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