Ryan Douglas has worked as a chef preparing students' meals for eight years -- first at the University of California, Riverside campus, and for the last five years, with the Riverside School District. There he oversees 34,000 meals a day, including breakfast, lunch, and even supper.
Douglas is at the forefront of a revolution in school meals going on in school districts across California and the country.
Gone are the pre-cooked, high-fat meals where students couldn’t always name the food they were eating. In are salad and fruit bars, lemon-herbed chicken, whole grain breads -- foods that help students live healthier lives and do better at school.
A new law called the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act went into effect July 1 that requires schools to meet higher nutrition standards. Here's how Chef Douglas is offering students great tasting food that follow the new guidelines: "We take a whole protein and we add different seasonings and flavors to it, so we have our BBQ chicken, our lemon herb chicken, our grilled ranch chicken and our sesame teriyaki chicken. We present these, we showcase these, on a grill so that when the kids come out it's showcased, its garnished, it's smelling good -- and the kids come out and you look like you’ve been slaving over this grill all day for them. We're giving them a viable, healthy product."
These meals are available at very low prices to all students, and for free or less than $1 a meal for students who qualify.
Approximately 1 million California students are eligible for free or reduced price lunches but don’t participate in the program.
Parents are telling Chef Ryan they’ve noticed their children want healthier food at home, while teachers are reporting that students’ attendance rates are rising and they're more focused in the classroom.
Call your child’s school today to find out about how to enroll in it’s heal thy meal s program.