Making school lunch fun and educational

MANISTEE — Manistee Catholic Central food service director Ann Lind is a person who feels education takes place in every room of a school including a cafeteria.

Food service director Ann Lind (right) and staff members prepare another tasty lunch for the Manistee Catholic Central students. Lind has been providing the students with a variety of new foods and entrees encouraging them to try new things.

Lind realizes that in today’s frantic world with both parents working or single parent families that some children don’t always get the opportunity to experience some of the more interesting culinary delights at home. That is why she tries to incorporate a diet at MCC that combines traditional favorites with some unique food choices that students might be experiencing for the first time.

It is something that Lind says encourages healthy eating by the students.

“I like to try a few new entrees every month, as I think it is something that encourages healthy eating,” she said. “So if it is a vegetable, I encourage them to take a little bit to sample.”

Along with that sample comes a little bonus that Lind said has become collector items at Manistee Catholic Central. She said it always makes her smile how hard the students work to gain that bonus item.

“If they take some of it and eat it, I give them a sticker that says ‘I tried it,'” said Lind with a laugh. “It is surprising how well that works. However, I did have one kid tell me last week when we tried a dill pickle humus, ‘that doesn’t work on me.'”

However, that wasn’t the case for second grader Theo Gauthier.

“My favorite ‘I tried it’ food was the dill pickle humus,” he said.

For others, their tastes vary in terms of the new things they try from the lunch menu.

Fellow second grade student Hanah Johnson said the roasted chick peas were her favorite while fourth grader Louis Bennett favored the brussel sprouts.

What also helps is they have some farm-to-school agreements with the Orchard Market, and that has prompted fourth grade students Riley Sturgeon and Aiden Luomala to gain a new love for asparagus.

At the high school level, tastes run a little different.

“My favorite hot lunch item is nachos,” said freshman Olivia Wilkosz.

“For me it is  the chicken parmesan sandwich,” said fellow freshmen Macy Taylor.

For the most part Lind said it has all been positive feedback and it is opening new horizons to the kids.

“The older kids have been doing this for the last several years and they are always anxious to try new things, plus they trust me a little more” said Lind. “For the elementary kids the challenge is to get them to try new things like kohlrabi, parsnips, beets and much more.”

Lind said that as a society kids aren’t always made to try new things to eat. Many times if they like something like macaroni and cheese there parents sometime let it slide and allow them to eat that more than trying something new.

“I sometimes think that as a society we train them to be picky eaters,” said Lind. “I think one of the best things about trying new things is you never know if you are going to like it.”

That is why when they try something new in the lunch program they don’t order too much of it at first until they see the students’ reaction. However, some have added suggestions for things they would like to try in the future.

“I had one student who came in to me and said ‘you know if you add some lemon juice to spinach it is really good,'” she said. “If someone does ask for something we haven’t had in a long time I do try to get it on the menu the next month within reason.”

Lind said it is fun for her and the kids and sometimes it amazes her what turns out to be their favorites.

“The thing they love the most is kale chips,” she said. “I  buy four cases of kale and and bake the chips and serve them with their favorite sandwich. This year I asked the seniors to pick their favorite lunch as a going away thing, and they asked for gyros with kale chips so they must like them.”

 

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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