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



21-Day Vegan Kickstart

Nutrition CME: Free CME courses for health care professionals

The Cancer Project

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

Nutrition MD: Helping health care providers and individuals adopt healthier diets

Nutrition for Kids


2008 School Lunch Report Card: Results

Background | Criteria | Report Card | download report

 

The 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\

INDIVIDUAL DISTRICTS

Montgomery County Public Schools: A
State: Maryland
2007 Score: B+ (87)

Montgomery County Public Schools is the 16th-largest school district in the nation and one of the two top performers in this year’s report. Montgomery County achieved an A by serving a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and healthful vegetarian foods and by encouraging children to make healthful choices. The district offers a minimum of four low-fat vegetable side dishes every day in its elementary schools. Low-fat salad dressings are used on both side salads and entrée salads, and students can also choose fresh baby carrots every day. Schools dish up black bean burgers, vegetarian “chik’n nuggets,” and other healthful vegetarian options on a daily basis, and these items are listed on the menu throughout the three-week cycle. Nondairy beverages are available at no added cost to students purchasing a complete lunch; they can also be purchased à la carte.

Montgomery County Public Schools encourages healthful eating habits by providing nutrition messages in its monthly newsletter article. The food and nutrition services department serves as a resource for school-based cooking classes and also conducts focus groups at all grade levels to gain insight into food preferences and dietary habits. The district has participated in a study with the United Soybean Board to incorporate soy-based items on the menu. District food service officials report that students are very accepting of the soy and vegetable-based protein items.

One weakness of Montgomery County’s school lunch program is that some menus feature a fairly high percentage of processed meats. For example, 13 percent of the meals on the district’s elementary school lunch menu contained processed meats. Consuming processed meats is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer, according to a comprehensive report released late last year by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund. This year’s School Lunch Report Card did not factor the amount of processed meat into a district’s score, but Montgomery County should work to eliminate such items from its menus.

Montgomery County is a longtime participant in the School Lunch Report Card and has steadily increased its score over the years. The district moved from a C+ in 2003 to a C- in 2004, a B in 2006, and a B+ in 2007.

Pinellas County Schools: A
State: Florida
2007 Score: A (94)

Pinellas County Schools is the 24th-largest district in the nation and another top performer in this year’s School Lunch Report Card. Pinellas’ high score reflects its varied menu, which boasts many healthful low-fat vegetarian entrées, including an egg-free and dairy-free farmer’s salad, a veggie burger, and pasta with marinara sauce. The district also serves a hot low-fat vegetable side dish such as broccoli or sweet potatoes and a side salad made of either leafy greens or romaine lettuce every day, along with a selection of assorted fresh fruit. Students can select 100 percent juice for free instead of milk. Soymilk and bottled water are available for purchase.

Pinellas County Schools has implemented an extensive nutrition education program with the help of two full-time specialists. Activities in this program explore topics such as the “Give Me 5 a Day” fresh fruit and vegetable promotion, beans and nuts as high-fiber protein sources, and dark leafy greens as a source of calcium. The nutrition education specialists also present an interactive farmers market display that allows students to sample and learn about assorted fruits and vegetables.

The Pinellas food and nutrition service department has implemented a program to help elementary school children make more healthful snack choices. The Snackwise Nutrition Rating System evaluates snacks for calories, fat, saturated fat, protein, fiber, sugar and vitamins. Two elementary schools in the district participate in a Winning with Wellness program that brings in celebrity chefs to work with students to create healthful snack recipes. 

Pinellas County Schools has experienced a steady increase in its grade, which rose from a B in 2003 to an A- in 2006, to an A in 2007, to the current A.

Omaha Public Schools: A
State: Nebraska
2007 Score: D (66)

Omaha Public Schools, which serves about 46,000 students, has the most improved school lunch program in this year's report. The district raised its school lunch score by 30 points from last year by making significant changes to its meal choices. Students now have the option of choosing a vegetarian option each day, and all vegetarian items are clearly marked on the lunch menu. Fresh fruit is available daily, as is fruit juice at no extra cost to students. The district also offers low-fat vegetable side dishes such as steamed vegetables daily.

Omaha still has room for improvement. The district continues to serve many entrées high in fat and cholesterol, including cheeseburgers, stuffed-crust sausage pizza, Italian sausage sandwiches, rib-a-queues on a bun, and BBQ chicken sandwiches.

