Fresh produce, nice presentation encourage healthy choices in school meals

Colorado district fights against parent complaints of unhealthy food.

Feb. 22—At the Poudre School District in Fort Collins, Colo., healthy school lunches that taste good and appeal to students are of prime importance to many parents who have shown up at school board meetings, contacted nutrition experts and requested a formal audit of the nutritional value of school meals.

Complaints range from the lack of gluten-free and vegetarian items to a desire for more scratch cooking and farm-to-school produce options and a lack of student interest in picking healthy options over "just tasty" selections.

"We have basically 45 restaurants that we're trying to keep consistent and high-quality on a daily basis," said Craig Schneider, director of PSD Child Nutrition told the local Channel 9 news.

While maintaining those "restaurants" is a big job in itself, Schneider said the key to maintaining a healthy eating environment for students starts before produce and ingredients even reach the school cafeteria. PSD receives about 600 cases of fresh produce every week worth about $10,000.

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Students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor will be served student-grown produce from the campus farm at dining halls this fall, M Live reports.

The dining team received its first batch of produce from UM’s on-campus farm in June, after students received the proper USDA certification to grow, harvest and deliver food to campus dining halls. In order to figure out what produce is needed, students communicate with the dining department weekly, and Michigan Dining purchases items accordingly.

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Today’s colleges and universities know they should offer more than a large selection of breakfast cereals in the morning and chicken tenders at lunch to appeal to students. When it comes to what’s trending on campuses, here’s a look at what directors can tune into to boost engagement.

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