LAUSD To Serve Gourmet Food To Students Monday, May 19, 2008 By Crisalys Vasquez
After the drastic change that took place in LAUSD schools with the banning of junk food in 2004, the district is proposing a new order on food that officials hope will yield positive results. The pioneer of this movement is former USC chef Mark Baida who has been appointed as LAUSD’s first ever executive chief. His mission is to provide hearty nutritious food for students across LAUSD. Chef Baida hopes to have many students purchasing this new food. Starting this month, seven different entrees will be offered on a two-week cycle. School Nutritional Policy Coordinator Andrea Giancoli however has to approve his food before it is distributed among schools to ensure it provides nutritional value. “We analyze all menu items with software programs to record their nutritional values,” she said. The food will be made in such a way in that it will be more appealing to the eye, putting particular emphasis on its texture and appearance, according to Chef Baida. This movement is part of a plan to increase student participation in the school lunch program. According to cafeteria manager Marcelino Mejia, “LAUSD is always looking for ways to improve their food. This in my opinion will be a positive change.” Even with the success the new school lunch program hopes to achieve, the program faces a potential setback because of school budget cuts. Although this new food will obviously be more sophisticated than the food that is being served now in school cafeterias, LAUSD still plans to pay for students’ meals through the school lunch program. In addition to introducing new food, Chef Baida hopes to develop a new system distribute his meals. One of the ways he plans on doing this is by making meals more accessible through the usage of kiosks and carts that sell food. “I will not serve something I do not enjoy,” said, Chef Baida. This newly christened chef has had experience working with top chefs such as Wolfgang Puck, Patrick Healy, and Ken Frank. “I want our students to excel in the classroom and offering them quality cafeteria food is an important part of that goal,” said Superintendent David L. Brewer III. “We are excited to have Chef Mark join our team and help guide the food services branch in its efforts to deliver healthy nutritious meals.” Some of his planned meals are the chicken italiano melt which consists of baked chicken with cheese and herbs sandwich as well as barbecue chicken sliders that are almost like mini chicken burgers with pickles and tomatoes. Although some components of the food that will be prepared are frozen, some of it is fresh. Chef Baida hopes to “meet that fine line of tasty and healthy food.” Food safety is number one for the new executive chef.Chef Baida plans on giving detailed recipes for cafeteria workers to prepare his food. The new food is scheduled to begin being served later on this month. In September the program will take off full speed.