Two years ago, kids from Kid Rethink New Orleans Schools (the Rethinkers) spent their summer "rethinking" the food served in their schools' cafeterias. They did not like the food they were served each day, and they knew their classmates didn't either.  For six intensive weeks, they focused on the critiquing that they didn't like about school lunches, while brainstorming for creative alternatives that would improve the situation.

As a result of their efforts, the kids produced "Twelve Recommendations for School Food and Cafeterias" and presented their report to the school district's superintendent.  Here's a quick look at their recommendations:

  1. No more sporks!
  2. Buy fresh, tasty food
  3. Buy fresh food from local farmers, fishermen, and shrimpers
  4. Present more local dishes on the school menu
  5. Present tasty, healthy alternatives for vegetarians
  6. No more Styrofoam trays!
  7. School designs should include outdoor vegetable gardens
  8. Use leftover food to make compost for school gardens
  9. Design cafeterias that you would like to eat in yourselves
  10. Install sinks so we can wash our hands before eating
  11. Enough lunch time to enjoy our food and our friends
  12. No more silent lunches for any reason
This past school year, the students, graded their schools to see how well they were doing with the 12 recommendations.  Working with backup assistance from the Prevention Research Center at Tulane University, the Rethinkers sampled views of fellow students, teachers and even the janitors who haul the uneaten food to the dumpster. 

They released their results today as part of a youth-oriented media event in New Orleans.  Here's the results:

Arthur Ashe Charter School: B-

Joseph A. Craig Elementary: F

John Dibert School: C

Edgar P Harney Elementary: D

Langston Hughes Academy: B-

Live Oak School: D-

The report cards results appear a bit dismal, but the students were quick to point out the improvements (most of the schools have done away with sporks,) while continuing to offer alternative suggestions for implementing their recommendations and improving the schools' overall eating experience.  

Their short term goals include serving more salads and fresh fruit and making water (instead of just milk) available to students at lunchtime.   In the long term, the group hopes to see the fresh fruit snacks (from local farms), no more Styrofoam trays, and maybe even real plates!  

Keep the pressure on Rethinkers!  I hope you'll be eating fresh, local food and clinking real silverware on real plates very soon!