The nation-wide effort to improve the quality of school lunch continues as one-third of the nation’s children remain overweight or obese. Public Schools in Washington, D.C., which have the ninth-highest rate of childhood obesity in the country, according to a June report by the Trust for America's Health, are making their own efforts in executing a better school food system. Two pilot programs have been established that intend to vastly improve meals, altering the diet of ultra-processed and sugary foods. Scheduled to start in fourteen Elementary Schools in the fall, the programs are designed to gauge what works best in terms of food quality and preparation. The best practices will then be applied the following year.
On Monday, the D.C. Public School System announced the two vendors they chose to supply these healthier meals. Revolution Foods will provide prepackaged meals to seven schools that do not have a student cafeteria, while DC Central Kitchen will supply meals made-from-scratch at seven schools in Northeast Washington. These vendors are required to meet strict nutritional standards recommended by the Institute of Medicine. Additionally, each meal must contain fruit, vegetables and hormone free milk. 75% of the edible products must be 75% or more whole-grain, and grass-fed, local and antibiotic-free meats must be served whenever possible.
The lack of fresh food products served in the cafeteria’s stood as a major driving force for the D.C School System. They realized the best approach to solving this problem was to change where they were getting their food from. While six vendors expressed interest in the programs, worth about $2 million annually, Anthony Tata, Chief Operating Officer for D.C. Public Schools, told the Washington Post that smaller vendors were selected over the national corporations because of their more extensive relationships with local farmers.
To learn more about the pilot programs and the vendors, read the August 3, 2010, article in the Washington Post.