Although the National School Lunch Guidelines have recently changed, Windham Raymond School District seems anything but phased. They've already begun to implement aspects of the new guidelines and are paving the way for schools across the country.
I first read about Windham High School in April when they unveiled a 33-by-8 foot mural done by artist, Tim Clorius. According to the article in KeepMeCurrent.com, this mural was designed to represent seven concepts: "Participation, recycling, composting, human powered transportation, reusable water bottles, outdoor activity and healthy eating." It's a beautiful, abstract piece that is displayed along the hallway near the cafeteria.
Speaking of cafeteria, if this incredible mural promoting sustainability isn't impressive enough, each of the seven schools in the district has its own garden! Four of them have a green house or hoop house to extend the growing season, and one has an indoor grow lab to help start seedlings. This allows for year round growth of lettuce and other greens.
School Health Coordinator, Stephanie Joyce says "We strongly believe that connecting students to their food from start to finish will allow kids to get to know their food and in turn we hope to increase vegetable consumption."
The best part is they've already noticed results. The school has seen a significant increase in school meal participation as more staff and students are choosing to eat school breakfast and lunch. Stephanie also makes a great point when she says that "not only is getting local foods from our gardens or local farmers important, it's very trendy right now, and I think that engages students."
Each school participates in both recycling and composting helping students learn to be mindful of their waste.
As part of the Healthier US School Challenge, Windham Raymond Schools have been ahead of the curve with the new federal school lunch guidelines. They've been mindful of students' reactions to change, so they've implemented the changes over time.
Coming from a marketing background, I hear time and time again that it's all about knowing your audience. This school district has this down. They know their students, understand the various age groups, and know how to put a positive spin on these new guidelines. " We also work hard to make these changes seem like a new and exciting trend," says Stephanie. "I think the more schools can engage students, staff and parents in making these healthy changes, the more these changes will be accepted."
They believe the biggest change will be the new sodium restrictions, but feel there's plenty of time to get creative. Something not unheard of with this school district. "We've started to reduce sodium by using less processed foods," Stephanie says. " We have done this by implementing more cooking from scratch in our cafeterias and providing out foodservice staff with training and the equipment to support them."
Learning ZoneXpress applauds Windham Raymond Schools for their dedication and passion to child nutrition. They are impacting the choices students make every day. Choices that will stay with them for the remainder of their lives. They are truly setting the stage for schools all around the nation.
Stephanie goes on to talk about how many adults haven’t stepped foot into a school cafeteria in years, and how most of us remember being served tater tots and mystery meat. “Well, now they may just see pizza on their student's menu, but what they don't know is that it is being served with low-fat cheese on a whole grain crust, along with a salad with greens from the school garden, an apple from a local orchard and low-fat milk. Times have changed! The pizza isn't the same as it used to be."
Do you know what your school is serving? The more people we have involved, the stronger impact we can all have on our children's future. We have an opportunity to make these changes positive and encourage our students to make healthy choices. Start a conversation. Host an event. Make it fun.
"For us, there is no sense in menuing new healthy items if students aren't going to eat it. So, the more we can engage students in nutrition education, taste tests, and guest chef events, we believe it will compel students to want to try these new and healthier offerings."
Everyone can learn something from the Windham Raymond School District. Whether you're a foodservice director, educator, or proud parent, we all have the power to make a difference as this district is doing.
I would like to thank Windham Raymond Schools for allowing us to use them in our School Spotlight. Special thanks to School Health Coordinator, Stephanie Joyce for the wonderful information and photos. You are truly an inspiration to us all.