Santa Barbara Schools Switch to Homemade Foods

Nutrition Director Nancy Weiss Vows to Buy Locally

While students may not be thrilled that pizza and potato chips are no longer an everyday option, parents may be happy to learn that their children will soon be eating healthier, more natural food at school. Nancy Weiss, the director of nutrition for the Santa Barbara School Districts, has made the decision to shift from the processed foods typically found on lunch trays to primarily locally grown, homemade foods.

Starting this fall, breakfast, lunch, and snack time will soon include only natural, healthy foods. Fruits and vegetables will be bought locally from preservative-free farms. Turkey, chicken, and fish will be served, with beef rarely making an appearance on students’ plates. And when beef is served, it will be only the grass-fed variety. Meals such as lasagna, for example, will now be made with spinach and cheese rather than beef. According to Weiss, the nutritious daily amount of protein will still be served, just not always in the form of meat.

Sugary Vitamin Water will be replaced by Twist, a USDA certified organic, preservative-free beverage that contains less than ten calories per bottle. It comes in six flavors. Weiss said it is a lot more beneficial to children’s health, even though Twist costs about as much as Vitamin Water. It still remains to be seen whether students will go along with the program: Before Vitamin Water, Weiss was serving natural fruit juices with no sugar, but the students weren’t drinking it. Twist, Weiss said, is delicious, and she has high hopes for it.

According to Weiss, the switch to more natural foods will not be more expensive, partly because she will procure most things from local growers, in bulk.

Health is the number one reason the schools are making the transition. “This is the first generation in which children have a shorter life expectancy than their parents,” Weiss explained. By eating well at school, Weiss hopes that students will learn healthy eating habits.

This new, healthier way of eating in school cafeterias will be implemented at the start of the 2008-09 school year.

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