The district’s school lunch menus provide nutrition education on such topics as diabetes prevention and the basics of soy-based foods. Students in many of the district’s schools have the opportunity to participate in a culinary arts program.

Omaha’s rising score is a good indication that it is focused on improving lunches to promote wise eating habits and the health of its students.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools: A-
State: North Carolina
2007 Score: A- (92)

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the nation’s 21st-largest school district, continues to be near the top of the list for healthful school lunches. The district’s menus always include a healthful vegetarian option, and these items are clearly marked. Examples include spaghetti with meatless sauce and black-eyed peas, rice, and a whole-grain roll. Charlotte-Mecklenburg does an outstanding job of providing several different fruit and vegetable options daily, including mixed fresh squash and onions, mashed potatoes, fresh apples, lettuce and tomato with pickle, or a tossed salad.

The district’s nutrition initiatives include adding information on healthy plant foods and other nutrition tips to each month’s menu and hanging cafeteria banners promoting the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. Charlotte-Mecklenburg also has several school gardens and cooking classes. Students maintain the school gardens and are allowed to take home some of the crops.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s progressive improvement in serving healthful meals sets a noteworthy example for other large districts. Since 2004, the district’s score has risen from a C to an A- in 2006 and 2007 and again in this year’s report.

Fairfax County Public Schools: A-
State: Virginia
2007 Score: A- (92)

Fairfax County Public Schools, the 13th-largest school district in the nation, continues to serve healthful lunches. In addition to complying with USDA standards, Fairfax County has made an effort to eliminate trans fat from all items served. The district serves several different healthful vegetarian entrées, and a vegan entrée option is available daily. Menu highlights include “hummus bitable,” veggie burgers, and spaghetti with marinara sauce with a wheat breadstick. Students can also choose a salad entrée. All vegetarian items are clearly marked on the menu. Fresh fruits and low-fat vegetable side dishes are also available daily, including zucchini and carrot coins with dip, chilled peaches, and fresh melon. Nondairy beverages, including vanilla soymilk, are available but must be purchased à la carte.

Fairfax County Public Schools puts a strong emphasis on education and nutrition programs. The district publishes nutrition messages in parent newsletters, on menus, and on its Web site, which also includes a nutrition calculator that allows students and parents to evaluate their snacks. School menus provide students with detailed nutrition information to help them make better choices.

To meet the needs of a diverse community, Fairfax’s food service department often incorporates new menu items, including such recent additions as rice bowls and hummus bitable, and holds student tasting parties to evaluate and select these new products. Nutrition programs include kids cooking, as well as and nutrition education classes taught by food and nutrition services. “Give Me 5! Colors that Jive!” and other programs introduce children to unfamiliar fruits and vegetables.

One weakness of Fairfax County’s school lunch program is that some menus feature a fairly high percentage of processed meats. For example, 17 percent of the meals on the district’s middle school and high school lunch menus contained processed meats. The situation was better on the elementary school menu—7 percent of the meals on that menu contained processed meats. Consuming processed meats is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer, according to a comprehensive report released late last year by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund. This year’s School Lunch Report Card did not factor the amount of processed meat into a district’s score, but Fairfax County should work to eliminate such items from its menus.

Fairfax County has participated in the School Lunch Report Card since 2002. In that year, the district received a C, but it has since made great improvements to its food service program.

Broward County Public Schools: A-
State: Florida
2007 Score: Not a participant

The sixth-largest school district in the nation, Broward County has done an excellent job of adding healthful foods to menus that must meet the needs of a diverse population of more than 258,000 students. Broward offers a healthful vegetarian entrée of salad with sunflower seeds and legumes every day, along with a variety of low-fat vegetable and fresh fruit choices. Prepacked salads are offered daily, along with rotating vegetables including green beans and baby carrots. Starting in September, the district will serve a hot vegan entrée at least once a week after a pilot program earlier this year showed that students appreciate having vegan options.

A monthly menu that goes to 150,000 households promotes the benefits of fruits and vegetables. This menu always features a nutrition article for parents. Additional nutrition programs include school gardens at some schools and classroom nutrition education. Broward County schools participate in the “Commit 2 B Fit” program, which emphasizes fruit and vegetable consumption along with exercise. Broward is also working with the University of Florida Cooperative Extension to implement a family nutrition program in some elementary schools. This program includes classroom lectures and food preparation highlighting fruits and vegetables.

Broward County received a B+ (89) in 2006 and a B (85) in both 2002 and 2003. To raise its grade to an A, Broward would simply need to serve a nondairy beverage free of cost.

