School Foods Don’t Have To Be GrossPosted November 9th, 2012 by Julie Holbrook
As the manager of a public school cafeteria, probably the biggest myth I encounter is that of the mushy and disgusting school food. The nasty school meal is assumed and treated like some rite of passage for kids often perpetuated by TV shows and movies.
Nothing can be further from the truth at my school. We are a rural public school in upstate Keene Valley, New York, serving kindergarten to 12th grade kids all in one building under one roof. Our children eat well, very well, thanks to their efforts, parents, school staff and the community-at-large.
A school volunteer started our composting program in 1995. Between that and our edible school garden, we have created a rich environment and curriculum for the children, in which they are able to study plants and insects and learn how to grow and harvest their own food. And they eat it – and enjoy it!
The first salad is served for lunch in June. When students return to school in September, they harvest the produce, which is then integrated into their meals. We depend on the community for donations in the way of seedlings, plants, soil amendments and supplies. We have also been able to count on the support of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which has allowed us to grow our own produce, make our own bread and depend on local farms for grass-fed beef, eggs and supplemental produce. You won’t find pink slime in our school cafeteria!
Our healthy school lunches are not expensive either. Breakfast can be purchased for $1.60. Lunch for students costs between $1.85 and $2.10. We have received great deals from our local cattle farm, which admires what we are doing. We also participate in a “school CSA share,” which allows us to take any leftover locally grown produce.
The meals themselves are delicious. A meal in November is a choice between spaghetti with meat sauce or marinara sauce, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an egg salad sandwich, fresh fruit and milk. I now have two workers who are amazing and love what we do and are great cooks and such hard workers. They are constantly coming up with menu ideas, which our students, teachers and staff appreciate.
It has taken all of us, a village here in Keene Valley, to get our kids to eat well and stay healthy. But it’s so worth it. I do love what I am doing so much.