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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Largest School District In the U.S. Will Serve Antibiotic-Free Chicken


Children attending schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the largest school district in the nation, will soon be eating better meat. The LAUSD’s Board of Education recently approved the 2014 Good Food Procurement Resolution which calls for food procurement guidelines to include antibiotic- and hormone-free standards. The LAUSD is the largest food purchaser in Los Angeles, the second most populous city in the U.S., serving 650,000 meals a day.

The Resolution is part of the Good Food Purchasing Pledge. Developed by the LA Food Policy Council (LAFPC), it has been described as being Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) type standards for food. In October 2012, the City of Los Angeles signed the Good Food Purchasing Pledge, and few weeks later the LAUSD signed it. It consists of five key values: local economies, environmental sustainability, valued workforce, animal welfare and nutrition. It includes a tiered, points-based scoring system. It also features a baseline commitment: To be a Good Food Purchaser, a baseline for each value is required to be met.

"The passing of the resolution shows the bold steps school districts are taking to ensure the health and wellness of students," said Laura Benavidez, deputy food services director for LAUSD.  "Providing the best possible, highest quality food for students shouldn't be a privilege, it should be a standard."

The Urban School Food Alliance focuses on improving chicken served at cafeterias

The Urban School Food Alliance, a coalition of the nation’s largest school districts, which includes LAUSD, announced an antibiotic-free standard that companies can implement when supplying chicken products to schools. The alliance focuses on chicken because it is one of the most popular food dishes served at cafeterias.

The standard requires the following:

The alliance formed almost two years ago with the aim to use joint purchasing power and influence to bring costs down while setting better standards for the food served in member schools. Alliance members procure over $550 million in food and supplies a year, serving over 2.9 million students daily.

Why antibiotic free chicken is important

The majority of antibiotics sold in the U.S. (about 80 percent) are used on farm animals, including chickens, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). And most of the antibiotics given to farm animals are given routinely, mixing them daily into food and water, which contributes to antibiotic resistance in humans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 2 million people in the U.S. become sick every year with antibiotic-resistance infections. At least 23,000 die as a result. The CDC states in a 2013 report that “up to half of antibiotic use in humans and much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe.” The World Health Organization (WHO) cites the “inappropriate use of antimicrobial drugs, including in animal husbandry” as a factor in the rise of antibiotic resistance.

Image credit: DC Central Kitchen

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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