New, better options coming to school lunch

Besides getting new teachers, new school books and new classmates, Duluth Public School students will also receive new menus, new service and new technology in the lunch room.

Besides getting new teachers, new school books and new classmates, Duluth Public School students will also receive new menus, new service and new technology in the lunch room.

The Duluth school district is one of eight districts in the state selected to participate in a Department of Agriculture produce program that aims at increasing the variety of fruit available to students year-round.

The produce program has been in the school system in the past but was discontinued due to funding changes.

Duluth lacks a produce vendor, so food services had been getting produce through a second vendor, meaning the schools paid a higher price for a limited variety.

The produce program allows schools to buy fruit on a state contract, meaning better quality and better selection.


Pam Bowe is a dietitian for Duluth schools and prepared this year's breakfast and lunch menu around the new food options that will be available.

"It helps when we're going to get some fresh cut fruit we don't usually have," Bowe said. "We'll be able to have some pineapple or melon in November instead of just in the summer. We're hoping we can offer a bigger variety, and maybe some things that students haven't seen."

Bowe hopes fruits like star fruit will add excitement to an otherwise average lunch.

Variety will increase at the high school level, too.

An old washroom at Central High School was converted to a new sub shop over the summer.

"In our senior high we have always done sub sandwiches, but we have made them up ahead of time," Bowe said. "At Denfeld and Central we'll do them made-to-order."

Food services hopes to have a sub shop in East High School by the winter.

Bowe said the sub shop offers a variety of sliced deli meat, all kinds of veggies, dressings, cheeses and a variety of breads.


In the elementary schools, students will start seeing stir fry, tacos with whole wheat tortilla shells and all bakeable french fries.

"We're really looking to push whole grains and fresh fruits and veggies," Bowe said.

But not all new menu additions are a guaranteed success.

"We tried some barbecue pork once that the elementary school students didn't' care for," Bowe said. "We all tried it, but they didn't have the same reactions. Sometimes the appearance is not the best."

This year, food service employees have a special opportunity to meet with a nationally know speaker in food services, John Bennett.

Bennett will host two sessions, entitled "Are You Nasty or Awesome? What Kids Think of Us and Why We Should Care," and "Turning Service into Sales."

The sessions will look at behaviors and service techniques and offer suggestions on how to better food service and eliminate long lines in the cafeteria.

"Since I've been here, this is the first time we've been able to bring someone in," said Bowe, who has been with DPS for nine years. "They used him in Superior and really got some measurable results, and the food service staff liked it. Everyone has been talking about it."


Bowe said the sessions are important for the Duluth schools, because in the midst of trying to get students through the line, the idea of making lunch a pleasant experience is lost.

New computers in the lunch room is another way Bowe hopes to speed up the lunch line process.

Students will pay for lunch by punching their numbers into a computer that will automatically deduct that mount from their account. The computer system keeps track of how many times students eat lunch and eliminates the hassle of lost lunch money or lunch tickets.

"It gives free and reduced students more confidentiality, gets kids to move quickly through the line, and it's helpful to parents because it's a nice accounting system," Bowe said.

Changes to food services are not new to Jim Bruner, who has been with the Duluth schools food services for 26 years.

"We've reduced some 35 kitchens that prepared food down to two," Bruner said.

Bruner is also aware of the difficulties when trying to introduce a new food on the menu.

"The first time we ran waffles for lunch, they accused us of trying to serve breakfast for lunch," Bruner said. "Now it's well accepted to have omelettes for lunch. The first time we ran tacos, people said there aren't enough Mexican people, and now it's popular."


Bruner said the new menu is improving dietary options and moving away from the traditional fats and salts.

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