The Seattle Times

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KEN LAMBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES
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Monday, September 20, 2010

School lunch has so many issues to chew on, it's tough to change

Carrots and Cauliflower:
Almost all Seattle schools feature a rotating cast of raw veggies in their salad bars. Carrots and cauliflower are easy for little ones to eat with their hands. They require minimal labor, a huge consideration when serving so many. And they're full of vitamins, helping meet USDA rules. One flaw: The nutrients mean nothing if the kids don't eat the stuff. Force feeding, anyone?
Rice
Seattle used to serve white rice, but began offering brown a few years ago. More nutritious; less kid-friendly. Many schools have made several changes like this (whole wheat bread instead of white, for example) and each can cost thousands of dollars. That means less money for entrees, which are the biggest target of critics
Salad
Kids are offered salad, but often they don't eat these fresh veggies. Should they serve different kinds of greens, maybe? That would be a lot more expensive. Besides, are kids really clamoring for mesclun?
Grapes
Kids love them, though custodians are less fond of chasing these roly-polys around the floor. Every day, the district offers fruit thought it isn't the big, gleaming specimens you see in groceries. Often, schools special-order smaller fruit for smaller appetites and budgets. And while some of it is local, a lot isn't. One hurdle: Washington's biggest growing season is summer, when school's out.
Brownie
When dessert is on the menu, it's often to help a school meet its USDA calorie minimums. Sometimes, districts have trouble keeping calories up. The solution? Sugar. Still, the district bakes its own brownies, replacing some of the fat with applesauce.