Doctors Name Healthiest School Lunch Programs in United States

The Physicians Committee
NEWS RELEASE September 7, 2012
Doctors Name Healthiest School Lunch Programs in United States
Susan Levin, M.S., R.D.

Schools in Saint Paul, Minn., Spartanburg, S.C., and the Bay Area Earn Top Honors in Golden Carrot Awards; Winning Menus Emphasize Obesity-Fighting Meals

WASHINGTON—School cafeterias across the country will ditch mystery meat for fruits, vegetables, and healthy plant-based meal options. The nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) will announce the winners this week of its 2012 Golden Carrot Awards for innovation in school food service. The grand prize goes to Saint Paul Public Schools Nutrition Services director Jean Ronnei. Runner-up prizes go to food service professionals in Spartanburg, S.C., Novato, Calif., and San Francisco.

PCRM established the Golden Carrot Awards in 2004 to recognize food service professionals doing an exceptional job of improving the healthfulness of school lunches. PCRM looks for programs that encourage students to eat lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy foods for disease prevention. If a child chooses a plant-based meal option even once a week, he or she can reap important benefits. A veggie burger, for example, is similar in protein content to a hamburger. However, while the hamburger has 15 grams of fat, the veggie burger has only 5 and contains almost no saturated fat or cholesterol.

This year’s Golden Carrot Award winners:

Jean Ronnei, nutrition services director at Saint Paul Public Schools, will earn the grand prize for her creative food service program in Saint Paul, Minn. PCRM will give $3,000 to Ms. Ronnei and Saint Paul Public Schools to benefit the district’s popular food service program. Saint Paul’s no longer uses deep fryers and offers unlimited access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Healthy Hits, a cost-friendly program, ensures students receive delicious, nutrient-packed meals, including black bean and edamame salad, Moroccan rice, and whole-grain pasta with marinara sauce.

On behalf of Spartanburg District Seven, Ken Higgins, director of dining services at Chartwells, will receive a $750 runner-up award to support a popular pilot program at James Boyd Elementary in Spartanburg, S.C. Student favorites include peanut butter banana dogs, vegetarian chili, and hummus with whole grain tortilla chips and fresh vegetables. The pilot program at James Boyd Elementary expands to Cleveland Academy this year. The programs ensure students receive nondairy beverage options at no extra cost.

Miguel Villarreal, director of food and nutrition services at Novato Public School District, will receive a $750 runner-up award to benefit the district’s food service program in Novato, Calif. Mr. Villarreal eliminated red meat, soda, and most processed foods at the school several years ago. He uses the cost-savings from unhealthful foods to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers. Popular menu items include veggie burgers with cucumber coins, fresh salads with pita chips, and sun butter sandwiches.

Chef Barry and Jennifer Jones Horton, culinary teachers at Sand Path Academy in San Francisco, will receive a $750 runner-up award to benefit the charter school’s food service program. The all-vegan menu includes black bean and veggie wraps, spicy barbecue tofu with braised kale, and Ethiopian platters filled with hummus, whole grain bread, and diced eggplant salad. Students learn about food safety, culinary techniques, and how to harvest fresh fruits and vegetables.

For more information about any of the Golden Carrot winners, or to request an interview with registered dietitian Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., please contact Jessica Frost at 202-527-7342, or

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Media Contact:
Jessica Frost
202-527-7342 office
202-607-0952 cell
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