A recent School Lunch Report Card by the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine ranks the Long Beach Unified School District’s meal program as one of the best nationally for serving healthful lunches.
PCRM dietitians analyzed elementary school meals available at more than 20 districts participating in the National School Lunch Program. The average grade is a B (84), up more than five points from the national average (78.7) in 2008. LBUSD far exceeded these averages, earning 90 points, or an A- grade.
“The days of foot-long hot dogs and greasy tater tots are coming to an end,” said Susan Levin, director of nutrition education at PCRM. “By offering vegetarian chili with cornbread, black bean burgers, baked sweet potatoes, and cinnamon apple slices, schools are showing students how to tackle obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.”
The only school district earning a perfect score of 100 was Pinellas County Schools in Florida. Long Beach’s score of 90 made it the only California district to earn an A- grade, with Oakland Unified School District following closely at 88 points, or a B+.
To receive a high grade on the School Lunch Report Card, schools must go above and beyond USDA nutrition guidelines.
The survey found that schools are serving an increasing number of healthful vegetarian and vegan dishes. Fifty-nine percent of schools evaluated in the report serve at least one vegetarian option every day, and of these schools, 76 percent offer a vegan entree.
Seventy-seven percent of school food service departments now offer nutrition education, and 95 percent of districts offer additional inventive nutrition programs, such as farm-to-school programs and the USDA’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.