Santa Ana Unified School District: A-
State: California
2007 Score: C (75)           

Santa Ana Unified School District is the 66th-largest district in the nation. In the past year, the district has made healthful improvements that have raised its School Lunch Report Card score 16 points from 2007. At the elementary school level, Santa Ana offers healthful vegetarian entrées such as the X-treme burrito daily, and two of these items are free of dairy and eggs. The menu specifically indicates the vegetarian options. In addition to an entrée, students can choose from a minimum of four fresh fruit and low-fat vegetable sides daily. Soymilk is offered as an alternative to dairy milk at no extra cost.

The district offers information about the benefits of fruits and vegetables and other nutrition education in both English and Spanish. The food service department features a fruit or vegetable in classrooms monthly and offers taste-testing. Food service personnel also teach cooking classes for parents and have a booth at the farmers market.

Santa Ana could further improve its score by removing the cheese from some of its vegetarian entrées. This would lower the fat content of these items and make them completely cholesterol free.

Prince William County Public Schools: B+
State: Virginia
2007 Score: Not a participant
           
With more than 46,000 students, Prince William County Schools is the 50th-largest school district. The district’s lunches are fairly healthful, but there is room for improvement.

Elementary school lunches meet USDA requirements, and at least one egg-free, dairy-free option is available daily. Healthful options include vegetarian garden burgers, hummus and pita, and bean burritos, and all vegetarian options are clearly labeled with a carrot on the menu. Students can choose from several low-fat vegetable side dishes daily; choices include red beans and rice and raw vegetables. Either fresh fruit or vegetables are offered daily; however, on average, fresh fruit was offered only three days out of five. Prince William County received five points for having juice, water, and soymilk available for purchase with lunch. The district has made a concerted effort to revise all recipes and products to eliminate trans fat and to offer whole-grain bread products such as dinner rolls and French bread.

Nutrition education includes the implementation of a “virtual cafeteria” that students can use to make menu selections and have their selection compared with the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowances for a lunch. Students can opt for the vegetarian option and see how it compares with others nutritionally. The district also sends a monthly newsletter called “Nutrition Nuggets” to parents of elementary school students.

In one of the more distinctive nutrition-outreach efforts in the country, Prince William’s food and nutrition services department started a book-reading program that helps demonstrate the importance of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet. Each month, the reading program highlights a different fruit or vegetable and encourages students to read a corresponding book. A tasting party featuring the fruit or vegetable is then held for the winning class of a monthly contest held by each school.

San Diego Unified School District: B+
State: California
2007 Score: A- (92)

San Diego Unified School District, the nation’s 19th-largest district, once again received a high grade in the School Lunch Report Card. The district has made some positive changes over the years to serve healthful meals throughout its 221 schools. Healthful vegetarian entrées such as a teriyaki veggie burger and a pasta marinara bowl are available every day and are highlighted on the menu. The district also offers fresh fruits and low-fat vegetable sides as part of the daily salad bar. Students can purchase nondairy beverages à la carte in the cafeteria.

San Diego Food Service provides information on vegetarian diets in the district’s newsletter, which is sent home to parents. Every month, the newsletter highlights a different fruit, vegetable, nut, seed, or grain. The department collaborates with schools that have gardens to highlight and promote them, and the district’s executive chef visits schools to teach students how to prepare healthful dishes.

San Diego has participated in PCRM’s School Lunch Report Card since 2003. Although the district’s score has dropped slightly from last year, it is still well above the C San Diego received in 2003 and the B it received in 2004.

Volusia County Schools: B
State: Florida
2007 Score: B (84)

Located on the east coast of central Florida, Volusia County Schools is the 56th-largest district in the nation. Although Volusia County Schools does meet USDA nutrition requirements on fat and saturated fat, it could improve its menu by including more healthful vegetarian options in place of some of the school lunch staples such as chicken nuggets, corn dogs, and chicken “fryz.” The district seems to offer just two vegetarian options. Students can choose an “uncrustable” peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and healthful vegetarian salads are available upon request. Both options are listed on the menu. Schools in Volusia County can choose fresh fruit and carrots with dressing every day, in addition to other low-fat vegetable sides such as green beans and broccoli. Students can purchase nondairy beverages.

The district lost six points because it does not offer any nutrition education programs. However, many schools within the district do have school gardens, which have proven to be an excellent way to introduce children to fresh produce and increase their vegetable consumption.

