School lunches are notorious for providing students with foods high in carbs and sugar, but a person cannot survive on Uncrustables and Pop-Tarts. The issue of poor nutrition in school lunches has started to get attention nationally, and our school district is following suit by working to get students eating fresher, healthier foods.
In an ICSD press release, ICSD Child Nutrition Program Director Denise Agati said, “Providing healthy, affordable meals to students is our priority, and we are committed to producing quality meals from fresh ingredients.” At IHS, students may have noted a shift in this direction after the hiring of a new cafeteria manager, Jamie Zervos. Ingredients from local farms such as apples, kale, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes are incorporated into the menu. Vegetables from the greenhouse on IHS grounds are also used, especially in the spring. The cafeteria has stopped buying frozen pre-made products and has started offering vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options every day. Due to a resulting increase in the cost of products, the price of lunch has increased by 5 cents to account for these changes. “Our goal and hopes are to feed every student. We welcome all feedback, positive and negative. . . . If you don’t like it, what is it that you don’t like?” said Zervos.
On Thursdays, IHS has special menu items as part of the “Cool School Food” program, a partnership of the ICSD Child Nutrition Program, the Coalition for Healthy School Food (lead agency), Moosewood Restaurant, Cayuga Pure Organics, Wood’s Earth, and Simeon’s on the Commons. These special items have plant-based protein such as beans, lentils, or tofu. Often, the ingredients are local; for instance, there are beans from Cayuga Pure Organics and tofu from Ithaca Tofu.
Another new ICSD food program is the Farm to Table Program (ICSD FTT) that is provided for second- and third-grade students from the Belle Sherman, Beverly J. Martin, Cayuga Heights, and Enfield elementary schools in the summer and after school. ICSD FTT addresses nutrition, gardening, and cooking, according to another ICSD press release from August. The students will be directly connecting to the source of their food through hands-on learning outside and by visiting local farms and food facilities. Programs such as this one will make the new lunch items more appealing to picky eaters, because as any cook knows, if you make it, you’ll eat it.
Many much-needed changes are finally being made to the ICSD nutrition program. IHS students will be able to enjoy healthier and tastier options for a small increase in the daily cost of their meals, and students around the district will have new and innovative meal programs to supplement their normal lunches. Bon appétit!