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by intern Christine Binder

High school students in Escondido, California are sprinting to the lunch line.

Since the Escondido Union High School District began cooking meals from scratch in 2006, participation in breakfast has increased nearly 270%, and lunch participation increased 360%. The four high schools in the district serve around 5,000 meals a day, according to an article in The San Diego Union-Tribune.

For breakfast, students are offered items such as homemade muffins, oatmeal from scratch, and skillet scrambles made from real eggs, potatoes, and cheese. Lunch entrees include teriyaki chicken bowls with brown rice, broccoli, and carrots, and grilled chicken tacos with fresh salsa and beans. The food is made from scratch in the high school kitchens using fresh meat and produce, whole grains, and low-fat cheese. Students agree that this is a major improvement over the unhealthy and unappetizing pre-packaged meals served in previous years.

The best part about the food cooked from scratch? Students are performing better in the classroom, teachers say. According to Pamela Lambert, director of student nutrition services, “The change means that students are eating much healthier, and plenty of studies show the positive effect of proper nutrition on academic ability.”

Stories like this show that delicious and healthy slow food in schools is exactly what children need in order to succeed. Within the next several weeks, Congress will reauthorize the National School Lunch Program. This only happens every five years, so no time is better than now to contact your elected officials and make it known that kids want and need real food in schools. Check out Slow Food USA’s Time for Lunch Campaign to find out more, and stay tuned here for Vilsack’s announcement of his priorities for the Child Nutrition Act [ n.b. this announcement was scheduled for today, but due to the massive dump of snow on D.C. over the weekend, it has been postponed].