How a Healthier School Lunch Can Address Child Obesity
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Join Emerald Yeh to learn how the UC Davis experiments with healthier vegetable school lunch for children to address child obesity.


Female Speaker: Part of that outside world is the school lunch, one of the front lines in the battle to restore good eating habits to our children. School lunches can be balanced and nutritious but some are so fattening that pediatricians tell children to bring lunch from home. Student: If we want to buy lunch here we have to have pizza, the chicken patty or bananas all packaged food, so it's not like its fresh or anything. Female Speaker: But here and there school lunches are getting an extreme make over. Fresh salad bars with fruits and vegetables from local farmers five days a week. That's what the Davis Unified School District started in all its elementary schools tripling its expenditures for fresh produce. Gail Feenstra: And we were showing that kids were taking over the USDA requirement of fruits and vegetables. Female Speaker: Dr. Gail Feenstra of UC Davis helped launch the farm to school program at Davis Elementary Schools and is now doing a survey to see how much of those fruits and vegetables that children actually eat and how much they through away. Female Speaker: And the cucumbers came from our local farmer the carrots were from our traders... Female Speaker: Also concerned about what the kids are eating is Rafaelita Curva the school districts Food Services Director who works with an incredibly limited budget $2.50 in government reimbursements per meal which also covers her labor, administrative and transportation cost, that leaves her $1 per meal for food. On top of that providing open salad bars requires extra labor and leaves a fair amount of waste each day. Rafaelita Curva: It was very difficult struggle and my budget had suffered. We had incurred losses. Female Speaker: So four years after the experiment began the open salad bar has been shelved, the school district is trying something else. Salads that are packaged in the central kitchen still made fresh everyday, but now with control over portion size and variety. Rafaelita Curva: It is a more balanced salad and it does help in teaching them better choices and how it should look. Female Speaker: But going from open salad bar to packaged salads takes adjustment. Student: Because they had fresh fruit last year in the bar and now I think that was better. Student 2: Now everything is packaged. Female Speaker: What's wrong with packaged? Student 2: Well packaged just doesn't taste fresh. Female Speaker: And there is something else about the way children like their fresh vegetables. Dorothy Peterson: Small children don't like their foods to touch. If they had carrots they would eat they would choose the carrots and they would eat the carrot, but when you put carrots, cucumbers, lettuce and other things on top of the each other they choose not to take it. Female Speaker: In a way the farm to school program in Davis can be viewed as a giant leap forward and now a small step back, but still part of an evolving process. Female Speaker: This is not something that's going to happen overnight. We can't expect to see farm to school programs in every school in the next couple of years. Female Speaker: It's taken a long time for our food system to develop to the way it is, where we have a very concentrated industrialized food system that produces cheap food, pre-packaged food, convenience food for the whole nation including the school lunch programs. Female Speaker: But the salad bar did do something very important, it sparked the children's interest in fruits and vegetables. Female Speaker: If kids get a foundation of eating good quality foods and a variety of those and in early age they are going to carry those into their later life. Female Speaker: In high schools though where students have more purchasing freedom school lunch is almost no match for what's called competitive foods and a government report shows up almost every high school has this foods and beverages unregulated in nutritional content that are sold in campus snack bars vending machines and even cafeterias. Student: I just bought a Pepsi. Female Speaker: Is that your lunch. Student: Yes. Female Speaker: Are you eating anything else. Student: No that's it. Student: I just bought a frosty and I bought a 3 Musketeers and some chocolate doughnuts. Female Speaker: Is that your lunch? Student: Yes, it's my normal lunch, usually. Female Speaker: Recent national study show that only 1% of adolescence is meeting a dietary recommendations of the food guide pyramid. For teenager convenience is often more important the nutrition. Female Speaker: Do you like healthier foods or do you prefer this? Student: I like healthier foods and just this is faster. Female Speaker: But drinking sodas and other sugary drinks instead of milk has an irreversible consequence. Male Speaker: Teenage girls lay down the majority of their bone strength by the time they are 14 or 15 years of age and boys by the time they are roughly 17 years age. The rest of your life you can maintain it you can stop that if you are lucky from going away but you will never be able to build it up again. Teenage girls and teenage boys are drinking soda without calcium content are robbing themselves of the future health of their bones. Harrold Goldstein: For the last many years far too many school have become soda and junk food superstores and far too often schools have claimed that they need that money for absolutely important projects on campus. Schools need to raise funds that don't have a negative impact, a horribly negative impact on our children health. Female Speaker: In the Folsom Cordova Unified School District school lunches are meeting the challenge head on. Al Schieder came from the private sector 10 years ago to run the school lunch program. He made changes that could have sparked a student revolt. Al Schieder: We don't sell soda, we don't sell cookies we don't sell any a-la-cart food item. Female Speaker: Hamburger. Al Schieder: No hamburger, no French fries. Female Speaker: Instead he turned the cafeterias into food courts offering 10 items daily like freshly made pasta, salads, sandwiches, sushi and teriyaki bowls with vegetables. Everyone pays $2.50 and each meal comes with fresh fruit and milk plus water. Student participation in a lunch program doubled and lunch sales went from $1.7 to $4 million a year. The milk sales alone are impressive, only 50 high school students use to buy milk, today 700 drink milk for lunch. Al Schieder: I'm just a food service guy and I can do it. If I can do it many, many people can do it. Female Speaker: Other school officials, state law makers and even a BBC film crew have paid visits to see how Al does it. Some 60 schools have incorporated his ideas but even Al Schieder's lunches have to compete with soda vending machines and a snack bar just outside the cafeteria. Robin Jones: Nutrition is conducive to a learning environment snack foods are counterproductive to that environment, they have behavior problems in the class room they have kids who are falling asleep in the classroom I mean we can't connect the dots here. Female Speaker: Law makers have taken notice, new laws banning soda and junk foods sales in all California Public Schools will be going into effect but not for at least another 2 years until then the snack bars remain open for business.