Los Gatos Weekly Times
District awarded $180K in grants for school lunch program
The Los Gatos-saratoga Union High School District was awarded $180,018 in federal and state grant funding for its revamped school lunch program that enhances both the nutritional quality of the district's cafeteria menus and its science curriculum.
Chef Paul Boundas last year transformed both Los Gatos and Saratoga high schools' “heat and serve” model into a fully functional kitchen where everything is made from scratch. Students have been eating up the change, and the school district said more than 1,000 students at LGHS and more than 700 students at SHS are eating school lunches every day.
The grant funds will go toward equipment and supplies and cafeteria staff training at both schools.
A large portion of the grant funds will go toward renovating Los Gatos High's snack shack into a food preparation and serving area to keep up with the growing demand at the school.
The California Department
of Education's School Food Best Practice Funding grant gave $55,218 of the total grant funds for procuring California-grown whole or minimally processed foods and freshly preparing meals for the school cafeterias.
Another $124,800 came from the US Department of Agriculture's
Healthy Meals Incentives for Schools. The funding was awarded because the school district made “significant improvements” to the nutritional quality of its school meals, according to a press release.
“Our cafeterias not only provide fresh, made-from-scratch meals for our students and staff, they collaborate with our science electives and focus on student health and well-being,” said Superintendent Bill W. Sanderson in a press release. “These grant funds will allow us to expand our current model, focus on training our skilled cafeteria staff, and build upon the excellent work taking place in our food service department.”
Boundas made a name for himself transforming several school cafeterias in the Chicago area to serve fresh, homemade, healthy meals. After 15 years in the restaurant business, his focus is now on hiring a skilled workforce, locally sourcing ingredients and adapting the menu to what students actually want to eat.
He was hired by the district on a $160,000 annual contract after then LGHS assistant principal Kristina Grasty met him while on vacation in New Orleans. She worked with the school booster clubs to raise more than $100,000 for the contract, which started in the 2019-20 school year, and for upgrades to the school kitchen.
Boundas and his team make more than 1,000 meals a day at LGHS, including dishes like chicken burrito bowls, pulled pork sandwiches, Vietnamese banh mi bowls, buffalo mac and cheese, creamy pesto pasta, poke bowls and house-made traditional ramen.
His approach is investing in training chefs to cook and put in the work rather than buying processed, ready-to-eat foods.
“We spend more on labor and buying real foods that need to be processed, so we're the processor of a fresh chicken,” Boundas said. “We're cutting our own chicken breasts, we're cutting our own chicken thighs for burrito bowls,”
The cooks have expanded their offerings to include everything from Ethiopian Doro Wat Chicken — a fragrant, flavorful chicken stew — and fresh tuna poke bowls.
“As you get the kids kind of trusting what you're making, we can push the boundaries of what you would find in a school lunch and things that are also cost effective,” Boundas said. “We have one Ethiopian woman in the kitchen, and so we started doing Ethiopian meals, and, I mean, the kids — they love them.”