Kids love pizzas, Sloppy Joes and chili crispitos served for lunch at
elementary schools throughout the Burbank Unified School District.
But some parents, like Isaac Paredes, question the nutritional
value of such menu items. Paredes said his daughter gained between 10
and 15 pounds from consuming school lunches at Miller Elementary
“We’re always trying to [give her] something healthy at home,” he
Dave O’Riordan, Southern California district manager for Sodexho,
the company hired by Burbank Unified to plan district menus and
purchase food, said all menu items adhere to dietary guidelines
established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Not more than 30% of calories come from fat, no more than 10% of
which comes from saturated fat, O’Riordan said.
“The menu varies based on kids’ preferences,” he said. “It’s all
about what children choose.”
Steve Bradley, assistant superintendent of business services for
the district, said school lunches have not changed much over the
“Really, there is only so much you can do and still meet
guidelines,” he said.
Students at district elementary schools who buy their lunches may
choose one each from five entrees, three side dishes and three sweet
side dishes served daily. Side dishes include French fries, carrot
sticks and a dinner roll. Sweet sides include fresh or canned fruit,
Jell-O, applesauce or trail mix. Students also get a choice of nonfat
or low-fat white milk or chocolate milk.
Burbank nutritionist Ruth Frechman, a former Burroughs PTA
president, says that while the district follows strict nutritional
guidelines, she would like to see schools serve more fruits and
vegetables and cut down on fat content.
“Any improvements that [the district] can make for better health,
I’m all for it,” she said.
Middle schools and high schools offer students a greater selection
of foods, O’Riordan said. Students at those schools can choose from
about a dozen different selections, all of which must follow USDA
guidelines, he said.
Although PTA Council President Sonia Arce believes the district
could make healthier choices, she said a school lunch menu has to
appeal to children.
“I wouldn’t use some of the ingredients at home,” she said, “But I
have to cook for four, and the district has to cook for thousands.”