School lunch standards upped

Ask most kids what their favorite thing about school is, and invariably the topics of lunch and recess surface.

School cooks Camy Townsend and Lou Halmans work hard to provide nutritious lunches for Baker students.

Posted September 21, 2012

 By Lisa Kilsdonk

Ask most kids what their favorite thing about school is, and invariably the topics of lunch and recess surface. Although they aren’t aware of it, exercise and nutrition and their link to reducing childhood obesity are causes championed by First Lady Michelle Obama.


Baker school district food service manager, Sherrie Becker, confirmed that over her 15 years working in the lunch program, there has definitely been a trend toward providing students with healthier meals. “We’ve been adding more whole grains, watching fat content, and calorie level,” Becker stated.


Mrs. Obama holds no elected office, but like many of her predecessors, she has chosen to use the influence of her position to advance a cause near and dear to her heart. Obama, along with White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, has engineered a five-pronged attack on childhood obesity. One of the five areas targeted is focusing on healthier food in schools through changes in federal and state standards, recommendations and training for school food service professionals.


“The kids really are very polite. They say please and thank you. I don’t think parents get told all the time when their kids are polite, but the kids who come to lunch are really polite. We really enjoy them,” Becker said.


When other lunch programs are trying to pass ketchup off as a vegetable, Baker will have no part in that. “They don’t use enough ketchup to even consider that,” said Becker. The students are also offered ranch dressing as a dipping sauce for certain foods, but Becker was quick to point out that even the ranch was a low fat version.


“We serve nutritious lunches,” confirmed Beverly Rath, one of Becker’s assistants. “We never force (students) to eat the food, but we do encourage them to try something new.”


The Baker lunch program was actually ahead of the health curve on providing students with a choice of one percent, skim white, or skim chocolate milk. Becker laughed as she recounted how a young man from elementary school read his chocolate milk carton one day and complained, “Eeewww, this chocolate milk is skim. Why are you making us drink skim chocolate milk?” Becker patiently explained to the young connoisseur of chocolate dairy products that the change to skim chocolate milk had taken place four years earlier when he was in kindergarten or first grade.


Pizza remains the all-time favorite on the lunch menu, but the salad bar gets rave reviews from older students and school employees.


In addition to preparing an average of 300 lunches daily, the “lunch ladies” also provide breakfasts that are served at both Lincoln and Longfellow elementary schools for the past four to five years. Roughly 20 students take advantage of the breakfast program.