Whole Foods Joins Healthy School Lunch 'Revolution'

Last Updated Sep 11, 2009 1:07 PM EDT

As obesity and other public health issues come into the spotlight, there is more and more focus on school lunch programs and the foods kids have access to at school. On Labor Day, thousands gathered at "eat-in" picnics across the country to push for improvements to the School Lunch Program -- part of a national action created by Slow Food USA.

Now Whole Foods Market is joining the fray, kicking off what it's calling a "'School Lunch Revolution' awareness tour." The grocery chain is pushing for a higher government investment in school lunches and a stronger emphasis on foods that are fresh, natural, local and nutritious.

"There is a role for everyone when it comes to getting fresher, healthier school lunches served in our schools," said Whole Foods Co-President and COO Walter Robb in a press release. "From parents learning to pack healthier lunches, to our customers donating to the cause, to our Team Members getting involved at their local schools, and with key community groups, to elected officials interested in prompting real change."

Congress recently passed a bill requiring schools in the National School Lunch Program to come up with plans promoting nutrition and student health, but critics say the bill has no teeth. "It leaves it up to the school districts to decide how they're going to do it and gives no additional funding and no enforcement," according to nutritionist and food industry critic Marion Nestle.

Parents are getting increasingly involved in the politics of school lunches, and many schools have banned or restricted soft drinks and other unhealthy options. In general, a push towards local, fresh foods and away from processed options is not good news for food companies -- but Whole Foods is in a rare position and can only benefit from increased visibility on this issue.

  • Katherine Glover