PROMO Food - Cooking Home Pots Soup Stew - iStock - Ozgur Coskun

Colorado pilot program prioritizes healthy, culturally relevant school meals

© iStock - Ozgur Coskun
Alex Gonzalez

(Colorado News Connection) Two Colorado mothers are helping lead a school food pilot program within the Jefferson County School District in Edgewater in an effort to not only provide healthier meals, but culturally relevant foods. 

Esther Caldera, a community leader and mother involved in the Jefferson Area Schools Food Pilot, said it began even before the state's Healthy School Meals for All program, a ballot initiative that passed last year. Caldera said school meals have improved, more needs to be done to ensure kids can have access to healthier foods that they truly enjoy.

PROMO Food - Health Vegetables Person Diet - iStock - Prostock-Studio

© iStock - Prostock-Studio

"We have seen that nutritional politics need to be revised, because they are not appropriate for the nourishment of our kids. Imagine, kindergarteners are receiving the same amount of calories as those who are in sixth grade. It is a lot, and there is a lot of food being wasted," she said. 

Caldera added change is difficult, but necessary. A recent study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition calls for updating nutritional standards for healthier school meals. Caldera said like to see school leaders be more willing to work to achieve better food options for students.

PROMO Food - Cooking Plates Ingredients Table Kitchen Restaurant - iStock - Rawpixel

© iStock - Rawpixel

Azucena Rubio, a community leader and mother of three, said says getting children to eat healthier foods can sometimes be a challenge, but she's noticed they're more willing to eat the types of food that they're used to eating at home. She said she once was in school herself, and remembers many times not wanting to eat school meals that simply weren't appealing. She hopes people who work in school cafeterias can also advocate for their pilot program.

"I'd like to feel their [cafeteria workers] support, because they're the ones that are going to prepare the food and then offer it to our children. So, I would like to see that support, the change and the introduction of more cultural foods," Rubio continued. 

When kids are presented with appealing and healthier food, they'll want to eat, which in turn affects their overall performance in school. It also means less food waste, since less will be thrown away, Rubio said.