May 15, 2019
School lunches are notoriously lackluster in flavor and nutritional value — which seems counterintuitive to the growing populations they feed.
That’s where Balanced, a nonprofit public health and nutrition advocacy organization, comes in. They’re dedicated to rallying schools, hospitals and other institutions for healthier menus across the board.
Balanced explains its mission, in part:
We believe there are victims of our food system for whom only systems-level change will have an impact - people who have limited or no power over their food choices at all. Education alone is not sufficient for students with limited lunch options, patients in hospitals selecting from premade menus, or employees dependent on worksite cafeterias.
A primary focus of Balanced, as mentioned, is school lunches. The organization analyzed the healthfulness of the 25 biggest school districts in the United States by measuring them against the USDA’s nutrition guide, MyPlate.
What Balanced found for the Philadelphia City School District is fairly consistent with the 24 other districts — which is not all that impressive. Per Balanced:
Philadelphia schools do not consistently offer fresh fruit daily or diverse vegetable options. Most menus offer red and processed meats greater than twice per week, and only one menu sampled offers a daily meatless option. Menus are not balanced with diverse protein options or adequate produce.
Yes, you read that correctly — Philadelphia students are not provided with fresh fruit options on a daily basis, nor are they offered nutritionally-balanced meals.
Sure, kids like to eat things like chicken nuggets, hot dogs, pepperoni and other processed meats, but that is certainly not the brain fuel they need to get through the school day.
Balanced does, however, offer a healthy menu guide — which you can check out here — for those looking to effect change in their institution. They also offer toolkits and coaching and support for those looking to make a difference in their community.