The green beans are portioned and displayed in orderly rows. The lasagnas are steaming up their plastic covers. The workers stand ready, their hair netted and aprons tied. The bell rings, and a stream of nearly 1,000 students floods in to Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School’s cafeteria, barely slowing as they load cardboard trays with apple juice, chicken wings and sliced cucumbers.
“Hey! Hey!” Gomez hollers to students with no greens on their trays. “Come on and get your vegetables. You have to get them!”
For schools to receive federal reimbursement for lunches, they must serve — not just offer — each student at least a half-cup of fruit or vegetables. Lunches also must include servings of at least two other foods, such as a protein and a grain.
The requirement, adopted in the last school year, is part of an effort to serve students healthier foods. And eating those foods takes time – more time than many students have.
“A student can eat a cup of applesauce in no time – you can practically drink that. But chewing through an apple takes a lot longer,” said Diane Pratt-Heavner, spokeswoman for the School Nutrition Association, a national advocacy organization. “If we want our students to eat more salads, fruits and vegetables, we need to give them more time to consume them.” Continue reading