Dr. Janey Thornton, Deputy Under Secretary for USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services
As Deputy Under Secretary, having the opportunity to visit schools all over the country is one of the best parts of my job. I have mostly been to elementary schools, where school meal participation is generally higher than middle or high schools. Last week, however, I had the chance to visit Garfield High School of the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the second largest school district in the country. More than 75% of Garfield High’s students participate in the National School Lunch Program; I witnessed more than 3,100 students get served in 40 minutes—talk about efficient! The Home-Style Shepherd’s Pie with Grain Roll was a hit.
Dennis Barrett, Director of Food Services, has done an outstanding job improving the program since he first started in 2007, with the food getting good reviews from students who like the variety of choices and find the food “nutritious and tasty.” For example, students can choose among Sweet Potato Sticks, Café LA Tossed Side Salad, Chilled Peaches, and Chilled Orange Juice as well as non-fat, low-fat, lactose-free, and flavored milk. Given its high participation level, the high school might apply for the Gold or Gold of Distinction award in the USDA HealthierUS School Challenge, which encourages healthier school environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity.
I spoke with students and officials about the President’s priorities for improving school meals. I also emphasized the importance of renewing the Child Nutrition Act and advocated for a strong reauthorization bill to reduce hunger, combat obesity, and improve the health and nutrition of our nation’s children. One of the students suggested a Grab N Go lunch because some of the students do not have enough time to eat since some of them need to go to the library or do homework. That was a great suggestion. Little did the student know, I just visited Bravo Medical Magnet School of the same school district and it had a Grab N Go lunch. The school district will work with the school to see if this program can work at Garfield High, too.
On May 20, Garfield High School student leader shows Dr. Thornton the lunch process.
On May 20, Dennis Barrett sits with Dr. Thornton at Garfield High School.
On May 19, Bravo Medical Magnet School student shows Dr. Thornton his Tostada Fiesta Salad and blueberries.