Friday, October 22, 2004

School lunch defies stereotype

Quality strikingly better than many might imagine

Express Staff Writer

Wood River Middle School students dine on the popular deli sandwich option served for school lunch. Express photo by Megan Thomas

School lunch conjures images of soggy pizza and low-grade meats. This year the Blaine County School District is making strides to combat the stereotype school lunch. The numbers of school lunches served throughout the district indicate students are opting for school lunch.

?It?s better than home lunches,? Ellen Davis, a sixth grade student said.

The Blaine County School District currently contracts their food service to the Sodexho School Service. The national company serves lunch to over 400 schools across the country.

Sodexho currently serves school breakfast and lunch to all of the Blaine County Schools and operates the Internet Café at the Community Campus in Hailey. During September, Sodexho served 27,943 lunches to Blaine County students. The district served 1,270 school lunches per day on average in September. The district estimates a total of 3,263 students in the district, which means nearly 40 percent of children, eat school lunch on any given day.

?I never bring my lunch from home,? Forest Davis a sixth grade student, commented.

Sodexho offers a variety of menu options at all of the schools. The choices vary from salads to tacos.

?As a district we want to have the healthiest (foods),? Katherine Schoene Community/School Relation Coordinator said.

The quality of the offerings is strikingly different than many might imagine. On two separate visits to the Wood River High cafeteria and the Wood River Middle School I ate school lunch. I sampled the pizza entrée and the pasta salad option. Both were surprisingly appealing and flavorful.

The students seem to agree. During the visits to the schools, pizza and sandwiches were clearly the overwhelming favorites among the students.

?I eat pizza every day,? Logan Urrizaga, a sixth-grade student, said.

On average Wood River High serves 211 slices of pizza per day to a school of roughly 850 students. Each day, the school serves three varieties of pizzas?pepperoni, cheese and a rotating option. The school also serves 56 deli sandwiches per day on the average.

?Pizza is actually healthier than the sandwich. We were blown away,? remarked Sara Church, administrative assistant for Sodexho?s nutritional services. According to Church, a slice of pepperoni pizza has fewer calories, carbohydrates and fat than a turkey sandwich with cheese. The difference is marginal, but may relieve parents who doubt the nutritional quality of school food.

Sodexho works with a nutritionist to guarantee the food served in the cafeteria meets the child nutrition standards set by the State Department of Health.

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