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Common Sense Solutions for School Lunch

When was the last time you ate a school lunch?

For me, it was last November. Monday, November 14th to be exact. That day I got the chance to eat lunch at a Boulder, Colorado school with Whole Foods Market’s partner and tireless advocate for healthy school lunches, Chef Ann Cooper.

And just my luck, it was pizza day!

What’s really great is that in addition to pizza, kids in the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) get to choose from several varieties of fresh fruit (Monday’s selection was sliced oranges, pears and apples) plus they get a trip through their school’s salad bar. 

Made possible by a grant from Let's Move! Salad Bars 2 Schools, these salad bars are stocked with foods like corn, peas, kidney beans, mixed greens, carrots, garbanzo beans, cottage cheese and a delicious whole grain salad.

While I was there I chatted with at least three dozen kids from kindergarten through 4th grade, and I can tell you that the kids at Mesa Elementary School are excited about lunch!

Despite the skepticism of many adults I meet, I can attest that the kids loaded their trays with veggies from the salad bar.

Of course, every kid does it differently.

Some piled a little of everything onto their trays while others kept their selections neatly separated. Some even chose a salad to go with their lunches brought from home.

It was also refreshing to see that common sense has prevailed in all sorts of ways under Chef Ann’s direction.

Take water, for example. The National School Lunch Program's new guidelines call for every child to have access to water at lunch. Seems obvious, right? Well, many school cafeterias simply weren’t designed with this thought in mind.

Instead of an elaborate or expensive fix, Chef Ann’s team marched to their local sporting goods store and bought a $20 water dispenser for each cafeteria.

Problem solved and water at hand!

That water cooler sits right next to a bulk milk dispenser. That’s right, cold organic milk from a soda-style self-serve dispenser. I often hear from school officials with trepidations about children’s ability to serve themselves and then make it to a table with a glass of milk. I assure you, kids can do it!

And as a big plus for schools, self-serve dispensers eliminate the waste of cartons and provide the ability to offer organic milk for about the same as the cost of milk in a carton!

So, I simply want to say, “Hats Off!” to Chef Ann, Chef Beth of the Food Family Farming Foundation, the great staff of Mesa Elementary School and all the other committed adults who make a delicious healthy lunch possible for BVSD kids every day.

If you’re wondering why the Whole Kids Foundation® is so set on celebrating these “school lunch victories,” it’s because we hope to show parents and those who are passionate about healthy kids what’s possible and maybe even inspire you to get involved with a school near you.

Want to find out more? Check out the Whole Kids Foundation website, sign up for our email newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Then go have some school lunch and let us know what they’re doing in schools near you.

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Greg Marshall says …

Great to see schools taking action on this.

Renae says …

Simply stunning solution to the water problem...we are trying to get rid of the plastic water bottles that are served in our lunch room. We have been starting to plan to get a filtered water system in place and sell water bottles as a fund raiser. This stupidly simple, can't believe we didn't think of this. Presumably the little dixie cups we would have to use are more readily disposable then the plastic from the bottles.

Steaz says …

Glad to hear there are organic beverages for the kids!

Rebecca says …

Renae, another option would be to have the school add "one reusable water bottle" to the school supplies list each year. No disposable dixie cups, and no cost to the school. Selling water bottle as you mentioned is a great idea too!

Veanne says …

This is terrific! Our school is moving in this direction!

Katelyn Larsen says …

Hello, I was forwarded to your blog by a contact I recently met, and I'm really interested in learning more about the bulk milk dispenser program this school has going. Is there anyone I can contact for more information? I am trying to start the bulk milk dispenser program going in Minnesota, where currently no public school is set up for dispensers.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@KATELYN - Was this a program conducted by Whole Foods? The main program we currently have in schools is our salad bar program. If you have a link or more information regarding the bulk milk, let me know and I can investigate further!

Megan says …

@Nikki - I don't see anymore posts regarding the milk dispenser program. I have read Organic Valley was added to schools in Boulder, but can you please help with the dispenser information and how to go about get an organic milk program at the schools? Thanks

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MEGAN - I would suggest reaching out to the Whole Kids Foundation directly to find out more info about the dispensers. You can find their contact info at https://www.wholekidsfoundation.org/contact/