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Nourishing a Healthier Future in Provo, Utah

The Provo, Utah, school meals team has a theme every year and builds their menus and activities around it. This year’s theme is “Nourishing Your Child’s Future.”  

Our school district has been serving fresh fruit and vegetables for years, so adjusting to the new guidelines was easy. Cooking more from scratch meant more labor, but it’s worth it to get healthier food served to the kids. I also buy fresh, local produce and while insisting on fresh produce can mean more effort, higher costs, and more labor in preparation, the rewards far outweigh the work.

It can be a hunt but it’s worth it. In fact, sourcing fruits and vegetables from within Utah is a priority. There’s nothing better than that fresh squash from a local farm or that ripe Utah peach or apple fresh off the tree straight to your cafeteria.

How do the schools get the children to eat those fresh fruits and veggies? Motivation and a little bit of subtlety.

This subtlety is revealed when you study the menus—every day favorites include extra servings of nutritious fruits and vegetables. Favorites of the children include Rosemary Chicken, which includes sautéed fresh mushrooms, beurre blanc, parsley and rosemary; Fiesta Salad with mixed greens, rice, black beans, fresh salsa and a from-scratch tomatillo sauce and Pot Roast with roasted potatoes, carrots, turnips and parsnips—and the kids love it!  Really!

For motivation, a few days every year, it’s boys vs. girls on “Future Slice Day” in the cafeteria. Eating that day’s designated fruit or vegetable earns you points. Throughout the lunch period, kids show smart phone-carrying staffers that they’ve eaten the selected fruit or vegetable and the staff records a point on the phone for the child’s team.  Staff prepares extra servings of the special food on those days so the students bringing lunch from home can earn points too.

The pot roast with vegetables is a favorite dish of students in Provo, Utah. School Food Service Director Jenilee McComb says, “There’s nothing better than that fresh squash from a local farm or that ripe Utah peach or apple fresh off the tree straight to your cafeteria.”

On a recent competition day when the girls won for eating more servings, a first grade boy pouted. “I don’t like pineapple and I ate all that pineapple for nothin’!”

Not for nothing, though—in Provo, kids are enthusiastically trying fruits and vegetables and establishing healthier eating habits that will serve them for life! 

See other blog posts in this series: