Fairfax County trying to create a better school lunch

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – A combination of overweight kids, too much junk food and precooked and processed food in schools has prompted the Fairfax County School Board to hire a nutrition company.

Prismatic Services, Inc., of Huntersville, N.C., has already started its work of coming up with a better school lunch, says JoAnne Hammermaster, a local parent and president of Real Food For Kids, which has been pushing for the improvement.

“We’re hearing diabetes and obesity and this horrible trend that has gone for three decades now and we need to start reversing that trend,” says Hammermaster.

The Fairfax County school district is paying the company $200,000 to come up with better entrees that include less processed food and more options.

At the same time, the kitchen at Marshall High School will be renovated to allow for the actual cooking of food, instead of just reheating already prepared food.

Kathy Smith, a school board member, says the money for the project is coming from the food service within the county, which is self-sustaining and has a reserve, so no other school services will be impacted by the expenditure.

“We’ve worked to get rid of additives in food,” she says, noting also that students are not allowed to drink soda during school hours.

The school district hopes to have the renovations at Marshall High ready in time for the next school year. But Hammermaster says an overhaul of the school lunch menu may take longer than that.

Prismatic, which has done similar work in San Francisco, says use of the school cafeteria food by students went up by 40 percent after recommended changes were made in the school lunch program.

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