Let’s do lunch: NYC joins other big cities in school food alliance

Same lunch menu from NYC to L.A.

New York City has joined forces with five other big-city school districts in a move to reduce food costs and encourage healthy meals, the city’s Department of Education (DOE) said Wednesday.

The Urban School Food Alliance includes New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Miami-Dade and Orlando. The six school districts will coordinate menus to improve purchasing power from food providers.

To kick off the program on Wednesday, kids from New York to L.A. all ate the same lunch: roasted chicken, brown rice with seasoned black beans, steamed green broccoli, fresh fruit and assorted milk.

The six school districts serve 2.9 million lunches a day -- including 860,000 in New York City.

“Our goal is to offer our students nutritious and delicious meals while keeping costs down,” said Deputy Chancellor of Operations Kathleen Grimm. “Costs for food throughout the country are going up and the Urban School Food Alliance will help us to band together and control costs by buying in large quantities.”

“We want to give a national voice to a healthier meal program where costs are contained," says Eric Goldstein , chief executive officer of School Support Services for the city’s DOE, who spearheaded this alliance.

“This show of solidarity is unprecedented,” Los Angeles Unified School District Food Services Director David Binkle said in a statement.

“We created this menu based on the most popular items we commonly serve in each of our Districts,” said Leslie Fowler, director of Nutrition Support Services at Chicago Public Schools, adding that the menu was based around each district’s most popular items.

Members are also introducing “eco-friendly” practices, such as recyclable food trays.

The six districts spend $530 million annually on food and supplies.

The Urban School Food Alliance first met in the summer of 2012 in Denver and has since met regularly by tele-conference.

About 14 percent of New York City’s food supplies are purchased from local produce and dairy vendors.