In many countries in Europe lunch is just another class, offering opportunities to learn about food, health, and sustainable behavior.
Create a pilot program in P.S. 321( or P.S. 39/124/etc.) that trains current cafeteria staff to purchase real, healthy, mostly plant-based ingredients from local venders and to cook delicious, nutritious and sustainable food for breakfast and lunch . Additional full-time staff would create a lunch brigade empowered to meal plan, purchase, inventory, and lead active lunch-time lessons on what constitutes a healthy meal, how to compost food waste and reduce/reuse/recycle packaging, even basic cooking techniques.
Unlike test-focused math and verbal lessons, “lunch class” would be low stress, encouraging social interaction and building life skills.
The grant to fund this pilot program could eventually lead to another to study the effects. Though the department of education would have to pay more upfront the city would likely see a return in reduced healthcare costs, increased worker productivity, and more engaged citizens (who know how to dispose of their waste in a way that reduces the cost of sorting trash and reduces rodent populations).