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Breaking the Mold with Innovative, Nutritious School Lunches

Post Date:01/05/2016 9:28 AM

Hold_Take 2 Produce Patch_6630_400x244The days of dreaded, boring school lunches are over! The Tempe Elementary School District Nutrition Services Department works to create a menu that breaks the mold of the traditionally perceived “school lunch.” We strive to provide high quality products and menu items with student appeal.

We place a lot of emphasis on “cleaner” labels, which means that we search for foods with fewer additives. Our chicken nuggets and patties, for example, are white breast whole muscle cut, not ground up and formed. Our beef patties are 100 percent beef. We purchase Jennie-O oven roasted turkey breast deli meat with an ingredient list which includes: turkey breast meat, turkey broth, two percent or less salt, sugar, rosemary, and baking soda. Our cafeterias serve corn breaded fish filet strips, not fish filets that are minced and formed. We have proudly eliminated products with high fructose corn syrup.

Nutrition Services believes in being transparent with what is in the food we serve, so the nutritional content and major allergens are now listed and can be easily identified using the online menus we rolled out in October 2015. If your child has a nut or milk allergy or is on a special diet, you can choose to filter out the menu items that your child cannot eat.

Hold_Take 2 Produce Patch_Hummus_6656_400x244If your child brings lunch from home so they can eat homemade, minimally processed food, look no further! Our kitchens prepare a variety of homemade items that many other Districts don’t offer. These unique items include:

  • A variety of breakfast muffins, such as harvest muffins, made with pumpkin and spices, and sunrise muffins, made with orange zest and dried cranberries.

  • Hummus, made fresh weekly in our Central Kitchen, in three delicious flavors: roasted red pepper, cilantro jalapeño, and chipotle.

  • Main dishes such as chili and chicken pot pie.

  • Fresh salsa, taco seasonings, tzatziki sauce (a Greek sauce made of strained yogurt mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and sometimes dill), and flavorful marinades.

We also offer fresh fare menu items such as chicken Caesar and mandarin chicken entree salads; garden, Caesar, and spinach side salads; coleslaw; wraps, and more. These items are prepared fresh and packaged daily in our Central Kitchen.

All of our menu items are whole grain, including the bread, buns, rolls, and even the breading on the chicken and fish.

Our kitchens do not fry any of our food, not even the fries. All of our hot items are baked.

The Nutrition Services Department obtains locally grown produce from the Valley area whenever available and when the cost fits the budget. We have served Pink Lady apples grown locally in Wilcox, Arizona for six weeks during the fall/winter, and in the past we have also had local carrots and lettuces. Getting even closer to home grown is seasonal produce grown right in the certified Rover Elementary School garden that is served put into salads for their school lunch. We are continually focusing on local, farm fresh in ways like this, always striving to do even more.

Statistics show that children who eat better perform better in school. Our cafeterias are doing all they can to provide nutritious meals that our students look forward to eating.

If you or someone you know would like to work in our school cafeterias or kitchens, our Nutrition Services Department is hosting a job fair on January 20 from 8 a.m. to noon at Brogan Center, 1430 W. Elna Rae St., Tempe, Arizona. Visit www.tempeschools.org/jobs for more information.

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