District 34 dishes out healthier options
District 34 has begun a new federal program to serve healthier lunches to their students. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 30, 2012 6:24PM
GLENVIEW — Hoffman School students enjoy fruits and vegetables for lunch, even some fibrous legumes and greens that kids traditionally have not liked.
For instance, fourth-grader Maeve Barnes hoped for more lima beans served at the school during lunch period.
“I like any kind of lima bean,” she said, sitting in front of a carton of plump, red strawberries.
Since the new meal guidelines started in School District 34 this year, students have been asked to select a fruit or vegetable with their daily meal.
The new offering followed passage of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act in 2010 that reauthorized $4.5 billion in federal funding of school lunches and nutrition programs for the next five years.
The district has always had fruits and vegetables – school officials said many students still patronized the salad bars – but the big difference was making them choose a fruit or veggie.
“They don’t have to eat them, but they have to go on a lunch tray. We encourage our students to eat good food,” said Kim Radzinski, district food service director.
Hoffman Principal Mark Walther said hundreds of District 34 students, unfortunately, did not eat a healthy breakfast before classes.
“We’re offering here a huge benefit to get nutrition for our students,” he said. “There’s strong evidence that supports eating good food does lead to better learning and makes students more available for instruction.”
“We just want our students to learn, play and grow better,” Radzinski added.
The district’s Food Services Program also provides federal assistance to low-income families through its free or reduced breakfast and lunch program.
Under dietary guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a typical meal at District 34 must include an eight ounce milk serving, two ounces of lean meat or meat alternative, a three-quarter cup of fruit or vegetable and 12 servings of enriched or whole-grain bread each week.
Radzinski has learned the food students enjoyed to eat.
“We try to offer their favorites, like sweet potato puffs and strawberries. You collect data over the years, and students will tell you what they like,” she said.
At Hoffman School, students welcomed the chance to choose at the cafeteria lunch line.
“When school started this year, I was surprised to find we had to choose. It’s a big deal because last year you could just get a hamburger. This new idea is healthier,” said Arantza Bascaran, a fourth-grader.
“A healthier lunch helps us focus. We should have brussel sprouts, too. I was born liking brussel sprouts because my mom gave them to me,” said classmate Jeffrey Tantillo.
“We could try brussel sprouts here,” Radzinski responded, amid laughter.
She also explained half of the produce bought by the district was locally grown, and the schools belonged to an independent purchasing co-op, of which 80 school districts in northern Illinois are members.
District 34 serves 2,800 lunches and 250 breakfasts each day to 4,850 children or 60 percent of student enrollment.