So Long, Sloppy Joe: What's Cooking At School

How schools are meeting new federal nutrition standards.

Schoolboy holding plate of lunch in school cafeteria smiling at camera
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The Alliance for a Healthier Generation has also enlisted celebrity chefs to create enticing kids' meals such as Rachael Ray's "Cheesy Mac and Trees," which boasts broccoli, to serve at schools. Ray, in fact, helped launch Michelle Obama's "Chefs Move to Schools" program, which connects chefs with schools and represents one of many elements of "Let's Move!"

[See 'You Can't Eat That!' No Match for Junk Food.]

As school districts swap advice on how to successfully meet the new standards, one administrator shares this tip: "You just need to keep positive that we are doing something that will help our students" for life, says Annette Derouin, director of food and nutrition services for Willmar Independent School District in Willmar, Minn. "We all should be eating more fruits and vegetables and lowering our sodium levels," says Derouin, who developed 35 breakfast and lunch menus for the four districts she supervises and has trained nearly 200 of her colleagues on updating school meals. "Why shouldn't we help educate our students to get there too?"

And while schools can create real opportunities to better nourish kids, it's only part of the solution, says Janey Thornton, USDA deputy under secretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services. What happens at home and beyond is another story. "We're not the sole answer all by ourselves, so we need to think about our cafeterias as a very important learning lab."

Corrected on 08/29/2012: An earlier version of this story misstated the year of a comedy sketch referenced on Saturday Night Live.