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School lunch makeovers go beyond Jamie Oliver

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Healthy lunches make the grade

Jamie Oliver’s Emmy award-winning show Jamie’s Food Revolution was just renewed for a second season, but the British chef is not alone in trying to make over food in schools around the United States. Here’s what’s brewing across the country in terms of healthy school lunch program makeovers.

Healthy school lunch

On a recent Friday, students at a school in Edmond, Oklahoma, had a choice of macaroni and cheese, made from scratch with American cheese and skim milk, seasoned fresh carrots, apple wedges and a made-from-scratch oatmeal cookie or the sandwich of the day with roasted meat.

It's simple, kid-friendly, yet healthy school lunch fare.

Edmond is among the many communities in the United States that have been rethinking school lunches and returning to the days when food in schools was cooked from scratch daily.

The road to change

Chef Dave Fouts of Simply Smart Food, Inc., says that Edmond Public Schools adopted his company's pilot program for fresh, healthy school lunches last year in a single school. The program was expanded, to be used for one week in each of the district's schools.

Parents were very supportive of the program, Fouts says, and it has expanded even more for the 2010-11 school year. "This year I'm proud to announce that all 24 schools in the fourth-largest school district in the state have adopted my pilot and now have 50 percent of menu items made from scratch," says Fouts. The original pilot school has 98 percent from-scratch offerings. The goal is to increase the other schools' percentage to 80 percent from-scratch by January.

And how do kids like all that fresh, made-from-scratch food? "Very well, except for some of the veggies that they've never seen before. Give them until the middle of the year, and they'll be loving it, like at my pilot school," says Fouts.

The school lunch revolution

Last spring, America watched as British chef Jamie Oliver attempted to make over the way schools in Huntington, West Virginia, delivered school lunches. The cafeteria, which had used frozen foods as its mainstay, was revolutionized with fresh ingredients, cooked from scratch, much like Fouts is doing.

Another season of Jamie's Food Revolution has been greenlighted by ABC, and this time Oliver is headed to Los Angeles. But Jamie Oliver is far from alone when it comes to changing school lunches in the United States.

Efforts are underway in districts from coast to coast to make school lunches more nutritious for kids, but it doesn't have to start there. HabitChanger.com recently launched a 42-day program called Feeding Your Kids, which is designed to help children create a habit of making healthy meal choices that last a lifetime. Teaching your kids to make healthy eating choices at home will help them make better choices when they're at school.

Jennie Garth promotes healthy choices

Also supporting the movement? A former 90210 star. Jennie Garth recently wrote a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, urging her to support the proposed Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act.

Garth, who has worked to provide healthy living for kids, says that having healthy food options in the school cafeteria is a must. "Helping students develop a taste for such healthy choices can reduce thier risk of diabetes, hypertension and other serious health problems," Garth wrote, adding, "Schools need help and encouragement. I hope you will lead the way."

Homemade school lunch ideas

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