Chico school lunches healthy because of community

Chico school lunches healthy because of community

CHICO, Calif. - As Republicans consider doing away with some nutritional changes in schools pushed for by first lady Michelle Obama in the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, the Chico Unified School District said the community has a big say in what they offer students.

Vince Enserro, director of nutrition for the school district, said even before legislative changes demanded healthier options in school, the Chico community was asking for them.

"The community's been screaming this in Chico for a long time," Enserro said. "It fit right in, the changes fit right in, with the culture of Chico. It was pretty simple."

And when they were switching school menus during the 2011-2012 school year, even before strict rules were enacted, Michelle Obama's flagship Let's Move campaign became a catalyst and sort of liaison between the district and parents.

"Let's Move Chico has been one of those groups that really, really helped us out, get the word out and help educated us on what it was that the community was looking for," Enserro said.

According to Enserro, the Chico Unified School District has offered myriad choices of fruits and vegetables for some years, and when national guidelines changed, they simply had to increase portion sizes.

That cost the district a little more money, but they also found partners in the community who helped drive that cost down.

Today, they're seeing about the same number of students taking advantage of the school lunch program as before the changes came along.

He says smaller districts, like his and others in the Northstate, have supporters all around clamoring for healthy options in schools. That kind of support makes their jobs easier when others were forced to change.

"So just listen to what your community is asking and we were way ahead of the game," he said.

What's more, Enserro is certain that if Republicans are able to revoke portions of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, the Chico Unified School District will still be able to hold on to much of their menu as it is now.

Which means, at least in his district, healthy lunches are here to stay.

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