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The Los Angeles Times reports that a private elementary school in West Hollywood, California, is teaming with Whole Foods to create a school lunch program that works to address the issue of childhood obesity and poor nutrition.

"Think baked chicken simmered with Kalamata olives and roasted red peppers," the LAT writes. "Freshly prepared lasagna layered with organic, turkey-studded marinara sauce. Jewel-toned zucchini steamed until fork tender. Even the school turtle, Chuck, dines on day-old vegetables and fruit from Whole Foods."

Andrew Rakos, general manager of the Fountain Day School, tells the paper, "By helping children have a taste for whole foods and natural things instead of being soaked in salts and butters, we're creating healthy bodies, healthy minds, healthy tastes."

To be sure, this is not an isolated case…though California seems to have more than its share of cases where schools are looking for unorthodox solutions to the childhood obesity issue.

"School districts around the country have responded by axing lucrative soda contracts, booting junk food from campus vending machines and revamping their lunch menus," the Times reports. "Some schools, notably the Berkeley middle school adopted by food guru Alice Waters, have begun planting campus gardens and using the harvest in school lunches.

"That impulse has taken root locally, too. In the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, for example, campuses feature farmers market produce in their salads. Los Angeles Leadership Academy, a charter school in Koreatown, boasts a scratch kitchen from which sugar, refined flour and red meat are exiled.

"A collaborative of California growers keeps salad bars at public schools from Ventura to Compton stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables. And students at Normandie Avenue Elementary in South Los Angeles hope to use the yield from the vegetable beds and fruit trees they planted in the same way."

Now, the situation at the private ($850-per-month tuition) Fountain Day School is not without wrinkles. For one thing, some parents see the relationship with Whole Foods as a kind of selling out, wondering if it is as bad as allowing a soft drink company to sponsor a team or scoreboard. Some critics say that the program would be hard to replicate the program on a broad scale – the Los Angeles Unified School District spends about a buck a child per day to provide school lunches, while the cost of the Whole Foods lunches at Fountain Day – even with a discount – is about three times that figure.

KC's View:
One of the things we like most about the Fountain Day program is that the school is not so religious about the program that it takes all the fun out of life. For example, parents are allowed, even encouraged, to bring in cupcakes or other indulgent treats when a child is celebrating a birthday, which makes simple sense. Healthy eating isn't about complete denial, after all. It is about making intelligent, informed choices and allowing yourself to indulge when the spirit moves you.

It seems to us, though, that the various models demonstrated by Fountain Day and Whole Foods and Alice Waters and the Los Angeles Leadership Academy and all these other schools and organizations offer the food industry – and specific stores and chains - a wonderful opportunity to forge new relationships within their communities. By connecting the dots between the industry and public school systems and the children they serve, we can actually begin to move the needle on childhood nutrition and the obesity epidemic, while at the same time doing some good for our businesses.

This needs to be kind of crusade. Let's start advocating right now for a national effort to get supermarkets to work with school districts to provide healthier foodservice programs, even if that means going head-to-head with existing foodservice companies that are providing these services now. Let's provide not just great product, but also great information, becoming a resource for teachers looking to instruct their kids about nutrition issues.

Now, we know this won’t be easy, and that there will be naysayers. But we have confidence; after all, for years we wrote that the industry needed to create a program focused on getting families to eat more suppers together, that such an effort would have both an enormous societal impact as well as helping business. It took a long time, but the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) recently teamed with the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University for a national marketing and public education program to do just that, citing CASA's research saying that kids who eat dinner with their families have lower incidences of smoking, drinking and drug abuse. So now, the focus is on a single day later this year where all families will be encouraged to have dinner together – we don’t think one day goes nearly far enough, but we suppose you have to walk before you run.

So this will be our new crusade, and we're going to keep hammering it home. (What the hell. We need a hobby.) Instead of citing reasons it can't work, let's find ways to make it work. It won’t happen quickly or easily, and when it finally happens we don’t expect to get any credit. (Nobody has ever cited our numerous columns that preceded the FMI-CASA program, but that's fine. What's important is that the industry is moving in the right direction.)

In the end, this isn’t about money or credit or even a business bottom line. It is about kids and their communities, and the industry's opportunity to show responsibility to both.