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LAUSD's Student Stores, Loaded With Junk Food, Thriving After Lunch Revamps

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School lunches at LAUSD have long been an issue. Jamie Oliver tried to fix them, and kids wouldn't eat. Now the California Nutrition Association is even holding competitions to see if anyone can concoct a tastier alternative to pizza and pink milk, but in the meantime students have found another way around the less-than-appetizing cafeteria food: heading to the student stores for snacks.

These snack shacks, which are operated independently of the LAUSD cafeterias and the food services program, provide an alternative to the unpopular slop that's served during lunch hour. The profit goes to items that the district can no longer pay for: sports uniforms, graduation expenses, and dance decorations. And even though these student stores are supposed to sell district-approved items, they often times head to Costco to pick up whatever sells.

As recently reported by the LA Times, that includes Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, Goldfish crackers, and packages of Pop Tarts. The story also notes that many students bring items like Flamin Hot Cheetos to campus to be sold as contraband. And there's no telling what students get when they are off campus for lunch (usually fast food), or what their parents deliver (the article sites one parent brining over chips topped with liquid nacho cheese and carne asada).

It's a long and ugly uphill battle for LAUSD. Says the Times:

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The district, meanwhile, is attempting to market its food options as best it can. A few weeks ago, for example, officials invited a group of elementary school students and their parents to a meal — served on china — with former White House chef Walter Scheib. If they can convince young students that healthful options are cool, the district reasons, perhaps the message will catch. Before asking the group to pledge to curb junk food and eat more healthfully, Scheib acknowledged how hard it can be.

"It's like stopping smoking," he said. "It's an ugly and brutal process."