School Lunch Program Asks Kids to Cook

Childhood obesity has been a hot button topic years in the making. From the First Lady’s interest in the issue, to Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution show, America is well aware of how school lunches and nutrition are affecting our youth.

A new documentary series, Food Forward, which focuses on the ever-changing food system and its effect on different populations, recently visited Pacific Elementary School near San Jose, California to film their school lunch production. Every day, the fifth and sixth grade students make 100 meals from scratch with the help of staff. That’s right, the kids are involved in the cooking! (What a novel idea… home ec, anyone?)

The program started when Stephanie Raugust, the current manager of Food Lab, wanted to change the way students were eating. With her hands-on approach, students use math to change recipe scale, learn portioning for serving, and focus on nutrition when composing a meal. Raugust and her students make dishes such as oat scones and chicken with tzatziki lemon sauce, impressive by any standard. While Food Lab is currently only a small-scale operation, many hope to find a way to help expand this learning experience to larger school systems.

While Food Lab may seem like the perfect solution to our chronic chicken nugget and french fries school lunch menu, feasibility defines the problem: How to make a nutritious lunch program flourish on a large scale with low cost. Other small programs focusing on wholesome foods have sprung up across the country, including Edible Schoolyard with chef Alice Waters. It is apparent that there is a need and a want for such programs, and we can only hope a nation wide plan comes to exist in the near future.

Here is a sneak peek of Food Forward:

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