Food for Thought
PUSD teams with USDA to feed local school kids healthy meals
By Alejandra Aguilar 07/17/2014
The Pasadena Unified School District is offering free breakfasts and lunches for children under the age of 18 this summer as part of the district’s wellness policy.
PUSD has partnered with the US Department of Agriculture for 34 consecutive years to provide nutritious meals for students during the summer.
“During the school year, we provide over 15,000 meals,” said Ralph Peschek, PUSD child nutrition administrator. “While children may be out of school, they still need nutritious food. We believe (this is) the right thing to do for our students and community.”
PUSD’s goal is to fulfill its wellness policy, which has promoted nutrition and physical activity since a federal rule in 2004 required school districts to adopt wellness plans. Two years ago, PUSD made it a goal to eliminate fat from schools; chocolate milk, beef, candy and pizza were among the items subsequently eliminated from the meals it provided. Activities such as pizza parties and fundraisers in which candy, cookies and other sweets were sold were also prohibited. Following the policy allows the district to qualify for federal funding.
Peschek said the Seamless Summer Feeding Program is one of the ways the district is able to promote its wellness policy. The district also wants to ensure that students have nutritious meals regardless of their family’s economic status.
PUSD has partnered with the city in order to distribute the food at parks in Pasadena. According to Peschek, 40 percent of district students have shown up in the past to pick up their meals. Last summer, they distributed 180,196 breakfasts and lunches.
“Wellness is not just about food; it’s about the entire educational experience for students,” Peschek said.
He added that throughout the past 10 years PUSD has offered classes and conducted community outreach programs to promote wellness. During the last five years, district officials have planted community gardens at area school sites so students can better understand the process that food goes through before getting to their plates.
The USDA reimburses the cost of every meal the PUSD distributes, so the program does not cost the district any money. For times and locations, visit gopusd.com/summermeals or call (626) 396-5850.