As part of the statewide commitment to increasing healthy and less processed foods in school cafeterias and as part of the RI Farm to School project coordinated by Kids First, ARAMARK School Nutrition Services produced a Food Week of lunch menu entrees incorporating local harvest season ingredients and featuring made-from-scratch and freshly prepared entrees.
The week of Oct. 24-28 was designated Food Week and was presented to students in every grade throughout ARAMARK districts. Menus at all levels featured fresh, local and colorful foods to create well-balanced lunch experiences.
Students were encouraged to “Eat the Rainbow!” as each day of the week highlighted a particular color and foods served on both the serving line as well as in the fresh fruits and vegetables bar were coordinated with the featured color For example, “Orange Day” featured carrots, sweet potatoes and oranges.
In Coventry schools, the week-long showcase of made-from-scratch recipes included chicken and dumplings, chicken soup, apple slaw, sweet potato salad
and chicken pear salad.
According to Dawn Fratus of ARAMARK, the fresher, healthier menus will hopefully become a permanent fixture within the schools. Although the cost of produce fluctuates throughout the year as well as the price of gas, Fratus explained that the cost of the Food Week meals is not much more than traditional school lunches and would most likely not change the prices that students pay. This would be especially true if locally-grown products were used frequently, cutting shipping costs.
"We have been purchasing local produce regularly from growers like Hill Orchard and Salisbury Farm," said Fratus. "Our goal with the local and from scratch cooking is to introduce more fruits and vegetables to the kids. Unfortunately, for many children, school lunch may be the one real, balanced meal that they eat each day, so it is important that we provide that."
When asked how the students reacted to the new menu items, Fratus said without hesitation, "They love their fruits and vegetables!"
On Monday afternoon during 's first and second grade lunch, that statement was confirmed by the almost-empty fruit and vegetable bar that offered students apples, bananas, kiwi, carrots and strawberries.
"The bar has already been replenished three times," she said. "The kids can choose as many items from the fruits and veggies that they want. We don't limit them to just one kind."
In additon to the produce, choices on Monday's Food Week lunch menu were homemade chicken pot pie, pretzal and yogurt or tuna salad sandwich and steamed broccoli with each. A carton of milk was also included. Other items served during the week included nachos with homemade chili, chicken parmesean sandwich, homemade chicken noodle soup and sides like baked beans and sweet potato salad.
The students were also excited about the possibility of winning a prize during lunchtime. Three students per lunch period were able to take home their very own pumpkin if they found an "I ♥ Milk" sticker on the bottom of their lunch tray.
For more information about Aramark Food Week, visit the website at http://www.rinutrition4kids.com/.