Not your average school lunch
Clarenville Middle School’s new meal program keeping kids in the cafeteria
Clarenville Middle School students have a lot of options when the dinner bell rings.
Within a 10-minute walking distance of the school is a variety of fast food locations..
But a new school lunch program means more kids are staying on school grounds for their lunch.
The School Lunch Association, a program which offers hot, healthy lunches for $3.75, has set up shop in the school’s cafeteria, with local chefs Darren Reid and Sonia O’Keefe preparing students meals.
“The fact that we have two trained chefs in the kitchen at a middle school is a little bit mind boggling to me,” according to assistant principal Paul Power.
Powers, who says that in times past the school’s kitchen was manned on a volunteer basis, admits he didn’t have high hopes for the initiative at first.
But, in the school of 316 students, about 200 families have registered for the program, according to Power.
The program works on a meal order premise. Families get a preview of the months upcoming menu selection and order which meals they would like.
Then, it’s just a matter of marking your calendar and picking up your lunch at the school cafeteria.
Power says as many as 90 students are staying inside for their lunch (before, numbers were lower, with maybe only 40 or 50 kids staying for lunch), and that the only complaints he’s heard so far are from those who haven’t yet tried the new program.
“What we’re finding from principals is that they want to keep the students on site. So in order to do that, we try to keep a variety on our menu, while also trying to keep it healthy,” explained Angie Ryan, an operations manager with the School Lunch Association, who was onsite for the first couple for days of operation.
She says that in the last year, the program, which has mostly been featured in elementary schools, had begun the leap to junior high schools, which means chefs get to be a little more creative in food preparation and presentation.
The program operates in 34 schools in the province, but Clarenville Middle School is the first school off the Avalon Peninsula to offer the program, with most of the schools offering the program based out of St. John’s area.
Ryan says she believes the program works from her own experience; her daughter was enrolled in it.
“The biggest headache I had was preparing a lunch for her every day. So, you know your kid is getting a well-balanced meal; you know you’re only paying $3.75, and it’s the stress relief of not worrying about what you’re going to have to pack for lunch, and you can send your kids to school knowing that they’re getting something healthy,” she explained, noting that provision is made for a family who may not be able to afford the meal cost.
And the students seem to enjoy it as well.
“It’s a lot easier than having to figure out what I’m going to make. They just decide for you,” explained Grade 7 student Christopher Rose.
With things like Flatbread Fridays and Taco Tuesdays to look forward to, Christopher says it’s all good.
“I like all food, so it doesn’t matter,” he said.
Angie Ryan, an operations manager with the School Lunch Association, with a freshly prepared lunch; soft tacos, carrots and celery sticks, potato wedges, and milk.
Crowds line up for their lunch’s. Student volunteers also assist in serving lunch.