Can school lunch ever be a meal that’s totally nutritious—and something that kids are psyched to eat?

That’s a question that continues to spark debate in school districts across the country. As the nation tries to battle childhood obesity, the school cafeteria has become a major target.

School districts across the country are revamping menus to include more fruits and vegetables and to limit the demonized triumvirate of fat, salt and sugar. Montgomery County Public Schools are no exception.

While MCPS probably could do more to promote healthier food choices, as found by a report released Tuesday by the county’s Office of Legislative Oversight, the district’s Division of Food and Nutrition Services is meeting and even exceeding local, state and federal nutrition requirements.

Did you know that no salt or fat is added to vegetables served in schools? In elementary schools, all foods are baked. In secondary schools, all foods are baked, except for French fries served in those schools that still have fryers. The food service is planning to replace all fryers with $30,000 ovens by the end of fiscal year 2016. Sixteen schools have the ovens, according to the food service.

Massachusetts gained attention last week when state regulators banned junk food from a la carte cafeteria menus and vending machines in schools. New rules require schools to offer unsweetened fruits and vegetables wherever food is sold besides in vending machines, and provide free water at all times, the Associated Press reported. Only whole-grain breads, 100 percent fruit juices, and flavored milk with no more sugar than plain low-fat milk can be served.

MCPS has already taken some of the same steps: Candy, donuts and honey buns are prohibited from being sold during the school day. Other foods must be sold in single portions and snacks must meet fat and sugar requirements. Only these beverages can be sold: water; flavored, non-carbonated water; low-fat or fat-free unflavored or flavored milk; 100 percent fruit juices or fruit beverages with a minimum of 50 percent fruit juice; and sports drinks that are only available in physical education areas.

Other changes can be seen as well. When I wrote about school food several years ago, parents said that they wanted to see more fresh fruit offered at lunch and served in ways that made it easier to eat. Quarter an orange because peeling one is too much trouble, they said.

When I visited the cafeteria this past school year at my daughter’s elementary school, I noticed that plastic cups of quartered oranges were available—as well as cups of salad greens.

But providing healthier food doesn’t ensure that it will be chosen by students. To be sure, high school students can still eat hamburgers, cheeseburgers, pizza, or “a spicy chicken sandwich” every day if they want to.

Maybe those choices shouldn’t be available at all. But what about personal responsibility when it comes to making food choices? According to the county’s legislative oversight report, the MCPS food service serves an average of more than 57,000 lunches each day. That means not much more than one third of MCPS’s 144,000 students eat school lunch.

And that means that most students are probably bringing lunch from home, where parents should be the main influence over what goes into a lunch box.

Stop by a school cafeteria sometime and check out a lunch table. The nutritional quality of school food may be an issue, but so is the array of neon-colored yogurts, flavor-blasted chips, and Kraft Lunchables that show up daily in lunchboxes across the county.

Yes, we need to make sure MCPS keeps working on improving school lunches, especially for kids who rely on them for meals. But, as for the rest us, maybe it’s time for a food quality audit of our own.

Julie Rasicot

Julie Rasicot can be reached at julie.rasicot@bethesdamagazine.com