Come for breakfast and stay for lunch — the menu at Shorewood schools just got a little healthier.
There are some new foods lining plates in the district due to new federal regulations. In a nutshell, the new regulations push for more fresh fruits and vegetables, raise the percentage of whole grain in a lowered amount of breads, and put a minimum and maximum calorie intake on meat or meat alternative (i.e. an egg) per child per meal.
“That is the first time the USDA has issued a max for meat protein,” said Shorewood Taher Food Service Director Barbara Marr.
Marr, who is in her second year at Shorewood and known for greeting and waving back at students as they pass by her open-door office at the entrance to the youth center, oversees a staff of about 10 people, two in each of the four schools plus a sub and a swing person.
I have a newfound respect for what our team does for all the kids in the district. They put out over 800 meals a day (lunch averages are 90 at Shorewood High School, 180 at Shorewood Intermediate School, 250 at Lake Bluff and 350 at Atwater Elementary School) and have it all spic and span well before kids are dismissed for the day.
Shorewood schools now offer 1 percent or skim milk, though non-fat chocolate milk is still an option, and each month feature a fruit, a vegetable and a grain. This month the fruit is melon, the vegetable is peppers and the grain is sweet corn. Also under the new regulations, a ¾ cup of an orange or red vegetable and at least ½ cup of dark green vegetable, a starchy vegetable, and a dried bean or legume is required. There are fruit and vegetable bars at every school for lunch, and students must choose at least two items.
“We found ourselves way ahead of the healthy changes,” she said, “as we’ve already gone to the trans fat free items, lower saturated fat and less sodium” as are stipulated in the new guidelines.
Taher, based in Minnesota, is one of the few vendors for school lunches that have dieticians on staff who are available to consult with Marr on lunch options, and have been busy all summer creating new recipes that comply with the USDA regulations.
The two women at each elementary school have two separate menus to create, and one that just caters to the sixth grade. And because seventh through 12th grades do not take a lunch count, they have to estimate the number of lunches that will be needed at the Shorewood Intermediate School and High School. It is an inexact science but the people doing it have a pretty good average.
When asked about the presence of genetically modified foods or GMO items in the lunch, Marr could not specify if items are or are not GMO based, but a USDA subsidy of fruits and vegetable items are likely not organic.
However, the local farmer program will be growing in 2012, with the effort to include local and fresh produce from the area.
Something Shorewood’s Food Service takes seriously is sharing healthy habits at home, and encourages parents to get more involved with their children’s nutrition.
First, they strongly suggest involvement at breakfast and lunch, which means yes, you can come to school and share a meal with your child.
“We hardly ever see an adult down here to eat, but I think it would send a great message to students that there is no stigma to eating school lunch,” said Marr, referring to the cafeteria at Shorewood High School which serves breakfast daily from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. ($1.30 for students, $1.50 adults) and lunch at the times posted on the website with chips, drinks, and a la carte fruits.
She added parents do frequently join their children for lunch, but they are sparse for breakfast.
“Sometimes I think maybe students don’t realize we might have a sub sandwich and salad bar for $2.70 that they’re going to another location off campus to pay $6-$10,” she said.
I can tell you the breakfast burrito ($1.30 even for adults) I smelled when I was in there made me wish I’d come earlier to get one. Second, Taher has put out a list that complies with the Michelle Obama advocacy against childhood obesity that features lowfat milk, yogurt and cheese, unsweetened cereals, corn chips and salsa, unsweetened applesauce, nut butters, sunflower seeds, or fresh vegetables.
A third suggestion is about in-school snacks provided by parents, which Taher encourages be not only healthy when possible, but to consult the teacher for any student food allergies before bringing those peanut dairy birthday cupcakes.
By the time I left after talking to Marr, I was starving, after smelling the chicken and sauces being cooked up for lunch.
Tools for parents
Marr handles the online and check-based lunch payment system and all the point of service machines at lunchrooms across the district. There is a new registration for online payment that works very smoothly if you know your child’s Powerschool (registration) number. If you don’t know it, she can look it up for you (Bmarr@shorewood.k12.wi.us).
Then simply go to the district's website, click on family resources, then food services. Go ahead and register and then pay up. It’s that easy. If you want to go to lunch with your child, you can use that number for yourself, too. You can always check your account at mynutrikids.com website.