Sullivan said each year, the district tries to implement another healthy initiatives. So far they've worked on increasing fruit and vegetable consumption by changing the menu to offer additional choices. They've also introduced more whole grains like quinoa served in a whole grain salad, or tabouli. One year saw an emphasis on legumes. To go along with each new food change, the district brings in outside sources to interact with students and food service staff to add an educational component.
"We've been fortunate to have help from outside sources. The Governor's chef came in and did program training with our staff. We did sampling and groups like the Cornell Cooperative Extension come in and we worked with dietetic interns at Russell Sage College to promote healthier foods through educational programs in the cafeteria."
Sullivan said it takes time to win over students to the changes, but she said she already sees progress.
"We went around to classrooms and educated students as to why its important to eat fresh whole foods instead of processed. Sometimes I take a label off a processed item and show them the difference between what's in processed food versus the number of ingredients in fresh food," said Sullivan. "It's a cultural thing we're up against. Children are marketed too heavily to bad food items. It's been slow, the students when I meet with them they ask, 'why did you take off these good foods, can we have them back?' So I explain why and once they understand, they're much more accepting of it."
Sullivan said the switch to fresher foods hasn't cost the district any more money, but has required an increase in labor by the current staff.
"Those are the people who make it all happen because they have taken on the extra work involved, which can be substantial in producing fresh whole foods instead of processed foods," said Sullivan.