The Golden Carrot Awards: Celebrating Healthful School Lunches

The Physicians Committee


The Golden Carrot Awards, established in 2004, recognize food service teams doing exceptional work to improve the healthfulness of school lunches. The Physicians Committee looks for programs that encourage students to eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, and plant-based entrées for improved health and disease prevention.

Stay tuned for the 2018 application

Austin Independent School District

Austin Independent School District

Austin Independent School District in Austin, Texas, wins the grand prize in the 2017 Golden Carrot Awards for serving its 83,000 students an exceptionally healthful menu and prioritizing nutrition education.

The district emphasizes made-from-scratch meals, featuring fresh, locally grown produce, global flavors, and a salad bar in every school. Popular entrees include quinoa breakfast bowls, black bean and vegetable tacos, noodle bowls with edamame, and vegan lentil chili Frito pie.

Austin ISD views the lunch room as an extension of the classroom and uses school meals as a platform to both teach students about the importance of good nutrition and provide ample opportunities to try new foods. To get students excited about healthy eating, the district has hosted a Junior Chopped competition, where middle school culinary students have competed to create healthful, delicious smoothies with cilantro as the featured ingredient. A mobile food truck, called Nacho Average Food Truck, rotates between high school campuses, serving veggie tacos, zesty black beans, salads, and chili-lime melon. Many schools in the district have school gardens, where students learn to plant, grow, and harvest fruits and vegetables. Through the district-wide Garden to Café program, certain schools even serve food grown by students in the school lunch line with colorful signage to call out those foods. The district also partners with local farmers, who visit the schools to educate students and serve samples of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Extra Credit:

Want to pack your own healthy school lunches? The Physicians Committee’s Karen Smith, R.D., and her two daughters share their favorites in this video: