School lunch programs have been under a fierce attack since the wellness wave hit the nation with First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign, says Dennis Barrett, director of food services at Los Angeles Unified School District. But according to Barrett, the U.S. Department of Agriculture put stricter guidelines on food, such as reduced sodium and increased portion sizes of fruits and vegetables, over five years ago.
Following the USDA 's lead, LAUSD, which serves over 650,000 meals daily, five years ago took a closer look at its meals and made health-conscious decisions, including cutting the level of sodium in half and adding more whole fruits, vegetables and whole grains to the menu. The problem, says Barrett, is that the community was largely unaware and uninvolved in these efforts.
Now, after receiving $562,000 from a $32.1 million Communities Putting Prevention to Work Grant awarded to Los Angeles County from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last year, the district is able to launch its comprehensive "I'm In" campaign, which will promote healthy lifestyles and invite the community and districts locally and nationwide to join in the effort. The campaign is said to be the largest nutritional food campaign put on by a district. The campaign, which launched Aug. 29 in Los Angeles, will include celebrity-sponsored student and community activities, public service announcements, food tasting events, social media and traditional advertising in print, on billboards and in radio and print.
David Binkle, LAUSD's deputy director of food services, describes "I'm In" as a "character-building campaign" by promoting healthy lifestyles and engaging families and communities. According to Binkle, the district is hoping to capture the attention of districts nationwide.