Now that she has a newborn son, actress Natalie Portman is turning her attention to schools -- Los Angeles public schools, to be exact.
In a letter addressed to Superintendent John Deasy in early October, Portman lauded him for Los Angeles Unified's overhauled lunch menu, as well as the district's new "Golden Carrot Award." The $3,000 prize was awarded to LAUSD for their "major nutritional policy changes" that include a social awareness campaign as well as a change in the cafeteria.
Portman thanked Deasy for the school's emphasis on a healthy lifestyle curriculum, saying that the changes make it more likely for students to "bypass the cheeseburgers and put healthful items on their trays." Those healthy items include vegetable tamales, fresh salads and avocado wraps. But it's also what the LAUSD doesn't serve that makes the grade: flavored milk, soda and trans fats.
Portman also brought up baby Aleph in her letter, stating, "I'm worried about my son's generation. Childhood obesity has hit a record high, and experts say that one in every three children born today will develop diabetes in his or her lifetime." The actress, who usually maintains a vegetarian diet, has been an outspoken critic of the industrial food complex and claims that Jonathan Safran Foer's book Eating Animals turner her into a vegan. She had to give up that lifestyle while she was pregnant, however, saying, "I was listening to my body to have eggs and dairy and that sort of stuff."
LAUSD cafeterias were in the spotlight in early 2011 when British chef and food activist Jamie Oliver brought his televised "Food Revolution" to Los Angeles. The district, at the time led by Superintendent Ramon Cortines, banned his crew from all campuses. Oliver ended up constructing public teaching kitchens in Westwood and visiting local restaurants to finish out the Southern California season.
But it wasn't all a waste. In April, the LAUSD revamped their menu to include chicken tandoori, pad thai, California sushi rolls and Salvadorean beef stew, which the Los Angeles Times guessed could be attributed to Oliver's on-camera activism.
By June, Oliver and the newly-instated Superintendant Deasy appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel Live! show to announce a truce. The pair also announced a ban on flavored milks for all LAUSD campuses, one of Oliver's pet causes.