L.A. school lunches go healthy with mango smoothies, ramen, berries. Will students bite?

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Los Angeles school chefs — largely responsible for providing the main source of daily nutrition for tens of thousands of children — served up new back-to-school options Friday, the latest attempt to provide healthful yet appealing food to youthful taste buds. But in a world of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, will students eat their school meals?

Enter turkey, ham and cheese croissants for breakfast. “Nashville” hot chicken tenders and honey biscuits, mango smoothies and meatball sub sandwiches for lunch.

“It is good,” wrote diminutive third-grader Antonio Plascencia on his grading form, which he intended as high praise. He polished off his croissant sandwich before even moving to the next item on his tray.

Feeding L.A.’s children has long been an imperative in the nation’s second-largest school district. About 80% of students are from low-income families and many grapple with food insecurity. Parents’ long work schedules can be an additional challenge for preparing meals, let alone healthful ones. Every school day, the $180-million-a-year L.A. Unified program serves more than 300,000 breakfasts, about 285,000 lunches and about 70,000 early dinners.

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