Cultivating Young Palates is Lesson Plan

Connie Smith

Northern Ozaukee students will have more fruits, veggies on menu

By Mark Jaeger, Ozaukee Press Staff

Classes in the Northern Ozaukee School District start Tuesday, and students will be expected to get down to some serious learning as early as the first lunch hour.

Taher, the private food-service company that has been preparing lunches in the district for a decade, will be implementing an innovative “Food 4 Life” program.

Following newly revised United States Department of Agriculture guidelines on child nutrition, the program will put an emphasis on fruits and vegetables at every lunch.

Lunch program manager Connie Smith said weekly menus have been carefully planned to offer the required amounts of the various food groups.

According to the guidelines, students must have at least ½ cup of fruit daily in kindergarten through either-grade, and one cup at the high-school level.

The weekly vegetable requirement is ½ cup of dark greens (such as broccoli and spinach), legumes (such as beans, peppers, celery and asparagus) and leafy vegetables such as lettuce. The menu also offers ¾ cups of orange and red vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, squash and tomatoes) a week.

“If you think of the old cafeteria trays with the large rectangle where the meat used to go, that is no longer the standard we are following,” Smith said.

The so-called meat standard is now a minimum of 8 to 10 ounces weekly at the K-5 level, 9 to 10 ounces weekly for sixth through eighth grade and 10 to 12 ounces per week on the high-school menus.

Minimum and maximum calorie amounts have also been set for each meal.

“We are following the directives of the Department of Public Instruction, so these are not just going to be changes for our district but for every school district in the state”, Smith said.

She said the new emphasis still leaves plenty of room for kid-pleasing meals.

The opening-day menu at the Ozaukee Elementary School, for example, offers a choice of chicken patty on whole grain bun or ham and cheese sandwiches with sweet potato fries, along with Romaine lettuce salad, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, an apple and mixed fruit.

The middle and high schools will offer the same fruit and vegetable bar items, along with daily Classic Café entrees, and dining options called Pizza Parlor, Diner Station and Grab-n-Go.

Students will find the lunches cost less when they include the fruit and veggie items than if they leave them off their trays.

“When the student goes through the lunch line, if they don’t have the required fruits and vegetables on their trays they are going to be charged the higher a la carte price,” Smith said.

Smith said she is concerned that the policy is going to result in more wasted food, but the intention is to keep exposing children to healthy food choices.

Milk choices will also be limited to 1% and skim.

Lunch prices are $2.05 at the elementary school, $2.25 at the middle and high schools and $3.25 for adults.

This year also marks the beginning of the breakfast program at district schools.

The first day breakfast at the elementary school – served from approximately 8:05-8:30 a.m. – will include banana chocolate bread, yogurt, canned fruit, juice and milk. The secondary -school breakfasts – served from approximately 7:05-7:30 a.m. – will include a whole grain cinnamon roll, canned fruit, juice and milk.

Breakfast prices will be $1.25 at the elementary school, $1.50 at the secondary schools and $2 for adults.

The details on how the breakfast program will be run are still being worked out, but Smith said students would be able to pick up food in the commons before classes start.

“I have an idea in my mind of how I want things to go, but we will see how it really works once school starts,” Smith said.

The breakfast program is being offered on a trial basis through the end of the year, and the cost will be covered by meal prices and state funding.