These days, with options like 100 percent beef hamburger, fresh kiwi, barbecue pork sandwiches with whole grain bread, and whole muscle chicken nuggets breaded in a whole grain crust, you might think royalty is eating school lunch at Canyons District because it’s certainly fit for a king.
Thankfully, the French fries that are baked, delicious blueberries and whipped topping and whole wheat-breaded orange chicken and countless other items on the lunch menu are painstakingly prepared and served every day for all of Canyons’ students by members of Canyons’ Nutrition Services Department. They take food and education about nutrition seriously so that parents and students can be confident their school lunches are the best they can possibly be.
“There is a public misconception about school meals,” says Sebasthian Varas, Director of Nutrition Services in Canyons District. “People are surprised to see the choices they can get, and the nutritional content of the meals we offer, and the price to get them. School lunch is better than ever before.”
School lunch has always been affordable the full cost of an elementary school lunch, with the above-mentioned offerings, is $1.75 and reduced prices are also available but now information about school lunch is much more accessible. Parents and students can visit the Web site or download a free app that will tell them the exact ingredients of their lunch, how many calories it has, and allergen information.
For a department that prepares about 19,000 meals a day in 43 kitchens that can be a lot of information to track, but Varas says it’s worth it. The department’s goal is to feed students the best quality, most nutritious food that it can, within government-established guidelines. Every meal served is analyzed to adhere to strict guidelines that include requirements for vitamin A, vitamin C, sodium and fiber intake.
“When I compare home lunch to school lunch, I see kids bringing Pop-Tarts or things that aren’t as nutritious as a school meal to the lunchroom,” Varas says. “It is a huge effort to provide a well-balanced and nourishing meal for kids at the stage of life they are in. That is our job.”
Canyons District lunchrooms are following a practice that ensures all children receive the nutrition they need to be engaged learners. Even when a child’s account is in arrears, students will be served a full lunch.
School Nutrition Managers will continue to alert parents when student lunch payment balances are low, starting at $10 remaining in the account. Elementary students will not be approached about payment matters, and all school principals will extend to students a line of credit. Once a student’s account is more than $10 in arrears, the lunchroom will enlist support from school administrators to receive payment from parents. However, balances remaining at the end of the year will be addressed at the District level.
About 270 employees work in the nutrition services department, striving to bring fresh fruit and food to the District whenever possible. While Varas’ goal is to break even with the cost of school lunch, the more students who participate in school meals, the better the choices the department is able to offer.
In addition to meeting all of the District’s nutritional needs, the Nutrition Services Department also works hard to educate students about healthful eating choices. Nutrition Services employees visit lunchrooms and teach students about balanced meals and highlight fruits and vegetables.
“We’re not just trying to be healthy and have food that tastes good,” Varas says, “We want to be innovative to help students make the link between the cafeteria and the classroom.”