As we wind down March, National Nutrition month, I asked Kathy Bastow, QA Supervisor, and Wendy Sadlier, head of the cafeteria, to share their thoughts on how we provide a nutritious breakfast and lunch to 145 students with very diverse food requirements and preferences. Now on to April!
When you think of school cafeteria meals – what do you see? Depending on your experience, you may see nuggets or slice of pizza – and that’s it. Or do you see students going through the line and choosing dessert and snack for their lunch? Maybe you see students eating the same item day in and day out. Hopefully, many of you envisioned a balanced meal with freshly prepared entrees, hot vegetable, cold salad, fruit, milk.
Healthy, balanced meals are the daily goal of our own Chef Wendy. Chef Wendy puts her 40 years of experience in the BNI kitchen to work designing a menu which serves freshly prepared, kid-friendly meals.
In preparing these meals, Chef Wendy must consider the many challenges presented when cooking to meet the nutritional, dietary, oral-motor, and sensory needs of children with disabilities. Serving an average of 145 lunches per school day, Chef Wendy will always go the extra steps to help a child be able to enjoy the mid-day school meal including such strategies as:
- putting the day’s salad in a ‘special bowl’ to help a student on calorie limited diet not feel like missing out
- Grinding down pizza and adding moisture, then reforming to shape of a slice, to make that teen with dysphagia diet feel like his meals same as friends
- Adding a tastes of pure maple syrup to oatmeal or cream of wheat to encourage choice of healthier cereal option
- Adding veggies and fruit to a smoothie to increase intake for even those on altered diet
- Offering special tasting days with our Wellness Team – such as Go For the Greens – where students are invited to taste or sample something new in effort to expand foods in their diets
ELBS School Cafeteria is a participant in the National School Lunch and Breakfast program. Based on needs of school community, as a Community Eligibility provider, all students receive free meals. This has increased participation and as result more children have the daily options of nutritious, healthy breakfasts and lunch at school. Knowing that their child will be able to safely eat a balanced, nutritious and delicious meal has led many more parents to choose the school lunch over packing – saving time and money.