Rachael Ray Is Bringing A School Lunch Revolution To NYC

While school lunch might be a different type of 30-minute meal, Rachael Ray is ready to offer her culinary insight to transform that food tray. Although some kids might sing the praises of the Lunch Lady who transforms one day's meatloaf into the next day's sloppy joes, there are students who find the meals a little less appetizing. As reported by the NY Post earlier this year, an anonymous Instagram account chronicled the unsavory food choices that filled the lunchroom trays. From paltry scoops of brown food to almost unrecognizable dishes, the imagery was concerning. The unappetizing choices had many students taking a break from the school food fare.

According to Public School Review, "a significant percentage of the millions of pounds of meat consumed by children in the school cafeteria continually fail to meet quality standards imposed by fast-food outlets." While food recalls and quick service restaurant contaminations get headlines, the potential of E. Coli, Norovirus, and other pathogens in school lunches do not necessarily get the same scrutiny. Even though the Child Nutrition Act addresses food handling, it is only one aspect of putting edible school lunches on the table. In New York City, the current mayor is preparing a school lunch revolution and many well-known chefs are leading the charge.

New York City school lunches get a 'yum-o' boost from Rachael Ray

The old joke about school lunches such as cardboard-like pizza and mystery meat might be retired soon for students in the five boroughs. As reported by ABC7NY, Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David Bank created New York City's first-ever Chefs Council, which includes Rachael Ray as well as several other well-known chefs, authors, and advocates. The purpose of the council is to create "healthy and nourishing meals" while following health standards and reflecting local communities and their cultures. The Chefs Council seeks to create and implement plant-based recipes that can be cooked from scratch in schools.

While this new initiative appears to be well-received, it is not the first time that the New York City school system has sought to make changes to school lunches. According to the NY Post, previously Mayor Adams created "Plant-Powered Fridays." Going back to 2018, the Bronx experimented with Chef Dan Guisti's Brigaid, which sought to change kids' attitudes about school lunch by providing them with dishes that were nutritionally sound and tasty (per The Smithsonian). While the program had chefs and students rethinking the food on the plate, the biggest hurdle was getting them to feel comfortable with the tastes. As the new Chefs Council takes on New York City school lunches, one concept might need to flavor every recipe: Lunch should be more than a time to chat with friends, it's a meal that should make them feel good.