Greenhouse, Scratch Cooking & Salad Bar: Recipe for School Meal Success

Through the determination and hard work of the small nutrition department at Platte County School District #2 in Wyoming, grants secured in the past two school years have boosted the meal program with an infusion of fresh food. According to Food Services Director Dawndrea Daly, grants enabled the district to construct a geodome greenhouse on school grounds, pay for a salad bar and increase the number of scratch-made menu options for their school meal program.

The district of about 250 students is small but mighty. Daly proved that this summer, as the sole full-time food service staffer to provide Summer Meals to students through August. During the school year, the department has 3 staff members. The district has an open campus policy for older students, but because of the increase in fresh produce and scratch cooking, Daly said that student meal participation has continued to increase.

Food Services Director Dawndrea Daly was the sole full-time food service staffer to provide Summer Meals to students through August.

“It is our hope that by implementing these programs, we are making a good impact on our students’ lives, beyond feeding them healthy and nutritious food,” said Daly. “We are thrilled that they are enjoying the scratch meals we put so much time and thought into creating.”

Scratch cooking had been a large part of the small district’s food service history, however, over the years the use of prepared foods increased. When Daly became director, scratch cooking made a big return. Menu options including pizza, soups, lasagna, rolls, cinnamon rolls, breakfast burritos and more started to be made in-house. As Daly explained it, participation has also increased because students “eat with their eyes first,” and homemade foods has enticed them to eat school breakfast and lunch more often.

With hopes that the newly installed salad bar could remain available to students, Daly has worked with staff to provide a safe method where students are served by a staff member to take extra precautions during the pandemic.

Unfortunately, due to the impact of COVID-19 on school learning methods, the school has not been able to utilize its geodome greenhouse in 2020-21. However, when it was installed last year, Daly said students learned how to plant, grow and harvest fresh produce, which was featured in school meals and as part of the new salad bar. In addition to providing local student-grown produce for meals, a Junior Master Gardener Program was implemented allowing teachers to incorporate the greenhouse as part of their science and math lesson plans as well.

Prior to the pandemic, the department also held an on-campus baking program for students with chefs from King Arthur Flour. Students were also given all of the ingredients and instructions to bake fresh bread at home with their families, further emphasizing the benefits of scratch cooking for healthy, growing children.

Farm to School Comes to Life at Dover-Eyota Schools

While many schools have adopted a Farm to School program, Dover-Eyota Public Schools (MN) has gone above and beyond to offer their students fresh, locally-sourced school meals. Using apples from their own school orchard to make homemade applesauce and sourcing beef from a local farm to offer freshly-made hot dogs and hamburgers are examples of how they celebrated Farm to School Month, which wrapped up last week.

A Dover-Eyota PS school lunch: buns are from St. Charles Bakery in St. Charles; the hamburger is from Goldenrust Farm in Eyota, whose children attend Dover-Eyota schools; the tomatoes are from Blattner Farm (Produce Plus), whose children went to Dover-Eyota as well; the lettuce is from Revol Greens in Owatonna – making this entrée 100 percent local! 
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Lunchtime May Look Different, But School Meals Are A Student’s Best Friend

Lansing Central School District lunch with rotini and homemade marinara sauce.

School lunch and the way it’s served during National School Lunch Week may look little different in 2020, but schools are still working hard to introduce new menus items and get kids excited about eating health meals at school. Students in Lansing Central School District (NY) know first-hand how school nutrition professionals have risen to overcome challenges to adapt meal service to various in-person and remote learning methods during the pandemic.

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Curbside Lunch Pick-up Doesn’t Stop National School Lunch Week Celebrations

National School Lunch Week (NSLW) looks pretty different this year for Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools (NC) as K-5 students won’t be starting in-school classes until October 19. The district has been running a curbside meal pick-up operation to coincide with distance learning, but they haven’t given up serving nutritious and delicious meals for their students! ECPPS is offering prepared meals that are shelf stable or heat-and-eat selections for middle and high schoolers.

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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.” Read more…

School Cafeterias On Trend During National School Lunch Week

During National School Lunch Week 2019, school districts are featuring Instagram-worthy, healthy school menus that tout trends highlighted in School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) recent national report. The 2019 Trends Survey reveals cafeterias across the country are offering students more international foods, locally sourced ingredients, antibiotic free proteins, customizable meals, whole grain rich foods and grab-and-go options on menus. Read more…

Fresh School Garden Produce Inspires New Menu Options

As the harvest season comes to an end and Farm to School Month approaches, Southampton Union Free School District (NY) school gardens final crops are producing  various squash and pumpkins for school meals. To ensure her students have access to healthy, fresh ingredients and nutritious new menu options throughout the whole school year, district Food Service Director Regan Kiembock works with a number of local farmers as well.21192762_1863359707014577_4104292490504018530_n

The district’s impressive garden is organized by the Southampton School Garden Committee and is funded through a number of grants. Since produce is regularly used in school meals, funds are set aside from the school lunch fund to buy supplies as needed. Nearby Cornell Cooperative Extension also helps support the gardening efforts with free seeds in the spring. Items grown in the school garden include a wide variety of lettuce, along with asparagus, onions, squashes, pumpkins, raspberries, kale, peas, garlic, herbs, tomatoes, beets and carrots. Read more…

Whole Grain Rich Options Abound in Schools

Whole grains are on school lunch trays to stay, according to School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) recent survey of school meal programs nationwide. When USDA regulations pertaining to whole grains in school meals took effect to add more menu planning flexibilities in July, some were worried about what this would mean for the whole grains in cafeterias across the country. However,  over 90 percent responding to the survey indicated that their school districts will exceed federal whole grain requirements.

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‘Build Your Own’ Options Offer More Scratch Made School Meal Choices

Following trends in popular restaurants and cafes, Hopewell Valley Regional School District  (NJ) has crafted an exciting and unique menu for students across the district’s six schools. Since scratch cooking was introduced into the food service department about five years ago, the menu selection has continued to grow each year, according to Food Service Director Denise Menza.

Grab N Go
Typical Grab n’ Go section featuring school lunch options in Hopewell Valley Regional School District (NJ).

The district adheres to the USDA guidelines while utilizing ingredients in creative ways, helping to entice students and staff with healthy and delicious meal offerings. Read more…