Lunch can be one of the highlights of a student's day, and Battle Ground Public Schools' Nutrition Services is intent on making it a fresh, satisfying and nutritionally nurturing part of it. Nutrition Services prepares tasty dishes that meet federal guidelines and fuel students' bodies so that their minds can focus and remain alert during the day.
The department, which is an integral part of the school district, serves both breakfasts and lunches to students every day and organizes events throughout the year to encourage parent involvement in their children's nutritional health and to educate students about making healthy choices. BGPS contracts with Sodexo to manage Nutrition Services and provide food service staff, menu development and event coordination.
"Nutrition Services is more than just the school lunch provider," said Russ Kallwick, Battle Ground Public Schools' Nutrition Services Director. "We support what students are taught in the classroom and extend that education into nutrition at mealtimes and during events."
Events such as Scratch Cooking Week, Kids Can Cook, and the High School Culinary Competition engage students in nutritional education through hands-on cooking activities and encourage parents to join their children for a school lunch. A Fine Dining event, held at a different school each year, teaches kids proper etiquette at meal times. A two-month long free breakfast promotion at the beginning of the school year provides an opportunity for many kids to try school breakfasts and establish a routine of fueling up at the beginning of the day. This year, Nutrition Services served 60,000 breakfasts to students during the free breakfast promotion, which is partially funded with federal dollars.
Parents are invited to have a school meal with their child at any time. An adult lunch costs $3.50 and an adult breakfast is $2.35. Each month nutrition services releases menus in a calendar format that could be turned into a lesson on how to read a calendar.
The primary school menus list entree options for each day of the month, and middle school menus list a main entree. Middle schoolers also have the option of ordering or purchasing a la carte items that meet federal nutrition guidelines, such as cookies, at an additional cost to the price of a lunch. These items constantly change based on availability.
Nutrition Services works to build meals that not only meet federal guidelines, but also appeal to student taste buds, and recently brought a registered dietitian on board to help explore culinary options that are both healthy and tasty. "It's a balancing act to find foods that are nutritious but also are things the kids like to eat," said Kirsten Fox, Nutrition Services' new registered dietitian.
For example, federal guidelines require that fat in school lunches is limited to no more than 30 percent or less of the calories averaged over the course of a week, and that saturated fat is limited to no more than 10 percent of calories over a week's time. "There are lots of things you can't see, but nutritiously they are better," Kallwick said.
In its effort to create healthy and tasty foods, options such as pizza are made with a whole grain crust and low-fat mozzarella cheese. The ketchup served with meals is all natural; absent are sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup. Students who eat school meals must select a serving of a fruit or vegetable with every breakfast and lunch, and can leave it at the sharing table for another student to take if they choose not to eat it. For those who would like more, the fruit and vegetable bar is an "all you can eat" feature of school meals. "We have found that younger kids are open to eating healthy options if we keep introducing them," Kallwick said.
The nutritional value of school meals is posted online at https://www.sodexoeducation.com/segment_0200/district_7111/ENM/Entry1/ by selecting Nutritional Information on the Choose a Meal Category drop down menu.
Money can be added to students' meal accounts through Family Access; and there is no longer a fee charged for this service. Also on Family Access, parents can check a box to receive automatic email notifications when their child's meal account balance falls below $5 (contact your school for login information). In addition, families can apply for free or reduced lunches at any point in the year.
Sodexo Foundation is accepting applications for $400 Youth Grants. The grants provide funds for youth-led service projects that bring people together to address child hunger during Global Youth Service Day April 17-19, 2015. The deadline to apply is Jan. 15, 2015.