Healthful school lunch options abound, Lake Zurich students eating it up
Students take over the Lake Zurich High School cafeteria for lunch Friday. The menu offerings ranged from hot sandwiches to a "fiesta bar." | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 6, 2012 8:44AM
LAKE ZURICH — School-cafeteria dining isn’t what it used to be at Lake Zurich Community Unit School District 95.
Images of cold meatloaf, soggy mashed potatoes and funny-looking vegetables that used to be associated with cafeteria cuisine are now a thing of the past in Lake Zurich schools. District 95 has committed to several new healthy eating initiatives for the 2012-13 school year.
Kathy Taylor, general manager for District 95’s Sodexo food service, said the cafeterias throughout the district are now serving more whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
One item that has already proven to be popular among students is the pizza, which this year has a 51 percent whole grain crust, low sodium sauce and low fat cheese.
“So it’s a very healthy choice,” Taylor said. “You can make things healthy, but if it doesn’t appeal to students, they won’t eat it. So you have to find that balance.”
Other programs Taylor described included Fresh Pick for Better Health, in which elementary school students select a produce item every month and make recipes.
“Each month, it’s a different fruit or vegetable,” said Taylor, explaining that Sodexo tries to bring in exotic fruits to expose kids to more than just apples and oranges.
In September, Taylor said, the produce item is bananas, so grade school students make recipes like strawberry and banana sandwiches. Taylor said Sodexo tries to engage kids in healthy cooking and eating in ways that are fun and creative.
“The kids are just adorable and they just get so excited,” she said.
Taylor also described the district’s Serving Up Smiles program, which takes place in both the middle and elementary schools. The superintendant and principals dress up in chef’s hats and serve smiley-faced foods, like smiley-faced pizza.
“And the kids just love it,” Taylor said.
Also designed for elementary students is a program in which students try numerous produce items every week. The items, she said, are arranged in alphabetical order.
“On Monday, they may do foods that begin with A through E,” Taylor said. “And the rest is broken up over the rest of the week.”
District 95 students also are encouraged to compete in the national Future Chefs competition. Students who participate in Future Chefs take direction from a video featuring a nationally known 12-year-old chef.
“It’s more of a kid-to-kid approach,” Taylor said.
In another brand new initiative, Lake Zurich High School is participating in the Healthy High School Challenge, a nationwide program in which students earn points for activities and nutrition awareness.
“Once a student gets to high school, their eating habits sometimes change,” said Taylor, explaining that Sodexo tries to implement different programs across all grade levels.
Taylor said she plans to conduct focus groups with students and survey parents to get more input on possible future healthy-eating programs.
“I’m always amazed,” Taylor said. “Sometimes there’s something so simple that we find we’re missing.”