Julie Holbrook

    School Foods Don’t Have To Be Gross

    Posted November 9th, 2012 by

    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

    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 whatever is left over from the week.

    The meals themselves are delicious. A typical 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.

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    4 Comments

    December 6, 2012 at 9:10 pm by Jill

    My only comment on this is that I am so jealous! Our schools are so far removed from their food sources and the food is patently gross. :( I wish more schools would take the time and energy to follow your lead and see that good, sustainable food is not labor or resource prohibitive. Thanks for sharing.

    [Reply]

    November 12, 2012 at 2:05 pm by New Dad

    First of all, I want to say: congratulations on loving what you do! That’s awesome!

    I’d also like to tell you I’m inspired by what you’re doing out there. At first I said to myself, there’s no way a public school can do this, this has to be a private institution. Then I re-read the article a little more closely… I am so impressed that your community came together so effectively and got a public school to bring healthy eating into the establishment, and made it super cost-effective too! That’s awesome, and you should be very proud of your accomplishments. As a new dad, I often worry about things like what my little guy will be eating when he gets to school-age (currently our plan is “bagged lunch everyday” but that might not always be feasible). I’m glad to know there are people out there who want to make sure my kids get fed healthy food so they can grow up healthy and strong. Thank you!

    -New Dad

    [Reply]

    November 11, 2012 at 11:26 pm by Sarah

    Perfect article! Composting and growing our own food is a good way for a healthy life. I’m so glad I found this one out.. You helped a lot. Please keep on posting.. :))

    [Reply]

    November 10, 2012 at 12:01 pm by Diana Limongi

    hi Julie! I am so glad I found this! I am writing a paper on the role schools can play in combating obesity. Some of the points that you make here are exactly the points I am making!
    I am also working on a project in school to develop curriculum in schools for nutrition education and composting. would love to discuss this further!

    [Reply]

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