Radical School Lunch Program Should Be Everywhere

kid eating lunchMy son's new school district here in Greeley, Colorado may have a uniform policy I despise, but their food program is amazing. Thanks to some large grants, the district has made an amazing change and is making most food from scratch, with real food ingredients.

The start up cost was a little steep, with around $360,000 needed for new equipment, but the Colorado Health Foundation giving the city $273,000 in grants, it's helped them get a jump on the new program, and actually is expected to save the district a ton of money in the long run, and even pretty immediately.


A food consultant out of New York, and co-founder of Cook for America, Kate Adamick says, “The biggest myth is that it costs more money,” With federal reimbursement rules, poorer school systems could see some real advantages in shifting back to scratch. Meat, for example, can be bought at very deep discounts, and when cooked themselves instead of paying a processor, the savings just start stacking up.

Not only that, but this way, they're in charge of what actually goes into the food of the kids. No more 35-ingredient burritos, wrapped in cellophane, but now 12 ingredients, including real cheddar cheese. And the macaroni and cheese? NOT the sickly bright orange we all know from processed foods, but it will be giving a slight tinge with the Indian spice tumeric that also gives it a nice little special flavor kick. I may use that trick here at home!

They did a week-long "boot camp" to teach food workers how to cook extremely large batches of food from scratch with the new equipment, and this year, they estimate 75 percent of the food will all be made with real food, from scratch, but they want to be at 100 percent by the start of the school year next year.

Between working from home, taking care of my toddler while my son is at school, and with my own struggles with a lack of real cooking skill, I used to really cringe at some of the things I fed my son. This year, I'm still going to try to make him lunches, but if I can't, I'm not going to feel nearly as guilty.

I'm glad to be back in Colorado, which has been "the least obese" state for, well, since they started tracking things like that. I think initiatives like this help show why as well, and I would bet they see some increases in school performance with the removal of artificial dyes and flavors as well. All schools should do the same.

Would you love it if your public schools make their own food instead of purchasing it?


Image via terwilliger911/Flickr

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