No beef over meatless lunch

No beef over meatless lunch

There was no “mystery meat” on the lunch menu Friday at the South Side’s Betty Shabazz Charter School. Indeed, there was no meat at all — not Friday, not ever The Betty Shabazz International Charter School was recognized for its healthy lunches by a national physicians group. Its all-vegetarian fare — ranging from baked spaghetti

There was no “mystery meat” on the lunch menu Friday at the South Side’s Betty Shabazz Charter School.

Indeed, there was no meat at all — not Friday, not ever

The Betty Shabazz International Charter School was recognized for its healthy lunches by a national physicians group.

Its all-vegetarian fare — ranging from baked spaghetti to tofu enchiladas to red beans and rice — is part of the school’s overall philosophy of promoting “healthy living,” said Elaine Mosley, chief education officer at Shabazz, 7823 S. Ellis.

“One of the things that sets us apart is that we look at the whole of things in terms of development,” said Mosley. “Obviously, nutrition is part of that.”

A national physicians group has recognized Shabazz head chef Stuart Spears, along with Glendora Green, head chef of Shabazz sister school Barbara Sizemore Academy, with its top school nutrition award, the Golden Carrot.

The school chefs, who will split a $1,500 top prize, were honored as a federal report Friday separately concluded that nationwide, schools have made “significant improvement” in lunch nutrition in recent years.

Some 30 percent of school districts nationally prohibited junk food dispensed by vending machines in 2006 — up from 4 percent in 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study. Schools offering salads a la carte increased from 53 percent in 2000 to 73 percent in 2006. French fries were sold in 19 percent of schools — down from 40 percent, the CDC reported.

However, 77 percent of high schools still sell soda or fruit drinks that are not 100 percent juice and 61 percent sell fatty, salty snacks, the CDC said.

At Shabazz, a public school named after the wife of Muslim leader Malcolm X, the 300 students get salads and fruit along with their meatless entrees. Chef Spears said kids don’t ask for meat and don’t seem to miss it.

“The fettuccini alfredo is excellent,” opined Cairo Ndiaye, an 8-year-old third grader.

Children who eat a healthy vegetarian diet have a lower risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease compared with those who grow up on an average American diet, according to the Washington-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a pro-vegetarian group that annually awards the Golden Carrot.

However, the National Institutes of Health warns that parents who raise children, especially babies, on a vegetarian diet must make sure kids get the nutrients, fat and calories they need to thrive. Iron requirements can be met with tofu and fortified cereals, while protein can be delivered through beans and nuts.

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