What’s up with pizza day? | ParkRecord.com

What’s up with pizza day?

By Cole Fullmer, The Park Record Staff

Students’ opinions on school lunches have varied little over the years. Pizza day is still the most popular day in the cafeteria – according to Henry Barratt, a second-grader at Parley Park Elementary .

When asked to defend his answer, Barratt answered bluntly, “Because it’s pizza.”

But Park City School District’s Nutrition Department is hoping to change the opinion of students like Barratt. In order to accomplish that goal, the school district is hosting several events at local schools to promote “Stay Fit; Stay Healthy” – a new theme created by the Park City High’s student government.

Students need not worry – the initiative designed to help kids become aware of vegetables and fruits in their diets is only going to make the pizza that much better, affirmed Sue Woolstenhulme, lunch manager at Parley’s Park Elementary.

The school district has been pulling out its “big-guns” to show how serious it is about student’s health. Monday, Chef Jason Kieffer, Executive Chef for the Park City Medical Center, made his first stop on his “Blended Beet Party” and “Ratatouille Sample Tour” at Parley’s Park..

Kieffer started the morning working with cafeteria staff at Parley Park Elementary – demonstrating food preparation and giving them tips, using his Ratatouille recipe as an example of how incorporating healthy food can be appealing to kids.

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“Even though this dish is made out of vegetables, it is exciting for kids,” Kieffer said. “The colors in the diced beets, squash and eggplant look delicious. My goal is not hiding the food, but helping kids realize healthy foods are good.”

According to Kathleen Britton, Nutrition Director for the PCSD, the students’ campaign was initiated in result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Act. This bill was initiated in 2010 by Congress to fund child nutrition and free lunch programs in schools around the country for the next five years. In addition, the bill sets new nutrition standards for schools to help fight against childhood obesity.

This has given schools around the country the opportunity to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs – but according to Britton this is old hat for PCSD.

“Improving student’s nutrition has been a priority for the PCSD since 2005. We have always strived to offer the kids healthier choices,” Britton said. “Taking the initiative of getting involved with this early has gotten [PCSD] ahead of the game.”

In 2005, the schools started making changes in carbohydrates intake – with the introduction of whole- grain breads and pastas to the lunch meals. This simple change has become the cornerstone of a health and wellness campaign that has earned all four elementary schools in the district the Healthier U.S. Challenge award in 2011 – the first schools in Utah to receive the honor.

Britton will be awarding Ecker Hill with the title when Kiefer makes his visit to the school. They are the latest school in the state to earn that distinction.

The award, presented by USDA Food and Nutrition Division, recognized the school district’s excellence in the National School Lunch Program.

“We have gone above and beyond the guidelines and recommendations for nutrition,” Britton said.

According Woolstenhulme and her lunch staff at Parley Park, since introducing the new diet to children, serving the healthier food has not been the problem. Getting the kids to eat it is another ball game.

“We have been learning how to use different spices and condiments to enhance flavors in the foods,” Woolstenhulme said. “Getting rid of all the excess sodium in the children’s diets has also been a big priority.”

Kiefer will be visiting seven schools in the PCSD to help dedicated lunch staff battle this problem. The date on the tour is April 5 at Park City High School.

“If we teach children the habits of eating and living healthy while they are young, they will hold onto them for the rest of their live,” Woolstenhulme said. “Kids also pick up this information and take it home with them; educating the whole family. It’s a real exciting thing we are doing and I think the parents should come down and see what we are serving their children for lunch. It might surprise them.”