My memories of school lunch in the ’80s and ’90s include rectangle pizza, fries and applesauce: not a lot of choices, and probably not the best nutritional value. I certainly never tried kale at school.
Fast-forward to today and our school district’s cafeterias: What a positive difference! Every day, students choose from a selection of lunch entrées – more than 30 each month – which always includes a fresh meal-size salad, a fruit, cheese and yogurt plate, and a PBJ or SunButter sandwich. Each entrée is paired with several sides of fruits or vegetables that include sliced oranges, kale-and-apple salad (with homemade vinaigrette), grapes, and baby carrots. Breakfast menus are stacked with healthy choices, too, and at both meals, there’s a choice of low-fat milks and 100 percent fruit juices.
It’s equally impressive that these menus meet challenging federal guidelines to ensure nutrition and controlled sugar, salt and fat levels, and the cost to students is kept low: $1.50 for breakfast; and for lunch, $2.35 for elementary, $2.60 for middle and high schools. (If you’re struggling financially, please apply for our free or reduced-price meals. This program is here to help you and your family through challenges.)
For the past three years, our school nutrition program has earned state and USDA recognition – including top platinum awards – for its outstanding commitment to the farm-to-school movement, using locally and Georgia-grown fresh ingredients (some harvested from school gardens), and teaching students about where their food comes from and making healthy choices.
Of course, we still serve favorites like pizza and chicken nuggets, but we use the same brands you may use at home, like Gold Kist chicken, and we serve pizza by the slice (triangle-shaped!) and personal pan pizzas. We teach children about a balanced diet, and we hope parents do their part at home. Ultimately, it’s up to each of us, as parents, to teach our children about healthy choices.
We’ve created a brief “Welcome to Your School Cafeteria” video, available on our school district’s YouTube channel, to give students and parents a better understanding of how our cafeterias work and the choices offered. You also can find a video about our farm-to-school program and a Thanksgiving video about the homemade recipes we make year-round in our kitchens.
P.S. The price for visitors is $1.75 for breakfast and $4 for lunch. Why not make plans to share lunch with your child? And try the kale salad!
By Barbara P. Jacoby, contributing writer and chief communications officer for the Cherokee County School District.