Bilingual Nutrition Director Helps Better Serve Latino Population in CA Schools

Connecting with students and truly understanding the community you serve is paramount to a successful school meal program. Looking to serve the school district’s large population of latino children, Keppel Union School District (CA) Keppel USD has found ways to incorporate common latino dishes and flavors into their school menus. 

Screen Shot 2019-11-20 at 2.02.17 PM Director of Child Nutrition Services Lilian Arreguin, the district’s first bilingual director, combines a knowledge of child nutrition with her personal cultural experiences to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all of her students. Students are offered a variety of familiar flavors and international foods, mixing local foods with Mexican and Asian cuisine.

“The fact that I’m bilingual and first generation Mexican American is a bonus in an ever-changing diverse population,” said Arreguin. “I relate to the student population in this area since I grew up eating the items the students now really enjoy. I am able to teach, translate and have better communication with our bilingual students, staff and parents. I attend some community meetings and I’m able to discuss with our parents the difference between having lunch with child nutrition versus having lunch at a fast food place.”

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Director of Child Nutrition Services Lilian Arreguin reading to students during Dr. Seuss’ birthday week.

 

As a child, Arreguin remembers having to translate for her parents and other children of immigrants. Due to their Green Card status, her parents were afraid to apply for school lunches. After a caring and compassionate moment with her “favorite school lunch lady,” she was able to apply for her school meals. 

This moment has stayed with her and guided her to a career in child nutrition, making sure every one of her students has access to a healthy school meal. She uses those skills today to keep an open dialogue with parents regarding their children’s nutrition. 

According to Arreguin, student favorites include local staples such as nachos or Taco Tuesdays, as well as popular Mexican dishes, like papusas, tamales and flaquitos. Understanding her community, she is able to cultivate a menu that caters to her students’ and staff’s tastes, as well as fits within nutrition guidelines.

 

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Keppel USD’s Child Nutrition Department produces various special activities throughout the year for students to enjoy nutritious foods while learning to expand their palates. Every school offers a healthy Banana Split Bar, an Alphabet Bar featuring fruits and vegetables from A to Z, various barbecue menus and even a homemade strawberry shortcake. Students enjoy a healthy brownie during their birthday months, prepared from scratch by nutrition staff.

Additionally, Arreguin is the California School Nutrition Association Chapter 37 President in the Antelope Valley, which enables her to assist her neighboring districts in bilingual and authentic Mexican menu building.

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