Improving school lunch options

By Sue Cody


There is a national push to improve school lunches as evidenced by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act that led to upgrading federal nutritional standards.


The majority of school districts in Oregon supply their own school lunches. Now Astoria School District (ASD) has joined that club. The Astoria School board recently voted to provide in-house food service to directly influence food options and service.


“Like an expensive car, your brain functions best when it gets only premium fuel. Eating high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it,” writes Eva Selhub, MD, in Harvard Health Publications.


“Not only is nutrition important, but it is good to teach our kids about where they live,” says Chris Holen, Baked Alaska owner and Way to Wellville advisory council member. “It is ideal to choose food that is as local and seasonal as possible. Kids need a sense of place.”


Christa Svensson, of Bornstein Seafood, says she is excited that the opportunity has arisen to engage in a dialogue about healthy meals for Astoria children. She is involved in the Boat to School program, which connects Oregon fishermen and seafood processors with schools. Bornstein supplies the Bend-LaPine School District with local, wild, sustainable seafood.


“It is exciting and encouraging to watch people discover resources and strengthen their communities,” Svensson says.


“We will now have more financial freedom and control over food choice and service,” says ASD Superintendent Craig Hoppes.


Search for a director


ASD is searching for a food service director. “We are looking for someone who understands nutrition, government guidelines, is highly organized and has business sense,” Hoppes says.


He says good leadership is important for supervising a staff of six to eight. The director will create menus following multiple federal and state nutritional guidelines, and has the added challenge of making meals that appeal to students.


“We would like someone who could look at the guidelines and think through them differently. Maybe look at different food options,” Hoppes says.


“We want to find the absolute best person to fill this role, someone with an organizational and nutritional background. Once we find the right person, the food service is going to evolve over time. To be honest, next fall will look similar to what we have now, but we have the freedom to make changes. It will be an evolution.”


ASD serves 3,000 lunches a day and has one central kitchen at Astoria Middle School and delivers them to the area schools. That will not change, Hoppes says.


“Astoria now has the opportunity to have more involvement from our parents, teachers and community members,” says Holen. “This program, executed properly, could change the lives of kids forever.”