If you've noticed the school lunch menus for the upcoming week look a bit different than usual, there's a good reason.
Students of school communities in Rhode Island serviced by Aramark will be able to give several new entrees a try during Wellness Week March 21-25. As part of the statewide transition toward fresher, more locally grown and less processed entrees, all Aramark lunches during Wellness Week will feature appealing menu items focused on healthy, yet kid-friendly, foods. As part of the RI Farm to School program, coordinated by Kids First, many of the Wellness Week meals will utilize fresh, Rhode Island-grown ingredients.
During lunch periods leading up to Wellness Week, Kids First chefs and Aramark staff offered samples of the new menu items for students to try. Kelly Swanson, communications associate at Kids First and the mother of two students was at the tastings encouraging kids to try the new foods and gauging their reactions.
"The response has been overwhelmingly good," said Swanson. "I was really thrilled."
At Friday's sampling at Blackrock, students got to try "Twisted Tortilla Twirls," whole grain tortillas stuffed, rolled and baked with a blend of Mexican seasoned chicken, sweet potato and cheddar cheese.
"I would say about three quarters of the kids actually took one of the samples and out of those, over three quarters of them were very enthusiastic," she said.
The reactions of individual students seemed to mirror Swanson's findings. Comments such as, "It was the best thing ever!," "It's awesome!" and "I'd do anything for another!" seemed to be the general consensus throughout the lunchroom.
Kid's First chef Marissa Anand explained that the cost of the new, less-processed ingredients will balance out from week-to-week as new choices are incorporated into the menu and old ones are removed. If the Wellness Week is successful, the healthier items will be used on a more regular basis to give students a well-balanced meal options more frequently.
"This is the time to change their taste buds," said Swanson in regard to introducing students to healthy choices at an early age.
The Wellness Week menu is as follows:
March 21 - "Meatless Monday"
Chili Cheese Nachos - Vegetarian chili served over tortilla chips and topped with cheddar cheese
March 22 - "Tru Moo Tuesday"
Power Mac n Cheese — Whole grain elbows smothered in a creamy cheese sauce infused with butternut squash and Garelick Farms Tru Moo Milk
March 23 - "Whole Wheat Wednesday"
Twisted Tortilla Twirls — Whole grain tortillas stuffed, rolled and baked with a blend of Mexican seasoned chicken, sweet potato and cheddar cheese
March 24 - "Thank a Farmer Thursday"
Pasta and auce with garlic bread — Red sauce enriched with pureed vegetables and served with whole grain garlic bead made with locally-grown garlic. (Plus a free honey stick made with local honey.)
March 25 - "Frijole Friday"
Totally Taco Salad Boat — A crunchy bowl-shaped taco shell filled with lettuce, tomato, cheese and beef and bean chili. Also served with black bean and corn salsa.
All student meals include up to three sides and milk.