By KAITLYN NAPLES
Students at Linden Street Elementary School got to taste something a little different during lunchtime last week. Students had the option of buying, or sampling, a potential new menu item which was prepared by owner of Confetti’s restaurant, Peter Lemnotis.
The initiative “Chefs Move to School,” a program that’s part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign to fight childhood obesity, is being piloted at Linden and is expected to ultimately be at every school in Plainville.
The program brings in local chefs to prepare a new menu item for students to be able to purchase at lunch. Last Thursday, Lemnotis made a wrap with Quinoa, poached chicken, avocado, peppers, beans, carrots, and lime juice. He made it as a salad, and then placed in a wrap so the students could eat it like a burrito or fajita. Lemnotis said he was inspired to make this after having a “fiesta soup” in Santa Monica, Calif. recently.
“It’s delicious,” Linden Principal Paula Eshoo said while trying some of the wrap with the first grade students. “The goal of this is to get students to eat healthier foods, and try foods they’ve never had before.”
Eshoo said many students tried the wrap, which she was surprised by and please to see because every thing in it was healthy and will steer children away from processed foods.
Roberta Brown, director of Plainville Youth Services, said the program goes hand-in-hand with the Healthy Plainville Coalition, which has been in existence for about four years.
“We’re bringing in local chefs to create new recipes that meet the new guidelines for school lunches,” Brown said.
Last Thursday, students either bought the wrap for lunch or tried a sample and were surveyed on whether or not they would like to see this as a regular menu item for school lunches. This program will give students healthier options that are fresh and new, and include healthier options and encourages them to expand their food interests.
Eshoo said she hopes to have two more tastings in March, with other local chefs from places like J. Timothy’s and Pagliacci’s.
Tim Osuch, a chef at J. Timothy’s, said he was observing how everything was done and was “mulling” some ideas around for future lunches for the students.
This school year kicked off new changes to nutrition standards for the National School Lunch Program, for the first time in about 20 years. The new mandates include strict limits on calories, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium in school meals. According to a newsletter sent to parents in Plainville, the Plainville School District said it plans to meet the new regulations “by offering students a selection of low fat and fat free milk, a larger variety and larger portions of colorful fruits and vegetables, a variety of whole grains, and lean protein choices.”
Each meal option in Plainville schools includes five meal components: a meat or meat alternate such as yogurt, lean beef, chicken or low-fat cheese; a grain such as whole-wheat bread or brown rice; a fresh or canned fruit selection; raw or cooked vegetables in a variety of colors; and a low-fat or fat-free milk selection.
Each student who is buying lunch at school must select at least three of the five components in order to meet the criteria for as school lunch meal. The newsletter said that if “students do not select all five components, students must select a fruit or vegetables as one of at least three components. Without a vegetable or fruit, students will be charged for each individual item instead of the meal price.” Students who are eligible for free and reduced lunch also will be charged accordingly if they do not adhere to the plan.