By LINDA LOBECK
IRON MOUNTAIN - Nutrition is the name of the game this year when it comes to the food program offered in the Iron Mountain Public Schools through Bishop Baraga Catholic School (BBCS).
An improved salad bar is available for students at Iron Mountain Schools and Bishop Baraga Catholic School as part of the improvements made to the school nutrition program. Shown here are Johnathon Thomas, left, and Joshua Fletcher checking out what they want to take for their salad at Central School cafeteria.
The process of making changes to the program started last school year, said Supt. Tom Jayne.
"We want to highlight the changes that have been made because we're very proud of what has been done," he said.
Jenna Zwick is the food nutrition director at BBCS and has been working with Jayne and BBCS Principal Adam Husing on getting these changes implemented.
"I have a daughter with food allergies and I know a lot of kids have these problems. I wanted to look at what we could do to help those kids as well as bring in more nutritious foods for all students," Zwick said.
Some of the changes they started to make in 2011 were due to the fact that the federal government had new guidelines for school food programs.
"Our program went from food service to food nutrition and we are well on our way with the necessary changes plus more," she added.
"Nationwide, the federal government with a push from Michelle Obama, required school districts to have more healthy choices available in the food program," he said.
Zwick noted that along with proteins, vegetables and fruits, they are also looking at more grains in the meals for both breakfast and lunch.
"We are looking for a nice well-balanced meal," she said. "We are also doing a lot of home-cooking now and not just warming up food. We create a meal keeping in mind the necessary calorie and sodium counts."
In addition, both Jayne and Zwick said they were excited about the changes to the Izzo Mariucci Center during lunch for the high school students. So far, they have put in a salad bar and no longer have vendors coming in each day.
"We are hoping to add soups and sandwiches in the future. We've also opened a room in the high school so the students during seminar time can get a healthy snack - fruit, granola bars, cheese, etc. No candy bars or chips anymore," Zwick said.
Jayne said that the seminar time is from 9:45 a.m. to 10 a.m. and the cost for these items range from 25-50 cents each. The students can pay for them in cash or use their PowerSchool cards.
"So far, we've had about 45 kids a day taking advantage of it or 15 percent of the high school students. With this and other improvements to our food program, we are meeting and exceeding the federal standards for schools," Jayne said.
With discontinuing vendors each day at the Izzo-Mariucci Center, Jayne said that he hasn't had any complaints.
"Federal law says we can no longer do that and the salad bar is a good change," he said. "We also got rid of all sodas in the vending machines throughout the district and now they are stocked with only vitamin water, water and 100 percent fruit juices."
He added that they asked Zwick and her staff for a wish list of things needed for the lunch program in the cafeterias.
With school board approval, they have bought new convection ovens at North and Central school cafeterias as well as proofers which help the bread to rise, warmers, and a new steamer for the Central cafeteria.
"The proofers are needed for the dinner rolls and breaksticks we are making from scratch," Zwick said. "We are trying to get back to the good, healthy meals our kids need every day. The improved salad bar and putting in a salad bar for the high school students were wish list items too."
Jayne is excited about all the changes that have happened so far.
"It's been a very positive step for our district," he said. "We are happy to be offering healthier choices for students. We are striving to bring more choices to the Izzo-Mariucci Center - build it up with other options."
" I'd love to be able to put in soups and wraps/sandwiches each day. The soups we are serving in the cafeteria now are all from scratch too," Zwick said.
A committee made up of Jayne, Zwick, Husing, teachers and parents of students has been formed and they meet to discuss the things they want to do with the food nutrition program.
"They have been instrumental in helping us and promoting the program. It's been a community effort and has really gone well," Jayne said.
But he noted that are not stopping there - there's more work to be done.
"We've met the guidelines and went above and beyond to make our food program nutritious and healthy for all of our students," he said. "We will continue to build on that."
Zwick talks highly of her staff in making these changes so successful.
"There have been a lot of changes and work for the staff, but they've handled it so well," she said. "They love getting the positive feedback from the kids. They have kids experiencing new types of food with the new program. They give them the chance to try something that they may never have had before and then they try it the next time it's on the menu. We haven't had one negative comment with what we've done this year."
Husing added that he's been pleased with the changes that have been made and the positive comments received from his students and staff.
"I eat it everyday and the food program is very good here," Husing said.
At Iron Mountain High School, Jayne said there was another positive change this year that came from the committee. They decided to keep the freshmen on the school campus during lunch. The school had changed its lunch time already from 55 minutes to 35 minutes and with keeping the freshmen on campus, they feel its safer for them.
"This idea came from the committee and it makes sense. Freshmen don't have licenses anyway and we wanted to discourage them from jumping into cars at lunch time with upper classmen. It's a safety factor. And with the healthier and better choices here, the students are very happy about that," Jayne said.
Another goal of his is to offer a healthier snack at the end of the school day for the high school students. Many of them are hungry at that time and have to go to a sports practice or other activities right after school.
"We've made great strides with the program this year and we will do the same at East Elementary School next year when we have grades 4-6 there," Jayne said.
Matt Berglund, a sixth grader at Central Middle School is enjoying the changes this year to the food program.
"We are getting more food and healthier food every day," he said. "And if we don't like what is on the menu, we always have the choice of PB&Js or the salad bar every day. It all tastes pretty good."
Andrew Mann, another sixth grader at Central agrees.
"All the stuff we get here is healthy and tastes good - better than last year," he said. "They are making it better and everything looks good. They've also improved the stuff on the salad bar too."
Kelsie Koehler of Iron Mountain, a sixth grader at Central Middle, has enjoyed the changes made to both the lunch and breakfast menu at school.
"It's really good," she said. "There are a lot of different types of food we have at lunch and breakfast. It's awesome. We get pancakes, eggs, French toast and cinnamon Texas toast at breakfast. This morning we had cinnamon pancakes and warm apple cobbler - it was real good."
Linda Lobeck's e-mail address is email@example.com.