Plenty to be Thankful for in Livingston Parish School Cafeterias

Preparing a healthy Thanksgiving feast for 20,000 students and parents is quite a challenge, but Livingston Parish Public Schools (LPPS) in Louisiana rises to the occasion. The district staggers their holiday lunches, giving parents an opportunity to join their children for the Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter holidays.

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Thanksgiving celebrations took place during the week of November 12 for LPPS, before students’ holiday break. The menu featured fresh produce, whole grains and a healthier version of dessert – a festive fruit parfait made with sliced oranges and pineapple with fat free whipped topping and a candy corn garnish.

The turkey stuffing, known as “dressing” in the Southern states of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee, is made with cornbread, fresh seasonings, scallions, celery, etc. Aside from turkey and the cornbread dressing, students are served a side of peas, cranberry sauce, baked yams and a whole grain roll.

According to Sommer Purvis, the Administrator of Special Programs for Child Nutrition at LPPS, the biggest challenge food service staff face for the Thanksgiving holiday lunch is managing kitchen and cooking schedules. Most prep work is done ahead of time, allowing for preparation of regular breakfast and lunch menu items to continue simultaneously.

In addition to the special meal, students write letters to school nutrition professionals, food service staff and custodial staff, thanking them for all that they do each and every school day. Activities are planned for students in the cafeteria, including a Thanksgiving word search where students entered to win movie gift cards for the holiday break.

The staff members have enjoyed it just as much as the students, said Purvis. Festive decorations can be found throughout cafeterias during Thanksgiving week. Much of the nutrition staff and food service staff dress up in pilgrim costumes, turkey and pumpkin hats, special autumn t-shirts and headbands with wobbly turkey legs.

Purvis explained that school nutrition staff also coordinates with teachers so that students can create their own hats, centerpieces and bulletin board designs to help decorate the cafeteria. Student artwork and handcrafted pumpkin centerpieces on lunch tables set the holiday mood for a feast to remember!

Aside from parents, roughly 50-60 community members are invited to Holden School alone to join in on the Thanksgiving fun and enjoy the celebration as well.

An example of one of the Thanksgiving crossword puzzles that students could enter to win a movie gift card!

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