Young palates are being trained to enjoy healthy foods at the place where school lunches are made.
The Santa Clarita Valley School Food Services Agency hosted Ms. Ketterl’s fourth grade class Thursday at the central kitchen in Valencia where the students worked together in teams to prepare an Earth Science-themed lunch.
“We try to teach them basic culinary skills as well as the importance of eating healthy and how healthy choices can be fun,” said Director of Food Services Jane Crawford.
The Kids Cooking Campaign started 17 years ago as a way to encourage families to sit down at the table together and eat meals.
Every year the agency hosts one 4th grade class from each of the Saugus, Newhall, Sulphur Springs and Castaic school districts who prepare lunch for their parents, local firefighters, dignitaries and themselves. Each class chooses a theme for their lunch, which is usually based on a particular subject the students are studying in the classroom. Ms. Ketterl’s class choose Earth Science as their theme and created place mats and centerpieces to compliment their menu.
“How do you plan a lunch around rocks and dirt?” asked Sherri Weimer Assistant Director of school food services. “We chose food that we could give cute names to like the ‘Metamorphic meatball sandwich’, the ‘Sedimentary salad’, and the ‘Chips and Lava Salsa’.”
Thursday’s lunch also included sweet potato fries and fruit kabobs with a sweet apple, cream cheese, marshmallow dip for desert.
“We’re on our second one and it’s awesome,” said fourth grader Aden, who was busy aligning strawberries, cantaloupe, kiwi and grapes on skewers. The kabobs became a decorative art piece when then were placed on a pineapple “I can’t wait to eat it,” Aden said.
“I was trying to get them to realize that desert doesn’t have to be coated in chocolate and sprinkled with chocolate chips. It’s sweet but we try to make it healthier,” said Weimer.
On any given school day more than 13,000 lunches and 3,000 breakfast meals are prepared at the central kitchen on Anza Drive in Valencia.
“We make the food ourselves,” said Weimer. “We’re using the best ingredients like real meat and chicken.”
Weimer said the SCVSFSA purchases products that are plain and that they add seasonings and spices themselves to “have control over what’s going out of the kitchen.”
Each day the more than 27,000 elementary students in the SCV can choose from five entrees available in the lunch line as well as an all-you-can-eat salad and fruit bar for $2.75.
“We try to offer a variety of food dishes in our menu for a variety of tastes fro the students,” said Crawford. “We have a lot of different ethnicities around the different parts of our community. Not one type of food is going to be liked by all types of students. So we try to think through what types of food would be best for different schools as well as the variety of fruits and vegetables we put on the salad bar.”
All of the items served in Santa Clarita elementary school cafeterias have been kid tested and kid approved, said Crawford.
“We have student council groups and anytime we put out a new item, we take it to those council groups and they taste test the items, like the sweet potato fries that the kids are making today.”