Los Angeles Unified, the country’s second-largest school system, is home to more than 650,000 students, and 42 percent of them are overweight or obese. In 2011, the district decided healthier school lunches were the best way to help them not be.
At that point, Los Angeles was already on the julienning edge when it came to fighting childhood obesity through food: It outlawed sodas in schools in 2004, banned selling junk food on campus, and swapped the bulk of its canned and frozen produce for fresh.
But the new menus were the most austere measure yet, cutting kid-friendly favorites like chocolate milk, chicken nuggets, corn dogs, and nachos. Instead, little Jayden and Mia would dine on vegetarian curries, tostada salad, and fresh pears.
A student rebellion ensued—kids brought Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to school rather than much on quinoa salad…