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November 18, 2017

School cafeteria serves healthy, well-balanced and affordable meals daily

photo of students in the lunch roomEvery day, Duanesburg cafeterias serve up nutritious, well-balanced and affordable school meals for breakfast and lunch.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day—feeding student’s bodies and minds with the energy they need to remain sharp and ready to learn. To that end, students can kick-start their day at school with fresh fruit, yogurt, cereal, toast or an egg sandwich straight from the cafeteria.

What’s for lunch?
From homemade soups and freshly made salads to sandwiches and a daily entrée, there’s certainly something for everyone to eat at lunchtime.

All foods are made with low-fat or lean ingredients, and served with fresh or canned fruits and vegetables—many of which are purchased locally through a wholesaler—in addition to reduced-fat milk and other healthy options.

“Our goal is to provide students with well-balanced, great tasting meals that not only meet state and federal nutritional guidelines, but surpass them,” said the district’s longtime Food Services Manager Mary Jewell.

In part, the guidelines dictate how much sodium, sugar and fat content foods may contain.

Pizza, hamburgers and chicken fingers, which remain student favorites, are prepared in a more healthy way.

For example, pizzas are topped with fresh vegetables and part-skim mozzarella cheese while hamburgers and chicken fingers are baked, not fried.

Because good nutrition helps build strong bodies and strong minds, the district’s food service staff help ensure students don’t leave the cafeteria hungry by accommodating special requests on the spot and accepting pre-orders each morning.

“As long as we have the ingredients we’ll make it,” said Jewell, explaining that chicken can be added to a garden salad or a turkey and ham sandwich can be prepared without cheese in a wrap, for example.

An extensive selection of sandwiches and salads are available at the middle/high school daily. Sandwiches range from standard peanut butter and jelly, to turkey, ham, egg and chicken salad. Toppings include lettuce, tomato, onions and American cheese, while bread choices include wheat and wraps.

The elementary school features a different sandwich every day, with ham, turkey or peanut butter and jelly available on wheat bread.

Homemade soups include chicken vegetable, beef, broccoli, potato and beef ole, which has become a favorite among staff in particular.

Developing healthy habits that last a lifetime
The district participates in “Choose Sensibly”—a national program endorsed by the School Nutrition Association.

The program helps educate students about health and nutrition, so that they are able to make informed decisions regarding the foods they eat. The goal behind the program is to offer several snack options that meet the Choose Sensibly nutritional profile—along with a few that do not—to provide students an opportunity to “choose sensibly.”

Baked chips, fruit snacks, pretzels, crackers, granola bars and popcorn are among some of the snack items offered.

According to Jewell, sales records indicate that students are in fact making positive choices. Sales of baked, not fried, products are higher than anything else.

In addition to the Choose Sensibly program, the food services department promotes healthier eating habits in other ways, such as offering:

Wheat bread

Wheat rolls instead of white

Low-fat versions of salad dressing, mozzarella cheese, yogurt and mayonnaise

Foods and snacks that contain no trans fats

Fresh and/or canned fruits and vegetables every school day

Locally grown produce and vegetables, as available

Entrees and a number of snacks that are baked instead of fried

A variety of milk options, including flavored, skim and low-fat

100 percent fruit juice

These changes have been made over time as knowledge about healthy eating habits evolved and to help ease the transition for students.