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District praised for healthy lunches

In Saratoga Springs, students across the district are eating roasted red potatoes, grown locally, in place of frozen French fries when they buy a school lunch. They're eating herb crusted chicken instead of processed chicken nuggets or patties, and their salads are made up of kale or other lettuces from farms right in their backyards.

The district's conscious effort to eliminate unhealthy food choices and replace them with fresh, organic and locally grown produce is why Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary Janey Thornton of the USDA sat down to lunch with kindergartners and first graders at Geyser Road Elementary School on Thursday, Oct. 21, to see the whole food initiatives first hand and share the Obama administration's approach to spreading this change nationwide.

Improving school lunches is a priority for the Obama administration in its efforts to combat childhood obesity, said Thornton in a statement. "It was great to see the efforts made by the Saratoga Springs City School District in moving from processed food to fresh, whole foods made from scratch."

Margaret Sullivan, the district's school lunch program director, said the district began the restructuring effort several years ago by eliminating what they identified as the worst food, like French fries, hot dogs, cheese sauce and chicken nuggets, chicken patties and mozzarella sticks, foods that were "big number" items on the days they were served.

To secure the freshest produce and food, the school bought items from Sheldon Farms and recently forged a partnership with Saratoga Farmer's Market; in return for using a district building for the winter market, the district receives payment in the form of fresh food every Monday, to be divvied up among all schools.

"When we come in on Monday, we don't know what we will get, so it's a surprise. It could be beets, squash, last week we had quite a bit of bok choy and yesterday it was kale, so we made greens and beans at the high school," said Sullivan.

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