The results of the latest HealthierUS School Challenge for schools are in, and California schools didn’t do too badly. They didn’t do too well, either, garnering mostly bronze medal certifications. Compared to some school districts nationwide, where many schools swept up a Silver or Gold medal, it might give parents of public school children in Los Angeles pause.
Here’s the skinny.
The brainchild of First Lady, Michelle Obama, in 2010, the USDA began an award system for schools based on the food served to children. To earn a Bronze medal (and $500 cash) a school needs to serve at least one fruit and vegetable with every meal, as well as one whole grain food three times a week, and serve only low-fat or fat-free milk. Many LAUSD schools met this criteria. But few went beyond that.
To earn a higher medal (silver or Gold), schools need to be providing daily whole grain foods, legumes, peas, and multiple green or orange fruits and vegetables. No pizza, hot dogs or processed chicken nuggets.
The USDA challenge encourages schools to involve parents and the wider community in its push towards healthier meals. It offers grants to train staff in critical areas of health and wellness. And when a school decides to enter the challenge, there is an online food calculator that can be used to assess the calorie intake, as well as sodium and sugar that the school lunch contains.
But it’s not all about the food. The holistic approach rewards schools for providing set periods of physical activity and weekly nutrition education to students.
Overall, while LAUSD schools overwhelmingly earned bronze medals, other California school districts – such as Hemet and Salida -- swept the top award category – a Gold medal with distinction.
Check out more on the food challenger here.