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PTA Coffee Break: Nutrition forum offers up 'food for thought'

October 27, 2011|By Kate Rogers

We have all seen national headlines about childhood obesity, Type 2 diabetes in children and the overall health and social costs of U.S. obesity rates. Michelle Obama has been a champion of raising awareness of these critically important issues.

But where is Laguna Beach in this picture? On Oct. 19, Coffee Break hosted both our school district Food Service Manager Debra Appel and local registered dietitian Melanie Silverman to bring interested parents and educators up to speed on local nutritional practices in our schools and guiding common-sense basics.

Appel is a woman of passion when it comes to feeding our children in the most wholesome, organic, sustainable and scrumptious way possible. She detailed how the district has always been ahead of the curve in terms of improving food offerings.

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Hormone-free milk was initiated in 1997. Trans-fat was removed in 2004. Three out of four school sites have had salad bars since 2005. Whole grains have been offered at all sites since 2008. More recently, whole-grain breads and rolls are served "fresh-baked daily" from a local bakery.

New menu items are being developed with international flavor profiles, including homemade soups, whole-grain pastas and tortillas. Corn dogs and hot dogs have been eliminated, and "Meatless Mondays" have begun. All milk now served is fat-free, and the chocolate milk no longer is sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.

Through the initiatives of three separate programs, our schools have come to a higher level of excellence. The Salad Bars 2 Schools program has provided El Morro Elementary School with a new "kid-friendly high tech" salad bar serving locally grown organic fruits and vegetables. Thurston Middle School, the only site without an official salad bar, is serving organic fruits and vegetables daily. A permanent salad bar there is in the planning stages.

As part of a USDA Commodities program, our district earned $23,000 last year from the federal government for using USDA surplus supplies as part of its "from scratch" recipes. This offsets the $100,000 general operating funds supplied to the Nutrition Services Program from the district.

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