October 18, 2010

Better Beef, It’s What’s For Lunch? Kids in Four of the Nation’s Largest School Districts Are Served Sustainably Produced Meats

Ralph Loglisci

Ralph Loglisci

Food and Health Policy Writer

It looks like the “Eat less meat, eat better meat” motto, first coined by sustainable cattle rancher and author Nicolette Hahn Niman, is catching on. According to School Food FOCUS, a national initiative dedicated to helping urban school districts buy healthier, more sustainable and locally sourced food, four of the nation’s largest school districts launched their own “Better Beef Days.”

According to a School Food FOCUS spokesperson, Meredith Modzelewski, Denver Public Schools, Portland Public Schools, Oakland Unified School District and San Diego Unified School District, decided to serve sustainably raised beef to students this week to coincide with National School Lunch Week.

Modzelewski says the food service directors for each of the districts came up with idea on their own following a School Food FOCUS brainstorming session organized to help schools find ways to purchase healthier poultry and bread products.

“It all started with school food service directors who wanted to talk with producers of grass-fed beef,” says Modzelewski.  “This was really a grassroots effort,” added Modzelewski. [no pun intended] While not every district was able to source grass-fed beef, all the “better” meat purchased – ranges from local and grass-fed to antibiotic-free, added hormone-free and preservative-free.

I’m particularly excited to see that the Oakland School District, which adopted its own Meatless Monday campaign this year, is also taking part in the “Better Beef Days.” Some may think these initiatives send mixed messages to kids. I disagree. In fact, (I can’t believe I’m saying this), even the National Pork Board noted in a Chicago Times article last month that Meatless Monday serves as, “a message of moderation and quality.”

What each school served:

PORTLAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS (46,785 students) served locally sourced grass-fed beef hamburgers from Carman Ranch in Wallowa, OR on locally sourced Shepherd’s Grain whole-grain buns in all 85 schools across the district.

OAKLAND UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT (38,826 students) served all-natural, antibiotic-free, added-hormone-free beef hot dogs from Coleman Ranch in all 98 schools district-wide as part of its “Ideal Meal,” alongside antibiotic-free chicken, locally baked cornbread, and on locally sourced whole-grain buns.

SAN DIEGO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT (131,541 students) served Applegate Farms grass-fed beef hot dogs, courtesy of Applegate Farms and Whole Foods, in 18 schools (serving about 36,000 kids)

DENVER PUBLIC SCHOOLS (78,352 students) served locally sourced, sustainably raised beef from Callicrate Beef of Colorado Springs, CO in haystacks (tortilla chips topped with chili and low-fat cheese), and in spaghetti with meat sauce, in all 142 schools across the district.

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