LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwire - Oct 24, 2011) - The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health's RENEW LA County initiative and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) today stressed the importance of healthy food access in schools with a healthy school food cooking demonstration as part of national Food Day, a grassroots mobilization effort for healthier diets and improved food policies. One of more than 2,000 Food Day events nationwide, including more than 200 in California, the event featured a healthy breakfast from the new LAUSD menu prepared for elementary school students by LA County Department of Public Health Director and Health Officer Dr. Jonathan Fielding and Let's Move to School Chef Giovanni Delrosario. Dr. Fielding and school officials also spoke to students about the importance of breakfast as a start to the educational day.

A school breakfast costs 60 cents for elementary school students and $1 in secondary school, and about 80 percent of LAUSD students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. However, more than 300,000 students who are eligible for free or reduced-price breakfasts don't participate in the school breakfast program.

LAUSD's new, student-driven 2011-12 school breakfast and lunch menu features nearly 80 new and healthy menu items and includes more vegetarian options, additional whole wheat and grains, and a wider range of ethnic foods. The new menu also includes fewer breaded products, limited cheese in menu items and only "fresh" fruits and vegetables.

"Studies show that well-balanced meals are key to students' academic and athletic successes, and students who are lacking proper nutrition have shorter attention spans and lower test scores in school," said Dr. Fielding. "School-based nutrition education helps children develop lifelong healthy eating patterns and helps them make healthy food choices when they are off the school campus."

Today's event marked the continuation of a partnership between RENEW LA County and LAUSD that aims to create healthier meals for children through the adoption of the National Institute of Medicine's recommendation to put limits on calories, fat and salt in school meal offerings. LAUSD is a national leader in promoting healthy food in the school meals program, including increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables, reducing sodium levels and added sugars in its foods, and banning sodas and other drinks high in sugar. The District has also banned the sale of junk food and has eliminated food with added trans fats, MSG, artificial dyes and animal fats.

Other Food Day activities for residents in Los Angeles County included food film screenings, gardening workshops, CalFresh outreach and enrollment at farmers markets, Zumba classes and additional cooking demonstrations at schools. Organizers also encouraged families to have healthful potluck dinners with friends and to use these gatherings as opportunities to engage in dialogue about food and our nation's food system. Local Food Day partners included the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, California Food Policy Advocates, Occidental College's Urban & Environmental Policy Institute, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy and the Community Market Conversion Program.

For more information on healthy eating in Los Angeles County, residents can connect with Choose Health LA online, which represents all of the public health efforts of RENEW LA County and includes informational videos about preparing healthy breakfasts, lunches and dinners, as well as reducing sodium and sugar-loaded drinks consumption. Visit Choose Health LA on Twitter @ChooseHealthLA, on Facebook and at ChooseHealthLA.com.

About RENEW LA County
The LA County Department of Public Health's RENEW (Renew Environments for Nutrition, Exercise and Wellness) initiative seeks to improve nutrition, increase physical activity and reduce obesity in LA County. RENEW LA County is made possible by a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Communities Putting Prevention to Work initiative.

About LA County Department of Public Health
The LA County Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 4,000 employees and an annual budget exceeding $750 million. To learn more about Public Health, visit publichealth.lacounty.gov, visit the YouTube channel at youtube.com/lapublichealth, find Public Health on Facebook at facebook.com/lapublichealth, or follow Public Health on Twitter: LAPublicHealth.