WENATCHEE — Efforts to improve school lunches offered in the Wenatchee School District have gained statewide attention.
Best known is the district’s farm to school food program, which, in its third year, purchased about $70,000 worth of fresh fruits and vegetables from local farms this year.
Other changes were highlighted in a best practices manual put out in January by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Those include cooking more food from scratch, changing recipes to include healthier ingredients, and sharing their knowledge with other districts.
Joan Qazi, a geography teacher at Wenatchee Valley College, was a volunteer for a local organization when she started pushing to get fresh farm fruits and vegetables served at local schools. Two years ago, she took a part-time position as fresh food in schools coordinator for the nonprofit Washington Sustainable Food and Farming Network and now works on farm to school programs in five districts.
Wenatchee’s changes, already here, and to come:
- Changes made
- Flavored milk no longer served with lunch
- Soda pop is not sold in vending machines at any elementary or middle schools
- Food or beverages with minimal nutrition are prohibited during meals, and cannot be sold or served at school until 30 minutes after the last lunch period
- Locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables are purchased and used in school meals
- At least one-half cup of fruits or vegetables are served with every hot lunch, with up to 10 varieties offered so students will eat them
- Almost all breads, crusts and even cookies are made with whole grains
- More hot lunch dishes are made from scratch
- Short videos about the school lunches are posted regularly at https://www.faceb…>
- What’s to come
- Soda pop will be phased out at Wenatchee High and WestSide High schools
- All breads and crusts will be made with whole grains
- Candy will not be given to students as a classroom reward, and using any food as a reward is strongly discouraged
- Schools will provide healthy party ideas to parents and teachers for classroom celebrations
- Snacks served at school will be healthy
- Schools will encourage fundraisers that promote physical activities, and those that involve food will meet outlined nutrition standards
- Food sold in vending machines must meet specific caloric and sugar- or fat-content criteria
- Clubs or tutoring sessions will not meet during lunch unless students are also allowed to eat
“Wenatchee is, in terms of central Washington, ahead of most other districts,” she said, adding, “There are some in western Washington that have gone farther, but I’m proud of Wenatchee. They have made it work.”