on 15 sample lunch menu days:

Low-Fat Vegetable Side Dish:

8

 

Whole or Dried Fruit:

11

 

Hot Meatless Entrée:

3

 

Hot Meatless, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free Entrée:

0

 

Vegan Entrée Option:

15

 

 

+20

for meeting NSLP nutrition guidelines

 

+0

for offering non-dairy, calcium-fortified beverage.

Total:

57/ 100 points

Houston Independent School District (Houston, Tex.): 57 points
The Houston Independent School District is the seventh largest school district in the United States, with 289 schools enrolling 208,462 students. Fifteen sample menus from June 2002 were reviewed. On most days, the district offered a low-fat vegetable side dish, such as the vegetable stack, mixed vegetables, or seasoned spinach, but lacked meatless, dairy-free, egg-free entrées and non-dairy, calcium-rich beverages. Offering calcium-rich juices and exchanging the spaghetti with meat sauce for spaghetti with marinara sauce, the hot dogs for soy dogs, and the hamburger for a low-fat veggie burger would help this score significantly.

The frequency of each of the following on 15 sample lunch menu days:

Low-Fat Vegetable Side Dish:

10

 

Whole or Dried Fruit:

12

 

Hot Meatless Entrée:

0

 

Hot Meatless, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free Entrée:

0

 

Vegan Entrée Option:

15

 

 

+20

for meeting NSLP nutrition guidelines

 

+0

for offering non-dairy, calcium-fortified beverage.

Total:

57/ 100 points

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