By JOHN LEHNDORFF
If you are new to the Boulder Valley School District, forget everything you know about school lunch: the dreary cafeterias, the gray mystery meat, and the scoops and squares of wiggly fare deposited in a partitioned tray.
If your children have been dining with the BVSD for a while you know that they are often eating a much better lunch than you’ll be wolfing down at noon at your desk … and all for about $1.25 per meal.
For instance, among the 13 new items on the 2016-2017 BVSD menu are a Toasted Turkey and Provolone Sub, Spicy Chicken Sausage Pasta and Eggplant Parmesan. Last year’s student Iron Chef competition yielded a new vegan dish: Platt Kashmiri Rice with Sweet Chili Tofu. Fresh on the salad bar at each elementary and secondary school is a slaw made with local sweet peppers as well as a new strawberry vinaigrette salad dressing.
“Every year we design our menu and add dishes after taste tests with the kids at different schools,” said Chef Ann Cooper, director of BVSD’s Food Services Department.
Known as the “Renegade Lunch Lady” and a vocal school lunch advocate, she instituted the BVSD program seven years ago that now cooks everything from scratch for 13,000 meals every day. We’re talking about pleasing notoriously picky kids from first grade through high school without any corndogs or PB&J’s. “The older kids had to get used to the fact that pizza wasn’t available every day,” Cooper said.
The menu doesn’t include any highly processed foods, high fructose corn syrup or additives. “We spent two years trying to find a dill pickle that didn’t use yellow dye,” she said.
Each day BVSD elementary school cafeterias offer one meat dish (such as roast chicken with sauce) and a vegetarian choice (like a quinoa burger) with a whole grain roll or biscuit or brown rice, and a salad bar loaded with veggies, beans and grains. No dessert is served except for “very occasional” treats like fresh fruit cobbler, according to Cooper.
Think you’ll never get children to actually eat that stuff? “We understand that every single kid won’t love the food but student participation in BVSD school lunches is up 29 percent over the past seven years,” Cooper said.
One way BVSD has engaged students are year-long programs designed to introduce them to where their food comes from including taste tests, chef demonstrations, farmer visits, school gardens and farm field trips.
For middle and high school students, the menu features a second entrée that typically has bigger flavors such as a Korean BBQ turkey slider and a turkey bacon bagel. A taco salad is available this year (in addition to the popular nachos) that can be topped with scratch-cooked beans, beef and cheese sauce.
The BVSD school truck – fondly known as the “Munchie Machine “ – appears at high schools to engage students who may feel too old to be eating in the cafeteria and typically leave the building. The truck accepts BVSD Meal Account PIN, cash or credit cards.
And yes, there is pizza. Healthy whole grain, low-fat pizza is served once a week at every school and remains one of the most popular dishes.
To find out what’s on the school lunch menu, get the BVSD app at:
You can follow the whereabouts and menu of the food truck on Facebook and Twitter Facebook (BVSDMunchieMachine) and Twitter (@BVSDFoodTruck) .
Did you know?
BVSD’s school lunch program sources 25% of its ingredients locally including from Cure Organic Farm, Ollin Farms, Isabelle Farm, Black Cat Farm, Ray Domenico Farms, Oxford Gardens, Rocky Mountain Fresh, Bayberry Fresh, Jones Farms Organics, Moe’s Bagels, Colorado Tortilla Company, Tamales by La Casita, Boulder Natural Meats, Anderson Boneless Beef Company, Legacy Meats and Old Style Sausage.