Last year, Volusia scored a B (84) in the report card. The district was not graded in previous years.

Anchorage School District: C+
State: Alaska
2007 Score: F (60)

Anchorage School District is the 87th-largest district and serves lunch to more than 21,000 students. Since receiving an F on the 2007 School Lunch Report Card, Anchorage has made substantial improvements. Healthful vegetarian options such as a fresh garden salad and vegetarian burrito are available each day, though these items are not listed on the menu. Anchorage could improve its score by replacing some unhealthful premade items such as baked teriyaki beef nuggets and baked popcorn chicken with zero-cholesterol, low-fat vegetarian options and offering these healthful dishes on the menu. Fresh fruit is available, but only appears on the elementary school menu twice per five-day period on average. The district offers at least one low-fat vegetable side dish such as a side salad or fresh carrots daily, and students can have either apple juice or orange juice at no extra cost.

The monthly menu includes information on healthy eating, and a monthly newsletter offers additional nutrition education for parents and family members. The district also teaches cooking classes in schools.

Anchorage could benefit from making additional healthful changes to its food service program, but the district has seen an impressive improvement since it received an F on the 2007 School Lunch Report Card.

Oakland Unified School District: C+
State: California
2007 Score: B (84)

Oakland Unified School District is the 96th-largest district in the nation. In PCRM’s 2007 School Lunch Report Card, Oakland Unified School District won most improved for making healthful changes to its school lunches, but the district’s grade declined this year.

On a positive note, elementary school students always have a vegetarian entrée option that is clearly marked on the menu. These healthful vegetarian options include a "Griller's Prime" vegetarian burger. Fresh fruits and low-fat vegetable sides are available every day of the week. Students can also choose a nondairy beverage at no extra cost.

Oakland Unified has plans to introduce wellness kiosks that will include information on fruit and vegetable consumption and physical education. However, the district did not receive points for this project in PCRM’s 2008 report because the program has not yet been implemented. Oakland does have several sites with school gardens and 36 schools with fresh salad bars. The district operates a Harvest of the Month education program that highlights seasonal fruits and vegetables at 20 schools. Many schools in the district also offer cooking classes as part of their after-school programs.

Oakland received a C in 2006 and a B in 2007.

San Francisco Unified School District: C
State: California
2007 Score: Not a participant

The 75th-largest school district and one of the largest school districts in California, San Francisco lost points because of its lack of healthful vegetarian entrées. On average, the district serves one vegetarian entrée each week, and in most weeks, none of these meals are egg-free and dairy-free.

San Francisco’s average meal does meet USDA nutrition standards, and the district serves fresh fruit and low-fat vegetable side dishes such as brown rice and vegetables and baked beans every day. On another positive note, students may choose a nondairy beverage at no extra cost.

The district’s menus include nutrition information and nutrient analysis. School nutrition programs and education are supported by the School Health Programs department.

Sacramento City Unified School District: C
State: California
2007 Score: B (84)

Sacramento City Unified School District is the 83rd-largest in the country. The district serves healthful vegetarian entrées five days a week, but they are not typically on the menu and are available only by request.

Sacramento does serve fresh fruit and low-fat vegetables every day. The district’s salad bar contains salad mix, broccoli florets, baby carrots, and seasonal fruits and vegetables, and fresh fruit or a fruit cup is also available. Nondairy beverages can be purchased à la carte. Nutrition education on the benefits of plant-based foods is not given on a regular basis, although Sacramento does have some school gardens, has participated in a farm-to-school program, and holds cooking classes for students.

Sacramento could improve its grade by instituting more nutrition education programs and by regularly offering healthful vegetarian options and including them on the menu for students.

Washoe County School District: D
State: Nevada
2007 Score: Not a participant

Washoe County School District, the 57th-largest in the country, serves the Reno/Sparks and Lake Tahoe region of Nevada. The lunch menus tend to be heavy in high-fat, high-cholesterol entrées. Cheeseburgers and pizza are offered every day. Washoe does serve healthful vegetarian options such as a veggie wrap and veggie rice bowl at least once a week. The district could improve the healthfulness of its lunches and its grade on PCRM’s report card by offering such items more often. Assorted fruits and vegetables are available each day, and Washoe did receive 10 points for offering nondairy beverages to students at no extra cost.

Washoe does not offer any nutrition education or innovative food programs such as school gardens, so the district did not receive any points for those criteria.

