ISD 181 Viewpoint: National School Lunch Week is Oct. 15-19
Every October we celebrate National School Lunch Week. This is the time of the year that we celebrate the School Lunch Program and all the great nutritional benefits school lunch brings to the cafeteria table. National School Lunch Week is a way to celebrate the lunch tray and everything we serve from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. but it is also a week to celebrate all the great things Food Service provides outside the school lunch period.
Policy reform to core nutrition programs including the National School Lunch, Breakfast, WIC, and Summer Lunch programs in the form of Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act was enacted in 2010. Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act laid the groundwork on how we provide healthy, locally sourced, scratch made food and more at Brainerd Public Schools.
What does a school lunch mean to you? For BPS Food Service it means nutrition, care, service and quality. A school lunch to a student can mean much more. A meal at lunch can provide nutrition to refuel for the rest of the day, nourishment to a student that may be experiencing food insecurity, or a place for a student to see a warm smile from a cook, teacher or friend. For students with a modified meal plan a school meal may mean that they can eat their lunch without fear of an allergic reaction. School lunch can be many things to many different people but one thing is for certain, school lunch is not all pudding and french fries!
Brainerd Public Schools has roughly 50 hard working cooks who take pride in the product they serve! We are one of a handful of districts left in the state that still bakes bread, buns, muffins and more weekly from scratch. Every Thursday, district-wide, we scratch cook menu items such as macaroni and cheese, turkey gravy, italian dunkers, chili and more. At the larger schools, students may have scratch made items multiple times a week.
In the late summer and fall months we receive fresh, locally sourced farm to school produce from Sprout! When the growing and harvest season is over we are still able to provide quality fresh produce to students by redirecting commodity funds into The Department of Defense's fresh produce program.
In addition to fresh produce, and scratch made bakery and food items, BPS Food Service ensures that the entrees we serve are whole grain and quality ingredients. We only serve whole muscle white meat chicken, 100 percent beef hot dogs, 100 percent beef crumbles and hamburger, no dye or sugar added apple juice and applesauce. We have also made healthy changes to our snackline, including greek yogurt, string cheese, baked chips, crackers, speciality waters and low-calorie, non-soda beverages.
Brainerd Public School provides a school breakfast or lunch to every child regardless of income, eligibility or lunch balance. We pride ourselves on being able to provide nourishment and nutrition to all children.
We are well into the free and reduced application season. If you still need to fill out an application this year please visit isd181.org or call our office at 218-454-6936 and we can help obtain an application for you. If you qualified for free/reduced last year but have not filled out and application yet this year you have until Oct. 16 to turn in an application. Failure to do so may result in a balance accumulating on your families lunch account. Brainerd Food Service also has an Angel Fund account for families in need. More information on the Angel Fund can be found on the District website under the Food Service tab at www.isd181.org.
Alissa Thompson is director of Food Service at Brainerd Public Schools