Berkeley schools get taste of organic lunch
September 5, 1999
From Correspondent Rusty Dornin
SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- It all began with one parent who didn't like the school lunch menu.
Now, students in Berkeley, California, may be on the "biting" edge of a new trend in cafeteria food.
"It started with a real angry parent who didn't like the way our program was running, didn't like the menus, didn't like the fact it was not healthy foods," said Jack McLaughlin of the Berkeley Unified School District.
He said the district realized it wasn't practicing what it taught.
"We believe our food program should model what we teach in the classrooms, and it wasn't," McLaughlin said. "We were serving Pop-Tarts and so forth, and we believe we should be serving the healthiest food."
Berkeley decided one way to get fresh food on the plates in its school cafeterias was to grow its own crops and to buy produce from local farmers.
Berkeley is one of four districts receiving money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promote healthier school lunches.
"We're encouraging school districts and local communities to get together with local farmers and obtain their produce locally so we can get that fresh product into the schools," said Rich Romminger of the USDA.
Students even help grow their own food by working in the Berkeley school district's own organic garden.
Growers like Janet Brown like the program because the schools provide a reliable market for her products.
"It creates markets for small local farms that are small, stable markets, substantial markets, markets that don't require advertising," Brown said.
Now that parents and farmers are happy with the menu, they just have to convince the students.
Said one student, "I'm still going to eat junk food. I'm a kid."
Another didn't think organically grown school lunches would affect what school kids eat.
"Maybe it's better if it's organic, but I don't think it changes much," she said.
She may be right. Business at the organic salad bar was a bit slow during the first week of school.
But one student was happy with the change. He likes organic food because it means one item he doesn't like will be left off the menu.
"You don't have to spray bug spray on the food," he said.
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