Healthy lunches catching on

Students at Walker Elementary are reluctantly accepting a pilot food program designed for healthier breakfasts and lunches.

"It's OK," said fourth grader Brighton Litjens as he ate his blueberry banana bread. "You don't get cinnamon rolls. You don't get sugary stuff. We have to have veggie pizza. It's OK. It's better for you."

In addition to all the vegetables, student meals will have more whole grains and low-fat dairy, less salt and processed meats and chocolate milk offered only once a week. All vegetables will be fresh or frozen, not canned, and other minor changes, such as yogurt instead of syrup for pancakes have been made.

Although lunch prices went up 50 cents throughout the district, staff said it is not related to Walker's lunch program. Lunches in the pilot program were designed to cost the same as a standard school lunch.

Staff say they anticipated some resistance to unfamiliar foods, but expect students to accept the food as it becomes more familiar.

"Our peanut butter count right now is high, said Cafeteria Manager Launa Miller. "I expect it to go down once they get used to the new food."

For now, students are pining for some of their old favorites.

"The only thing we really don't like so far is the pizza ... the dough and the cheese and the toppings," said fifth grader Jessica Lepley. "Last year it was a lot better."

"I wish it was back to the other way," Lepley's twin sister Alison chimed in, "but we'll work with this."

Fourth grader Daniel Ford said he was glad the cafeteria still served pesto pasta, but everything else was "too healthy" for his tastes.

"I don't like how many vegetables they're putting on everything. The breakfast is okay, but everything else is piled this high," he said, motioning six inches above his plate.

First grader Nicole Locklin disagreed on the subject of vegetables, saying her favorite part of lunch is the salad served every day.

Determining Success

Walker staff said it's too soon to tell if the program will be successful.

"Right now our lunch counts are fluctuating," said cafeteria manager Launa Miller. "I can't really tell you honestly how it's going because we haven't had a good test with the kids yet."

Even if students choose the new options, cafeteria staff will only know if they actually like it if they select the same choice the next time it is offered.

"I have a few kids eating that I haven't seen eat before, that are trying some of the newer foods," Miller said.

Miller and her staff will evaluate the program after six weeks and twelve weeks in terms of both popularity and cost.

No matter what changes are made, some kids will probably never like the school lunch.

"My daughter hates school lunch," said Sue Culhane, whose daughter, Emma, is in fourth grade. Emma usually takes her own peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school and refuses to try the new choices.

"She doesn't try out much at home either," Culhane said.

Back at the Walker cafeteria, second grader Vance Weaver complained about the raisins that seemed to be in all the new recipes. Then his friend pointed out his muffin actually contained blueberries, not raisins.

"Well, I hate blueberries too," he said.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or .

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