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Food Justice campaign gets healthier food at Crawford

 The work of the Mid-City CAN Food Justice Momentum Team led to a healthier chicken offering at Crawford High School. Photo by Food Justice Momentum Team
The work of the Mid-City CAN Food Justice Momentum Team led to a healthier chicken offering at Crawford High School. Photo by Food Justice Momentum Team

Starting in mid-April, Crawford High School was part of a pilot program that served about 400 portions of a Chile Lime Chicken Bowl to students on Wednesdays and Fridays.

“It seems reasonable,” said Gary Petill, director of Food and Nutritional Services at San Diego Unified School District. “I understand people want to preserve their culture. 

“We have the most diverse community in City Heights alone. Different people want different types of food.”

The change is the result of the Mid-City CAN Food Justice Momentum Team’s campaign to emphasize healthy foods at City Heights-area high schools. 

This offering, which will cost 19 cents more than non-halal drumsticks, was one of many themes the district offers, which include California Thursdays, Baja beach and Asian bowl.

The chickens are from California, vegetarian-fed and air-chilled – not frozen, he said. 

“The quality is going to be exceptional,” he said.

For Petill, the pilot program was worth it to try to increase the number of students eating a cafeteria lunch. 

“I understand the people are our customers,” he said. “I’m willing to take this opportunity.”

The offering could expand to elementary schools in the Crawford Cluster. Preparing the chicken is possible, because Crawford recently added a $22,000 computerized oven that cooks safely from a raw state -- up to 500 portions at a time. 

Before the program started, about 70 percent of the students at Crawford ate a cafeteria lunch. Petill said the district will be looking at the increase in the number of students who ate lunch in the cafeteria. The school reports that Crawford has had a strong demand for the chicken.

"The students have been very excited about the new Chile Lime Chicken Bowl and our counts have been over 400 servings each Wednesday and Friday," he said.

Crawford student Rosa Duarte, 17, said, “We want to thank you for taking the time to come to our school and make our food better,” during a March 26 visit from Petill to Crawford. “A lot of students don’t eat because they don’t like it. It doesn’t fit their dietary guidelines. ...

“If we can have food everyone can eat, why wouldn’t we?””

Beyond the specific offering, students and teachers were impressed by the attention their school was getting from the district.

“I’ve been teaching at Crawford for 23 years, and I’m pretty sure that this is the first time that anybody from food services has come out to meet with students about the food,” said Crawford teacher Cindy Page in March.

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