LAUSD Dishes Up Nutrition


Sugar Alert! LAUSD Dishes Up Nutrition
Dean L. Jones, C.P.M.

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) provided me the complete K-12 education.  For that reason, I found it interesting to learn about their recent change in student food services.  After many decades of administering nutritional disparity to their students, this week the LAUSD launched their “I’M IN’ campaign.  The purpose of the program is to serve nutritional meals, emphasize exercise and to promote student attendance to reverse the high rate of school dropout.

The ‘I’m In’ program results from the forward thinking brought about by the recently appointed LAUSD Superintend Dr. John Deasy, who wanted to join others with addressing the long running childhood obesity epidemic.  The LAUSD serves more than 650,000 meals everyday during the school sessions, which equals 123 million servings per year.  I can only imagine that this is a whole lot of food, and the suppliers that sell it to the district undoubtedly make a pretty penny from public education tax dollars. [Tyson Foods Inc., McCain Foods Limited, Jennie-O Turkey Store, Don Lee Farms, the California Milk Advisory Board, Driftwood Dairy, Gold Star Foods and Five-Star Gourmet Foods, Inc.]

However, I am slightly in the dark on why the district is diverting a portion of this food budget and spending it on media relations, such as billboard advertisements and TV commercials.  Educators and learners together with the parents have the ability to know how to eat without the fanfare.  There was no trumpet blast announcement when the LAUSD decided not to serve decent meals to students.

When I attended South Park Elementary School in the fifties and sixties (last century), the cafeteria at that site like so many other LAUSD sites served vegetables, salad, fish, meat, fruit, cow’s milk and other ‘traditional’ staples.  Nonetheless, somewhere after the nation mourned over a slain US president, participated in civil right demonstrations, protested an unconventional war and before a US president resignation the district instituted meals with globs of macaroni and cheese, French fries, corn dogs, prepackaged burritos, sodas, and cardboard pizza.  There was never a student revolt or parent intervention that coerced the LAUSD to serve non-nutritional meals.

The ‘I’m In’ program is four years in the making after hiring the district’s first Executive Chef Mark Baida in 2007.  With an illustrious career in fine dining, Chef Baida’s employment before LAUSD was at the University of Southern California (USC), where he brought college level dining standards up to a five-star restaurant cuisine.  Today, he is nurturing palates at the elementary to high school levels.

Civil societies are much easier to come by when educators get it.  It is good to know that finally the LAUSD leadership understands the importance of good nutrition.  One can only hope that now the LAUSD offered curriculum is as progressive as its newly designed meals.

Mr. Jones is a marketing strategist with the SouthlandPartnership Corporation (a public benefit organization), sharing his view on mismanagement practices of packaged foods & beverages.