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Recently, the National School Lunch Program has been under fire regarding strict nutrition standards. Congress wants to roll back these standards, claiming that schools find it difficult to meet these standards while still appealing to students. While some schools have found trouble in implementing healthful foods in their meals, a number of high schools have excelled at it and are making nutrition education an important part of their mission. Read on to learn more about the 10 high schools with the healthiest outlooks on food in the country:

The Calhoun School, New York City, NY

The Calhoun School’s Eat Right Now program started back in 2002, which makes healthful eating an important part of the school, both in the cafeteria and the classrooms. The menu always offers a number of vegetarian options and the food is cooked in a way that uses the least amount of unhealthful oils. The main goal of this program is to provide students with an understanding of how food can be both healthful and delicious, so that these eating habits will continue throughout their lives.

Sidwell Friends School, Washington, DC

Since 2004, the school has focused on green cuisine — food that is environmentally, ethically, and healthfully sound. Things such as lessening meat consumption, sourcing locally, and using fresh, minimally processed ingredients are focuses of this program. Such foods as nutrient–dense leafy greens and fresh herbs are encouraged and sourced from the school’s roof gardens when available.  As well, ethnic foods are sometimes offered to promote diverse diets. This program has been important in educating students on the importance of cooking with whole ingredients and sustainable food practices.

Kimberton Waldorf School, Phoenixville, PA

The Food For Thought program is a hands-on program that involves growing, harvesting, and cooking food. The lunch program involves fresh ingredients and offers diverse, healthful options that include traditional as well as ethnic dishes. Students are involved in farming the plants, volunteers work in the kitchen to cook the food, and then students learn about composting food scraps to be reused in the garden. In addition to their own farmed food, they source their food from local CSA’s and farms.

Cristo Rey High School, Philadelphia, PA

Cristo Rey High School partnered with the Eatiquette program in September 2012.  The program focuses on family style eating — sitting down at a table with peers, passing food around the table, and interacting with one another. A chef prepares mostly fresh and unique items and students are encouraged to learn about what they are eating and try new entrees.

Deerfield Academy, Deerfield, MA

Deerfield Academy was the recipient of the 2013 Golden Carrot award presented by the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine. The award honors the cafeterias that focus many meals on whole, plant-based foods. Deerfield has been doing this by offering nutrient rich leafy greens, a variety of plant-based proteins, and fresh fruits and vegetables. They are also educating students about different whole foods — one instance of this was when the cafeteria was divided into sections representing part of a healthy diet and assigning different foods to different tables. Each student learned about a different whole food at each table.

Northeast High School, St. Petersburg, FL

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine also has a program that grades schools every year based on the nutrition of their food programs. In the last report card, Pinellas County Schools got a perfect score of 100, and this is the first time any district has ever accomplished this. They offer numerous healthful vegetable dishes, make fresh foods financially accessible, and have educated students on different whole plant foods. One school in the district, Northeast High School, goes a step further in the classroom through their Culinary Academy program, which offers a full-year nutrition and wellness course among other healthful food preparation courses.

Howard High School, Ellicott City, MD

Howard County Public Schools also got a high score on the PCRM School Lunch Report card.  Vegetarian options are always available as well as fresh fruit and low-fat vegetable side dishes.  As well, the schools participate in a farm-to-school program, which provides fresh produce to schools directly from a farm. Howard High School is a certified healthy school and even has a hydroponics garden through their STEM Garden club.

Evanston Township High School, Evanston, IL

Evanston Township High School developed an organic community garden which has provided students with a learning experience in understanding and appreciating the process of growing food. The Nutrient Services department focuses on ensuring a student’s health, so students can learn at the optimal level and students can continue these habits outside of and after graduating from school.

Berkley High School, Berkley, CA

Berkley Unified School District’s lunch program is run by Chef Ann Cooper, who you may know from her TED Talk. The district has a number of nutrition goals that include, but are not limited to, fresh fruits and vegetables served every day, salad bars, produce sourced from local and organic foods, and the exclusion of trans-fats and high fructose corn syrup. As part of Berkley High School’s curriculum, they have the Green Academy, which educates students on sustainable agriculture and gives students the opportunity to help with the school’s vegetable garden.

Franklin High School, Portland, OR

As part of the Portland Public Schools, Franklin makes local and whole foods a large part of their lunch program. Their program includes a fruit and veggie bar and they participate in Farm to School programs, purchasing about 32 percent of their products from these programs.  Franklin in particular has multiple gardens on their property, which encourages garden-based education. The school also includes education of public health issues in food manufacturing, factory farms, and fast food workers.

These schools show that school lunches can not only be nutritious and accessible, but that students can also learn about the importance of eating healthfully. Using hands on and creative education tools, students are not only hearing what’s good for them, but experiencing it too.  These schools exemplify what it means to educate students in a well-rounded manner and will serve as models for nutrition education in schools in the future. Do you know of any healthy high schools? Let us know in the comments!

Image source: Miyuki Meinaka/Wikimedia Commons