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lunch programs

Coming this fall, students at six of the nation’s largest urban districts will be served lunch on round plates made of biodegradable sugar cane.

Six of the nation’s biggest school districts have taken another bold step in changing the face of school lunches. The districts in the Urban School Food Alliance—New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami-Dade, Dallas, and Orlando—have banded together to purchase biodegradable trays made of sugar cane to cut down on both cost and waste.

Made for PCs, this school cafeteria management software can be used during point-of-sale to identify students on free or reduced-price lunch programs. It includes features such as menu planning, nutrient analysis, and financial management. The system also manages food and supply inventory.


School lunches are at the front lines of the country’s childhood obesity and nutrition crisis. First Lady Michelle Obama, star chef Jamie Oliver and the “Renegade Lunch Lady” activist Ann Cooper have helped draw the public interest to the problems in school cafeterias.

Since 2009, I have worked with The Culinary Institute of America’s Menu for Healthy Kids initiative. We have provided school districts in New York’s Hudson Valley with tools to improve the food served to students.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most children and adolescents in the United States eat too much sugar, fat, and salt, but not enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Further, they consume about half their “empty calories” in the form of soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza and whole milk (CDC, 2013).

Gone are the days of crumpled bills at Carroll County Public Schools in Baltimore, Md. A cafeteria sales system implemented this school year uses a high-tech infrared hand scanner to access student accounts with pre-deposited money, to speed up time spent in the lunch line. However, some parents are concerned with their child’s security, especially since they were not informed of the change until the scanners were already in place.

Students nationwide are protesting the new nutritional guidelines for school lunches that went into effect this year thanks to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. From parody videos to cafeteria strikes, students are speaking out against the smaller, healthier portions, which include almost twice as many fruits and vegetables as last year, and less saturated fat and sodium. They are hungry, they say, and the healthy options aren’t tasty, leading some to discard their fruits and veggies.


Students in Niles Township High School District 219 in Skokie, Ill., were getting tired of paying more money for healthy foods at lunch and craved nutritious meals with a variety of flavors and choices at a fair price. Students were actually paying more for salad and carrot sticks than unhealthy foods such as pizza or fries. In early 2010, they asked the school board to make changes in the food. Because of the growing rates of diabetes and obesity in school-aged children around the nation, board members had to act.

A list of potential partnership opportunities that can be formed to facilitate new wellness programs and initiatives.

Tips for improving school meal programs while staying within the USDA and Dietary Guidelines, and making National School Lunch Program meals attractive to students.

Northern California native Jim Rowan is passionate about food. A self-taught chef, Rowan had his own catering business, cooked in resorts and hotels, and was a private chef before becoming culinary director at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash. But in July 2008, Rowan made the switch from higher ed to K12. He is now the food service director at Astoria (Ore.) School District and Naselle-Grays River Valley (Wash.) School District, which use Chartwells as their food service provider.