The Food Service Department is proud of the role it plays in providing students with a nutritious meal each school day. Our goal is to provide students with a well balanced meal, which is appealing to students' tastes, and meets the guidelines of the National School Lunch Program.
The USDA meal patterns require five components must be offered to qualify for a reimbursable meal. A Meat/Protein, Fruit, Vegetable, Bread, and Milk must be offered in specific quantities. These meal patterns are designed to provide 1/3 of the recommended dietary allowances for key nutrients. The menu must also provide no more than 30% of the total calories from fat, and no more than 10% from saturated fat over the course of a week.
In order to encourage students to eat a complete lunch, we offer two entrée choices at each elementary, and more choices at the Middle and High Schools. Every entrée we offer is available as a meal when bundled with a fruit choice, vegetable choice, milk and bread. Since we began to offer our Chef prepared premium entrees as a meal, we experience more students purchasing meals rather than buying the entree a la carte.
At each school, we have introduced the students to a greater variety of fresh fruit including Kiwi, Watermelon, Plum, Cantaloupe and Pomegranate, just to name a few. This year we are now offering a whole grain white bread from Sara Lee.
French Fries (which are considered a vegetable) are baked rather than deep fried in all elementary, middle and high schools.
Desserts are considered a treat with lunch, and have been limited to two times per week on the menu. We also added 2-5 serving of grains/breads each week to help students meet daily requirements of this category. Other changes we have made include using more reduced calorie dressings, light mayonnaise, limiting ranch dressing, and offering skim or 1% in place of 2% milk.
Part of the funding of the National School Lunch Program comes to the district in the form of USDA donated commodities. As students tastes have changed, the types of foods offered as commodities have changed with them. Rather than receive whole Turkeys as in the past, we now receive processed items such as Turkey Mini Corn Dogs, Chicken Nuggets, Fully Cooked Hamburger Patties, Pizza Dippers and Taco Meat. These items are prepared using ingredients that help lower the fat and salt they contain. For example, cheese products are made with part skim milk, and beef products have added soy or turkey. We also receive much of our canned fruit and frozen vegetables as commodities.
In order to meet the nutritional requirements of our meals, we take specific steps when preparing food items. Ground Beef is rinsed after cooking to skim off fat, and ground turkey is added when possible. All products that are typically deep fried, (chicken nuggets, chicken patties, popcorn chicken) are baked in ovens with no oil added. We do not add butter or margarine when cooking vegetables and they are steamed when possible. Salt is no longer added as a seasoning, and we use pepper or other herbs as flavor enhancements.
A la Carte
A la Carte items are snacks that students may purchase that are not part of a meal. They are offered to Middle and High School students only, and are intended to compliment a meal rather than replace it. For that reason, we follow the USDA price guidelines so that a meal is always a better value than purchasing items separately. We offer a la carte snacks in the main food court area, so students do not have to choose between buying lunch or a la carte. All a la carte items we sell are approved by USDA guidelines, although we have limited high fat a la carte items, and introduced more baked and low-fat snack items in their place during the past two years.
We promote healthy eating with our Pure Health Program. A colorful logo identifies snack items that are below 30 calories from fat, so students can easily identify the healthier foods that are available. There is also a nutrition board posted in the elementary cafeterias that features weekly nutrition tips and other information to encourage healthy eating. Our Chef-prepared Premium entrees are designed to introduce healthier foods that students may not be familiar with, allowing them to experience good tasting foods that are good for them as well.
At each elementary building, we have a colorful Nutra Kid poster, with nutrition tips aimed at younger students, to help build good eating habits. We are promoting Nutrition Month with a nutrition display board as we did last year. Students can see a comparison of sugar and fat contained in the popular foods they eat, to help them understand the impact good choices makes on their health.
We understand the changing environment and the concern of rising childhood obesity. We will continue to evaluate the lunch program as new information is received, and make changes as necessary to comply with USDA guidelines and any local policies.
I would also be glad to speak to anyone who needs more information or has concerns about Nutrition and our school lunch program.