By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook
Kids are back to school and news accounts are full of stories about schools improving the food they serve. It's a rare news organization that takes the time to actually poke beneath the surface of what schools say they are doing in the cafeteria. And as we've documented here, there can be a world of difference between the prose that springs from the imagination of school menu writers and what actually finds its way on to kids' cafeteria trays.
Still, there does definitely seem to be a heightened awareness about what kids are eating at school and indications from every corner of the country that many schools are trying to improve their offerings. Here is a broad sampling:
Schools in Frederick County, Md., this fall are serving more local apples, watermelons and other produce.
Portland, Ore., is cooking more food from scratch and finding that it does, indeed cost more.
Schools in Louisiana have concluded that math and reading are not enough. A good education includes healthy eating.
Outside Detroit, a school principle has decided no more cupcakes or other sugary treats at birthday celebrations.
USA Today looks at how schools across the country are serving breakfast in the classroom to make sure kids start their day with a good meal.
Schools in Orange County, Fla., this year are serving sushi, green salad with strawberries, hummus and pita.
Massachusetts has passed new standards that spell the end of school bake sales and sodas and junk food in vending machines. Schools have replaced snack bars with smoothie bars.
In Albany, Calif., they are growing their own salad bars and teaching school cooks to roll their own breakfast burritos.
A middle-school food club in Allentown, Pa., is helping to make menu choices for the rest of the school district.
Schools in Fairfield, Ohio, are getting the jump on new state standards with a total revamp of the school menu, including more fresh fruits and vegetables.
Schools around Pittsburgh, Penn., have been working to make meals healthier,
"limiting salt, sugar, processed foods and high-fructose corn syrup; eliminating fried foods, trans fat, bovine growth hormone, artificial colors and sweeteners; and increasing whole grains, fiber, whole muscle meat and vegetarian options."
Schools in Boise, Id., are part of a pilot program to serve locally grown products at lunch, including local trout.
Kids in Maine are seeing less processed food and more locally grown produce in the cafeteria.
In Eugene, Ore., the cafeteria cooks are getting an earful about cooking with local ingredients to make meals fresher.
In St. Louis, Mo., they'd already axed Pop-Tarts, fries and nachos. This year another icon bit the dust: chicken nuggets.
In Carson City, Nev., they've chosen Aramark as the new meal provider and consider it a big improvement. The kids now have fruit and vegetable carts to snack from.
In Hampton Roads, Va., they've revamped the menu with whole-grain pizza, turkey hot dogs, black bean burgers, marinated bean salads, Asian chicken salad, and sweet potato fries.
Finally, it seems some people will do almost anything to get a break on the cost of school lunch. A school cafeteria manager outside Pittsburgh was charged with listing his dog as a dependent in order to qualify his family for reduced-price meals. Authorities say the scheme cost the schools
nearly $11,000 over a three-year period.
Authorities said Gabrial Shane Paulick, an employee of Nutrition, Inc., might have gotten away with the scheme except that the head of the cafeteria system for the schools recognized the name of his dog--Karla--on Paulick's application.
Paulick has been charged with theft and criminal solicitation.
4 months ago