QUEENSBURY — With added taste and local farmers’ produce, Queensbury school lunches will have enhanced flavor in the upcoming school year.
School officials tasted an early sample of the school’s new lunch food through its new food provider, Aramark. A Philadelphia-area resident and chef of a larger district that oversees 19 schools, Casey Dehel, brought her talents to show what Aramark’s food can offer.
Along with the new provider, the district will also use a state-reimbursement deal that comes when schools receive food from local farmers in New York.
Scott Whittemore, the assistant superintendent for business at Queensbury, admitted he did not have these meals when he was in high school.
“I did not. I had chicken nuggets,” he said. “I said, ‘When you make up the bid (specifications for the food provider), I don’t want to see anything that looks like a chicken nugget.’ I want something that’s hot and served fresh and cooked from scratch and that’s where we ended up.”
The new menu impressed Huntley, who joins students in the cafeteria lunch lines when school is in session.
“I am looking forward to this kind of nutrition and this kind of healthy meal,” Huntley said. “Another thing I really like about this is that we are purchasing our food products locally from farmers. That’s got to help our agricultural industry in New York state and locally.”
The state requires public school lunch programs to be self-sustaining and run without taxpayer support.
Whittemore said limitations involving spending and health regulations create difficult barriers to make an enjoyable, flavorful meal that is cost-neutral. The mix between the bid by Aramark and the reimbursement offering from the state helped improve the school’s lunch menu, he said.
It will take time for students, who may have swayed against school lunches, to return, Whittemore said. The benefits, he added, are proven by research. Students perform better in the classroom when they are not hungry.
“Student who are eating a healthy meal on a regular basis, day-to-day, they are more alert, they are more active, they have more energy, they are healthier,” Huntley added. “A healthier student, as a result of good nutritious diet on a regular basis, ought to be able to learn better.”
The meal served on Thursday was a rice and vegetable mix with grilled chicken, served on a plate. This won’t be the specific display as students will still have the five-section lunch trays, but Whittemore wants the taste to be replicated daily.
“It’s nice to do it today, but we have to execute every day,” he said, “and we think we have the people in place to do that.”