Making the Grade: Doctors Rank Healthiest School Lunch Programs in America

The Physicians Committee
NEWS RELEASE November 5, 2012
Making the Grade: Doctors Rank Healthiest School Lunch Programs in America
Susan Levin, M.S., R.D.

Nutrition Report Card Awards High Grades to Schools in Pinellas County, Fla., Howard County, Md., and Knox County, Tenn.; Schools in Houston and Milwaukee get Ds

WASHINGTON—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, 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.

School District  Score Grade
Pinellas County Schools (Fla.) 100 A+
Howard County Public School System (Md.) 97 A+
Knox County Schools (Tenn.) 97 A+
Omaha Public Schools (Neb.) 97 A+
Atlanta Public Schools (Ga.) 96 A
Broward County Public Schools (Fla.) 96 A
St. Louis Public Schools (Mo.) 95 A
Miami-Dade County Public Schools (Fla.) 93 A
Long Beach Unified School District (Calif.) 90 A-
Oakland Unified School District (Calif.) 88 B+
Washoe County School District (Nev.) 88 B+
Montgomery County Public Schools (Md.) 86 B+
Dallas Independent School District (Texas) 85 B
Seminole County Public Schools (Fla.) 80 B-
Anchorage School District (Alaska) 79 C+
Guilford County Schools (N.C.) 79 C+
School District of Philadelphia (Pa.) 75 C
Burlington School District (Vt.) 69 D+
Fresno Unified School District (Calif.) 69 D+
Davis School District (Utah) 67 D+
Houston Independent School District (Texas) 66 D
Milwaukee Public Schools (Wis.) 64 D

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.

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.

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