Students Get Fresh, Local Foods on Lunch Menu

By: Liz Hayes Email
By: Liz Hayes Email

School lunches aren't the same old sloppy joes and chopped suey that you may remember as a kid.

As part of the National School Lunch Program, 80 percent of schools are now serving much healthier meals, and in one district students are also getting a taste of local flavor.

The Antigo Unified School District is one of many that's changed up its menu to offer healthier school lunch.

"It was a challenge, it was very much a challenge to come up with a menu," said Terry Hilger, the district's food service director. "We tried to design a menu that students would eat, and perhaps not notice that difference."

Changes include more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and less salt and fat. Schools must follow a strict guideline, that includes serving beans once a week.

"Beans were the toughest food to get students to eat," Hilger said. "Whole grains - a lot of students are used to eating white, refined grains and not the whole wheat breads," she said.

However some East Elementary students say they're satisfied, like 11-year-old Grace.

"My lunch today has a lot of protein in it," she said. "It tastes very good, it's not cold and it's not too hot. It has the right amount of seasons and the right amount of fruits and vegetables."

The fifth grader appreciates a healthier plate.

"I've noticed a lot. They've been getting rid of the junk food like the candy and cookies and they've been adding more fruits and vegetables and I like that a lot," Grace said.

While the school lunch program means more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, in Antigo the menu is also infused with a little local flavor.

For the upcoming National School Lunch Week, the district hopes to savor the flavor of some of the foods that are locally grown and produced.

"We're gonna use some real maple syrup, we're going to make our grilled cheese sandwiches from some local breads made from the local bakeries, use the Grandview apples from the Grandview Orchard in Antigo, and of course the Antigo potato," Hilger said.

They'll also use produce grown at the high school greenhouse and tomatoes from local Canopy Gardens.

Five percent of students in the district pack their own lunches, and 58 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch through the school lunch program.

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