Not your av­er­age school lunch

Clarenville Mid­dle School’s new meal pro­gram keep­ing kids in the cafe­te­ria

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Sports - BY MARK SQUIBB Mark.squibb@thep­acket.ca

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.

MARK SQUIBB — THE PACKET

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.

MARK SQUIBB — THE PACKET

Crowds line up for their lunch’s. Stu­dent vol­un­teers also as­sist in serv­ing lunch.

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