Menus Are Ready at Washoe County Schools - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Menus Are Ready at Washoe County Schools

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The transition toward healthier food hasn't been easy to swallow, but this year "healthy" is a bit more tempting. Those old jokes about school lunches don't seem to fit anymore. Delivery driver John Arroyo says his "customers" rave about the food: "When the kids see us make a delivery, they're pretty happy. They know they're getting some good food."

And good *for* you. The Fed's Healthy School Food Campaign began 3 years ago, but the fight against junk food and sugar snacks started years before that from an unassuming building in Sparks…Washoe County School District’s Nutrition Services Department on Spice Island Ct. According to Nutrition Services Director Bill Al Soussi, “What we did years before the federal government was the right thing to do, providing salad with every meal and well-balanced components."

6 years ago…that's when the Washoe County School District banned sodas, candies, chips and fried food…replaced with whole grain items and more fruits and vegetables. Come Monday, the cooks and machines at this assembly line of school lunches will be running at 4:00am, serving 100 public and charter schools. Arroyo knows what they like: "They like the fun stuff, like the nuggets and the pizza and stuff like that, you know kids."

The all-time favorite now? No, it’s not pizza, or mozzarella sticks. It's still chicken…but they’re baked with whole grains. WCSD Kitchen Manager Dolly Taylor told us, "The kids really like the chicken patties. They put it together, make a sandwich with condiments. We pack about 12,000 of these." What's the junkiest thing this assembly line offers? That was a tough one for Taylor. With no desserts and healthier ingredients, she had no idea.

The food is without a doubt better than options of yore: the old mystery meat on a bun, side of fries and soda. But getting students to eat the healthier food is another story…that’s the challenge. Soussi told us about one well-meaning food item that was mercilessly snubbed: "We did try some of the oriental casseroles. Didn't catch on."

They know there's no hope that the banana will ever replace the brownie as a favorite snack with grade-schoolers. But they see evidence students are slowly coming around to accepting more green, and less sugar and fat…with the help of the teachers. As Taylor told us, "With the teachers tasting it with them and instructing, that helps them to see, 'Oh she's trying it, I might try it."

Salads are offered at every meal, but desserts remain a no go. Finding the perfect balance is a science here…providing a menu to deliver the right fuel for spirited playground fun, or tackling the SAT. And the kids have to like it too.

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