Middle School Takes Healthy School Lunch To A New Level

healthy school lunch

Imagine a healthy school lunch salad bar in every school in America!

I’ve always had a big concern that our kids are not getting a healthy school lunch even though there has been a ton of press over the last year to make sweeping changes to the quality of foods our kids are being provided. How many times do you hear about school lunch programs either locally or really anywhere in America today that consist of chicken nuggets, pizza, hamburgers (pink slime!) and very little in the way of good nutritious fruits and vegetables. You hear it every day and your kids experience it everyday as well but in one school in Richland, WA, there are sweeping changes to the school lunch program that have recently been instituted that would make this school lunch the envy of the country.

RICHLAND — Middle school students at Christ the King School in Richland crowded around the fruit and salad bar this week.

Some students tried to peek over their classmates for a glimpse at the day’s selection of cut strawberries, apple slices, oranges, bananas, kiwi and fresh vegetables. The fruit and veggie choices were meant to complement the pepperoni salad, chicken patty or hot dog on a whole grain bun already on their lunch tray.

“Oh! They have kiwi! They have kiwi!” one seventh-grade girl said as she waited in line.

It’s a far cry from what kitchen manager Angela Huber expected when the school launched its weeklong pilot lunch program.

“They’ve embraced it. They love it,” she said of the experiment.

The school decided Friday to go with the selection of healthier entrees and sides for the 2012-13 school year and is considering implementing it before the end of the current school year.

Christ the King School Students Try Out New School Lunches

If this is not a model for all schools to follow when it comes to providing kids with health alternatives, I don’t know what is. You could hear the excitement in the kids voices when they talked about all of the new possibilities for school lunches and you can’t help but think that salad bars like this should be placed in every cafeteria in every school across the nation. It promotes healthy eating, healthy living and it gives kids a healthy choice for their lunch or snack.

The flip side to the story is the cost. Providing fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains to kids in our schools does cost more and schools like Christ the King are struggling to find ways to pay the extra costs associated with healthy school lunch programs.

Using fresh food and higher quality ingredients instead of processed food costs more too. Huber said she paid $50 more for whole wheat buns for Monday’s lunch.

“I think the law is phenomenal,” she said of the new guidelines, but “I’m faced with trying to keep the cost of lunch down and provide a healthy meal.”

Schick said Sodexo only would get another 6 cents per lunch served as part of the increased federal subsidy, but the costs of providing healthier meals would outstrip that.

Lorraine Cooper, Kennewick School District spokeswoman, said the district will consider at its April 18 meeting a 5-cent increase for breakfast and 10-cent increase for prepared lunches to cover increased costs.

Pasco schools get more money for their meal programs than other districts because of the high number of students receiving discounted meals. Caul said Pasco is waiting for federal authorities to say how much the district would receive before deciding to raise prices, although the cost of breakfast is expected to go up more than a 25 cents next year.

Although variety is the spice of life, a healthy variety does have a cost associated with it and it’s up to school boards and parents to find ways to make it happen. If that means parents need to pay a little more every year, to me that’s the cost of keeping our kids healthy.

So, the next time your school has a board meeting, make sure you stand up and promote the idea of instituting a school salad bar. Your kids are guaranteed to have a healthy school lunch everyday and that’s all parents can ask for.

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