From Ho-Hum to Hurray! School District 11 Amps Up Healthy Options for Students
Chances are, when you think of a school lunch, "healthy" isn't the first word that comes to mind. But an innovative program from Colorado Springs School District 11 is working to change the way people see school lunches - and helping its students eat better.
"The big goal is to always have healthy, fresh food being served to our students through the school district's meal programs. We know there's a connection between what we put into our bodies and the performance we get out of our bodies," says Rick Hughes, director of food and nutrition services for Colorado Springs School District 11.
Known as the "D11 Good Food Project," the program helps ensure students in District 11 receive nutritious school breakfasts and lunches as part of an effort to fight the nation's childhood obesity epidemic, and to help students better focus in the classroom.
By cooking food from scratch and eliminating things like antibiotics, hormones, artificial dyes and hydrogenated oils from the lunch menu, District 11 has worked to ensure that the food served to its students is nutritious, whole and minimally processed. Out: Chicken Nuggets. In: herb-roasted Colorado Chicken Tenders.
"One of the beauties of scratch cooking is that it allows us to decide what goes into our food," says Hughes. "So we have control over the fat, the sugar and the salt in our recipes."
With a menu whipped up by District 11 certified chef Nathan Dirnberger and prepared by staffers at 65 schools across the district, students in Colorado Springs now enjoy school breakfasts and lunches featuring what Hughes called "good food." There's fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and entrees made from scratch. Students often appear more focused and well-behaved thanks to the improved lunch offerings, Hughes says.
"We've heard from lots of teachers, we've heard from lots of principals who say, ‘Don't go back' because it's helping," says Hughes. "It's helping our students focus in the classrooms. Behavior problems have decreased, too, he says.