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Dallas Schools Take Antibiotic-Fed Chicken Off Lunchroom Menus

PHOTO: Dallas is part of a group of the nation's largest school districts adopting an antibiotic-free policy for chicken served on cafeteria menus. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr.
PHOTO: Dallas is part of a group of the nation's largest school districts adopting an antibiotic-free policy for chicken served on cafeteria menus. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr.
December 12, 2014

DALLAS - The menu is changing - some say for the better - at some of the nation's largest schools, as chicken raised with antibiotics is getting the boot.

The districts that are moving to "antibiotic-free" chicken are part of the Urban School Food Alliance. Its members include the Dallas Independent School District, where Dora Rivas serves as executive director of Food and Child Nutrition Services.

"By collaborating together and using our combined buying power," she said, "we're going to be able to create trends and standards that will hopefully make healthier foods more accessible to all of us."

Rivas said chicken was selected for this initial effort because it's one of the most popular offerings in cafeterias among all schools in the alliance, with Dallas alone serving up nearly 2 million pounds a year. In addition to being antibiotic-free, Rivas said, those companies supplying chicken for the schools must follow several other quality standards.

"Products are also going to incorporate there be no animal byproducts in the feed, and that they're all raised on all-vegetarian diet, and that they're humanely raised, as outlined by the National Chicken Council animal-welfare guidelines," she said.

The other districts in the Urban School Food Alliance are New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami-Dade and Orlando. They, along with Dallas, serve food to close to 3 million children on a daily basis.

Antibiotics routinely are mixed with animal feed to promote growth and prevent illness, but health experts say their overuse can create the perfect environment for spreading antibiotic-resistant bacteria or so-called "super bugs."

More information about Rivas and the Dallas program is online at dallasisd.org. More about the alliance is at urbanschoolfoodalliance.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TX