School Food FOCUS has sent a clear message that quality protein belongs on our school children's plates.
America's schools collectively spend nearly $1 billion per year on poultry and legumes. The organization works with school districts to coordinate this purchasing power and put market pressure on food companies to provide healthier products for our nation's school children. The latest example of this work is Focus on the Plate — a selection of poultry and legume products currently available for purchase in the school food market.
"This list of school food products is a direct result of FOCUS districts finding innovative ways to raise the standard of food we see on the lunch tray by working directly with suppliers to try out new products and reformulate others," said Founder and Executive Director Toni Liquori. "From poultry raised with responsible antibiotic use to a more wholesome bean burrito, FOCUS on the Plate is an important step towards helping schools serve meals that are healthier for children and the environment."
The National School Lunch program serves 33 million American children daily. Many of these children depend on school food for more than half of their calories, making the quality of this food in terms of its wholesomeness all the more critical.
"When school districts demonstrate a unified demand for more healthful, regionally sourced and sustainably produced school food, the kids win, the districts win and the manufacturers ultimately win too," said Bertrand Weber, director of Nutrition Services at Minneapolis Public Schools.
Manufacturers are definitely listening. Most recently, the FOCUS Certified Responsible Antibiotic Use program has seen a surge in poultry producers undergoing USDA 3rd party verification and shifting their product lines to meet the demands of school districts.
"We take feeding children very seriously, and have great pride in the ingredients and quality of our products," said Dan Southard, president of Los Cabos Mexican Foods. "Listening to the needs of school food service directors, and making sure those needs are met is fundamental to the way we do business."
School Food FOCUS is a national collaborative that leverages the knowledge and procurement power of school districts across the country to make school meals more healthful, regionally sourced and sustainably produced.