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Harvard Gazette: A dearth of nutrition in school lunches

“U.S. school cafeterias are starved for funds, lack facilities, and are staffed by workers who often know more about wielding ‘box cutters and can crushers’ than chefs’ knives, according to Ann Cooper, a onetime celebrity chef turned Colorado lunch lady and school food reformer.

Cooper, speaking at a Harvard conference on food in public schools, said schools should work to serve nutritious, wholesome foods, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, rather than the packaged and processed foods that are prevalent in many institutions. Part of the challenge, she said, is money. When more than half of a school district’s cafeteria budget goes toward personnel, it’s tempting to opt for prepackaged food that requires little preparation…

Despite tight federal budgets, Cooper said that America should invest in school food programs because diet is so important to child health. The federal government, she said, spends less on school meals per pupil than most people spend on coffee each day…

Emily Broad Leib, director of Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, said that Congress is now considering reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, which expires in September. Among other things, the act provides nutritional guidelines for school lunches, and must be reauthorized every five years. The last reauthorization, in 2010, took significant steps toward improving the nutritional quality of school lunches, Leib said. Possible changes this time include increasing the amount of federal reimbursement for meals, taking steps to increase student participation in the program, and providing grants for kitchen equipment and staff training.”

Read the full article from the Harvard Gazette.

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