Kent City Schools’ lunch line offers new and healthy choices

Joe Murphy

Students attending Kent City Schools this year are finding more than chicken nuggets and french fries in the lunch line.

They are now faced with a bigger decision than white or chocolate milk. They have to decide whether they want Italian food or Mexican.

“The elementary schools have three options,” said Marc Crail, superintendent of Kent City Schools. “But the middle and high schools have a lot more options. We have a make-your-own sub option, which has been our biggest hit. Many days, we also offer a salad bar. As it gets cooler, there will be soup as well.”

Crail also said potato bars and a larger variety of ethnic foods were featured.

In addition to a selection of lunches, the schools also offer breakfast before school. Students can choose from several breakfast foods, including sausage, eggs and fruit.

Crail said the program, which is offered at all schools in the district, continues to grow.

“We have hundreds of students eating breakfast at school,” he said.

Several changes and upgrades on the menu have come as a result of the new food pyramid issued earlier this year by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Natalie Caine-Bish, assistant professor of nutrition, said the new food pyramid is more individualized.

“An average 16-year-old male who is physically active needs about 2,400 calories a day,” she said. “Most kids are pretty close to that. A lot of it depends on how physically active you are.”

Crail said his goal is to make sure each student is able to meet the requirements of his or her daily food pyramid. He may apply for an award from the Ohio Board of Education for the new program.

J.C. Benton, spokesman for the board, said schools are asked to fill out an application answering questions about their food service. Questions range from, “Is there a vending machine in the school?” to “How many sugar products are served?”

No schools from Portage County were selected for the award this year. Crail, however, said he was unaware the award existed. But he said he answered a majority of the questions on the application for a Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter in August.

“Everything that was asked, we were able to answer in the affirmative,” Crail said. “But the award itself was never familiar to me.”

Kent City Schools may apply next year, depending on how long the process takes, Crail said.

Students at Stanton Middle School and Kent Roosevelt High School also have an option of buying flavored milk from a vending machine in the cafeteria.

Caine-Bish said the milk machine installed last year has been a success at the middle school.

“It has worked really well,” she said. “They have it in the cool milk jugs instead of the cardboard cartons.”

Crail said the milk has not been as big of a success at the high school. He said he hopes the milk continues to be popular, as the machines cost the school several thousand dollars. Some of the costs were covered by a grant.

With the variety of choices, Crail said he hopes to keep students in the building during the lunch period. Juniors and seniors have an open lunch and can leave, which forces the school to compete with area restaurants.

“We’re always looking for what’s the next trend,” he said.

Contact public affairs reporter Joe Murphy at [email protected].