You can offer children healthful food, but how do you get them to eat it? It is no surprise that this definitely can be a challenge.
Our philosophy at South-Western City School District is to provide healthful versions of food that our students will enjoy.
Over the years, school lunch and school breakfast have many times been viewed as not offering healthful options. The stigma is that school cafeterias serve fried, tasteless, high-fat and high-sodium foods. However, this is far from the truth.
School lunch has evolved over the years, especially since 2010 when the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act reauthorized the Child Nutrition Act. This was the first time in 30 years that the United States Department of Agriculture made healthful reforms to school lunch and school breakfast programs.
The cooks in our kitchens work hard every day to serve our students. On an average, we serve 6,900 breakfasts and 13,000 lunches per day. The Food Service Department takes pride in serving what our students want and like to eat.
Every year, we evaluate our menus in all grades and discuss what the students like and do not like.
We then remove items that do not have a high participation rate and work with our vendors on new products. We also do taste-testing at some of the schools to gather feedback from students.
The South-Western City School District participates in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program. These programs provide guidelines for meal requirements and are driven by reduced-fat, low-sodium and whole-grain options. The ordinary person would think that this sounds bland and tasteless. However, our biggest participation day is Big Daddy's pizza day. The pizza crust is 51 percent whole grain and it is made with reduced-fat cheese, which is lower in sodium.
During the course of the week, our cafeterias offer a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables including dark green, red/orange and starchy vegetables along with beans and legumes. These vegetables range from fresh broccoli to baked sweet-potato fries. The grains we serve are 51 percent whole grain, including muffins, buns and the breading on all of our chicken products.
Our vendors have shifted to clean-label products as well, eliminating high-fructose corn syrup and artificial ingredients.
We do have options for students who buy snacks during the lunch period, but these snacks must be "smart snack" compliant. In order to be a "smart snack," the food item must meet nutrient standards for calories, sodium, fat and sugar.
The SWCSD food service department has an interactive online menu, through Nutrislice, on its website. The menu is offered in multiple languages and helps parents review the nutritional facts associated with the food we serve in our cafeterias. We welcome and encourage parents to join their child for lunch in the school cafeteria.
Looking forward to seeing you soon in one of our cafeterias!
Lisa Hamrick is the food-services supervisor for the South-Western City School District.