Park City schools to serve up healthier lunches this year | ParkRecord.com

Park City schools to serve up healthier lunches this year

Kimberly Patterson, a volunteer with EATS Park City, a group that advocates for healthy meals in school, serves up samples to a student. In large part due to EATS Park Citys efforts, the Park City School District is eliminating five unhealthy ingredients from school lunches this year as part of its 15 to Clean initiative.

As students return to class this week, they may notice some changes to the tasty treats they scarf down at lunch time.

The Park City School District in the spring allotted an additional $190,000 in its budget to improve the food served in school lunches. That investment is now coming to fruition. The district is eliminating five unhealthy ingredients from the food it serves this year, the first phase in a three year plan called 15 to Clean that aims to stick a fork in 15 ingredients in total.

The first five ingredients the district is nixing are: trans-fat, high-fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sucralose and sulfites.

Ann Bloomquist, executive director of EATS Park City, a group that has raised awareness about the benefits of serving healthy food at school, said the district's commitment to getting rid of harmful ingredients is "just fantastic."

"This is what we set out to do four years ago," she said. "It's been a long time coming, but it takes a while to gain that support in the community and to gain that support with the school district and the school board. I can't tell you how pleased we are with the progress that's been made."

In addition to removing those ingredients, the district will stock its menu with new recipes. EATS Park City will hold taste tests in each school for new recipes — something it's done in recent years only in the elementary schools — and allow students to vote for which ones they like. The ones they do will be implemented into school lunches.

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Additionally, cooking classes will be held in the district's after-school program, giving students the chance to whip up the recipes they eat at lunch.

"So the kids will not only taste it at the taste testings, they'll learn how to make it," Bloomquist said. "And when you make something, you're invested in it more."

Molly Miller, the district's community relations specialist, said making school lunches more healthy is a large undertaking. Food without the unwanted ingredients is more expensive, and preparing it brings logistical challenges. Nonetheless, district staffers have been enthusiastic about the change.

"The child nutrition team has been incredible, from the director to the staff working every day in the cafeteria," she said. "They work their hearts out. They don't want to be feeding trash cans. They want kids to eat the good food."

Miller said the goal is to eventually phase out all processed food and make all school lunches from scratch. A variety of factors will determine how quickly that goal is met, if it ever happens, but Bloomquist said the benefits would be immeasurable.

"This is an investment in our kids' health, which is the main thing," she said.

For more information on the 15 to Clean initiative, visit pcschools.us.