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Trying to cut through the fat

Molly Shore

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.”