This is the first year Washoe has participated in the School Lunch Report Card.

Garland Independent School District: D
State: Texas
2007 Score: Not a participant

Located northeast of Dallas, Garland Independent School District is the 71st-largest in the country. The district is a first-time participant in the report, and its score shows substantial room for improvement. Garland’s elementary school menus feature such high-fat, high-cholesterol items as fried fish and fried chicken.

On a positive note, vegetable side-dishes are usually steamed, and the district is making an effort to reduce the number of fried foods served. Low-fat vegetable side dishes are offered five days a week, and fresh fruit is offered daily on every serving line.

Garland does have vegetarian options available every day, but most contain cheese, which can dramatically drive up the saturated fat content of any dish. The district lost points because these vegetarian options are available but not always listed on the menu, so many students may not be aware of these healthful options. Students can purchase nondairy beverages à la carte.

Garland Independent School District also lost points because it does not offer nutrition education on the benefits of fruits, vegetables, and plant-based foods and because it does not participate in any innovative programs such as farm-to-school or school gardens. As Garland Independent School District moves into the 2008-2009 school year, it would greatly benefit from adding nutrition education instruction or other programs to encourage children to choose healthful foods.

Anamoose Public School: D-
State: North Dakota
2007 Score: Not a participant

Anamoose Public School is a small school district near central North Dakota that serves around 70 students daily. Lunch offerings are very limited, with only one main entrée served per day. Healthful vegetarian entrée options are rare, and the district typically dishes up high-fat items such as pepperoni pizza, grilled brats, hotdogs, and cheeseburgers.

On a positive note, in addition to the main entrée, Anamoose does offer low-fat vegetable side dishes and fresh fruit daily. Students are also given the option of a nondairy beverage at no extra cost. Nutrition education is provided through posters displayed in the cafeteria.

Anamoose could improve its score by adding more healthful vegetarian options such as a veggie burger, pasta marinara, or a bean burrito. Additionally, the district might want to offer nutrition programs to promote these healthful items.

Buffalo City Schools: D-
State: New York
2007 Score: Not a participant

Buffalo City Schools in Buffalo, New York, serves 29,000 students through its school lunch program. The district’s elementary school lunch menus are packed with meatball subs, Egg McMuffin Sandwiches, and other high-fat items. Elementary schools offer healthful vegetarian options just once per week, though these options are listed on the menu.

On a positive note, fresh fruits and healthful vegetable side dishes are available every day, and Buffalo does offer whole grain breads, rolls, and crusts. Students can purchase nondairy beverages à la carte.

Education includes classroom activities and nutrition newsletters. One highlight: Buffalo City Schools participates in a farm-to-school program through which schools receive fresh local apples, pears, and potatoes. The district is also working with a research foundation on a program called Healthier Options for Public School Children.

Caddo Public Schools District: F
State: Louisiana
2007 Score: Not a participant

Caddo Public School District in Louisiana offers lunches to 27,500 students daily. Caddo falls behind other school districts because it serves an average of just two low-fat vegetable side dishes a week, and fresh fruit is available just two days a week. On a positive note, lunches do meet USDA standards on fat content, and a vegetarian option is available daily. Further, students can purchase nondairy beverages.

The food service department at Caddo Public Schools does not participate in any nutrition education or innovative food programs.

Caddo Public Schools District could boost its grade by expanding its menu options and engaging in nutrition outreach programs.

East Baton Rouge Parish School System: F
State: Louisiana
2007 Score: Not a participant

The East Baton Rouge Parish School System serves meals to an average of 734,466 students per month. The district’s elementary school lunch menus feature hot dogs, corn dogs, chicken nuggets, Salisbury steak, and other high-fat, high-cholesterol items. Healthful vegetarian options are rarely or never available, and fresh fruit and low-fat vegetable side dishes options are limited.

On average, the district serves low-fat vegetable sides and fruit three times per five-day period. On these days, healthy options include such choices as dark green salad, seasoned mustard or turnip greens, and steamed broccoli.

Additionally, East Baton Rouge Schools fails to offer any nutrition education through the cafeteria or innovative nutrition and health-promoting programs. The district could improve its score by addressing either of these issues. School lunches would benefit from including more healthful entrées such as veggie tacos or a vegetarian burger instead of such current high-fat menu items as beefy tacos, hot dogs, fish strips, hamburgers, and cheeseburgers.

East Baton Rouge Parish School System has not previously participated in the School Lunch Report Card.

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