Dietitian coaches middle schoolPublished 9:31pm Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Sixth-graders got the first crack at Libby Alward’s Chieftain bar Wednesday because they eat lunch first, at 10:30 a.m.
Alward made an acronym of free healthy food choices spread across a sample table arrayed along one wall of Dowagiac Middle School cafeteria.
C is for couscous, H for hummus, I for iron-rich spinach dip, E for edamame (raw soybeans), F for fruit salad, T for turkey spiced like taco meat, A for avocado, I for iron-rich beans and N for nuts — almonds.
Students voted for their favorites, which entered them into a prize drawing.
Most students appeared to be eating chicken wings or pizza for regular lunch and sampled the familiar from the CHIEFTAIN bar, such as beans with corn chips and fruit.
“I had guacamole and spinach dip,” Brandon Martin said. “It’s pretty good. I like it,” but he already liked spinach.
Kiyana Reyna also sampled guacamole, made of avocado, but steered clear of hummus.
Jose Lara stuck with refried beans and cheese, offering iron and calcium.
“It’s hard to get adults to try new foods, so it’s even harder to get kids to try new foods,” the undaunted dietitian said while replenishing her stations for an onslaught of seventh- graders. “A few kids were open-minded and tried new things, so we’ll look through the results and see if there’s anything that can be incorporated.”
Her couscous looks like an Italian pasta salad. Couscous, a food staple throughout Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya, contains semolina, the coarse, purified wheat middlings used in pasta, breakfast cereals and pudding.
Hummus is a Middle Eastern spread made from mashed chickpeas.
Jay Brackensick oversees meals served by Sodexo Food Service.
The middle school offers a number of menu formats each day, typically including cheeseburgers, chicken patty, pizza, nachos, tacos and salads, plus features of the day combining old favorites and new choices. The cafeteria also offers a variety of fruits, vegetables and side dishes daily. Each meal includes milk.
This year they made an effort to follow Alliance for a Healthier Generation guidelines, which focus on healthy a la carte snack options and beverages.
All snacks must meet limits on fats, saturated fats and calories. They also use primarily whole grain bread products and more whole grain products in general.
“Wings I can’t do very often because they’re expensive,” Brackensick said, “but they’re very popular. Today we also have mini corn dogs, chicken breast, Caesar wrap and BLT salad. We have cheeseburgers every day, but we don’t have many takers because of so many other choices. We had one choice (when he was a student), take it or leave it.”
Tallying responses, the most popular items were fruit salad, ground turkey, guacamole and spinach dip.
“It isn’t surprising that the fruit was most popular,” Alward said. “It’s familiar, plus it was a treat on such a hot day. I emphasized that the vitamin C in fruit helps to increase absorption of iron-containing foods (like the beans and meat we served) when eaten together at the same meal. I talked with several students about how they liked the turkey just as well as beef burger and a few said they planned to suggest it as a leaner substitute to their family.
“Additionally, there were several students who really loved the edamame, hummus and couscous that were served and Jay does plan to offer these on his regular salad bar in the future, in addition to using turkey meat and offering guacamole and spinach dip.”
Fruit salad is already offered.
With Alward’s help, DMS received a $2,200 grant for healthy food items and to promote an hour a day of physical activity by implementing the national program, Fuel Up to Play 60.
The program is sponsored by the National Football League and United Dairy Council.