Nicholas Kaplinsky, a freshman at La Cañada High School (LCHS), told JSR, “I can’t believe there’s already this much homework this early in the school year.”
Yes, school is now in full swing and students are beginning to feel the weight and pressure of grades and tests. But one way students can stay on top of their work is by maintaining healthy diets. Fortunately for students in the La Cañada Unified School District (LCUSD), a new food service contract with Chartwells School Dining Services has improved the quality and nutrition for school food in a district that, according to the La Cañada Valley Sun, has previously partnered with junk food providers such as Dominos Pizza.
Cardiologist Arthur Agatston presented findings at an Obesity Society meeting in 2009 demonstrating that improving school cafeterias bolstered the academic performance of students observed over a two-year period, in addition to lowering their weight and blood pressure. The Agatston Research Foundation’s Healthier Options for Public Schoolchildren study noted significant increases in math scores among 1,197 elementary students who were provided with healthy food at school.
Additionally, an Australian study published in 2010 found that the consumption of preservatives, processed meats, and artificial colors can lead to increased risk of ADHD, while an Oxford University study from that year showed that children in Britain who adopted food activist Jamie Oliver’s school meal program scored higher on standardized tests and were absent fewer times than their peers who ate less nutritious school lunches.
LCUSD has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to adopt the improved meal plan and obtain fresher ingredients from local sources. Until the semester began, however, no one knew the answer to a key question: “Will the students like it?”
Fortunately, for both the district and the students, the answer is yes.
“The students are talking,” veteran LCHS food service employee Lena Bonyard told the La Cañada Valley Sun in August, “saying ‘good food.’”
Sean Estes, a junior and varsity basketball player at LCHS told JSR, “I love to eat healthy food. To see that our school has fresh and tasty options gives me another reason to be excited on weekday mornings.”
According to Kapinsky, “Last year’s weird and suspicious food often distracted me during class. Knowing that I’m eating healthy school food helps me feel energized in the afternoons.”
According to market research company NPD Group, a globally known market research company, nearly eight out of 10 Americans describe themselves as either “extremely healthy” or “very healthy” but only 20% of us actually keep a healthy diet. In addition to helping students perform in class, healthy options at school may encourage kids to have healthier diets in general.
Because the LCHS cafeteria now only serves healthy food, students aren’t left with many choices that aren’t local, fresh, and delicious. From Science Team members to varsity athletes, students trying to excel are finding what they need at the LCHS cafeteria.
Learning just got a whole lot tastier.