New school lunch menus on the line

LINCOLN CITY — The school lunch line just became a whole new experience.

Herbs, spices, less salt, and new ways to bring appeal to healthy stuff like beans are being cooked up at Taft Middle/High School, which was host to a group of local leaders and members of the community during a school lunch buffet April 26 to display new recipes being tested and introduced at schools around the state.

The chef to cook up the delicious new recipes, Jessica Visinsky, child nutrition specialist at the Oregon Department of Education, is a registered dietician and trained chef who was on site Friday to discuss the food and why ODE is rolling out this new lunch program.

“ODE partners with the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council to provide culinary trainings across the state to screen nutrition and child nutrition professionals,” Visinsky said Friday. “We put together 15 different recipes for them to try, work in the kitchen, test them out and see if they like them so they can incorporate them into their programs.”

By Visinsky’s account, it is sometimes difficult for child nutrition professionals to test out recipes and determine if they work in the school cafeteria environment. These professionals often don’t have the work space or the time to test out new recipes, she said, and these types of trainings allow them the opportunity to meet with others and give new menu items a try.

“We’re talking a lot this year about flavor,” Visinsky said. “So thinking about ways to enhance the flavor of the meals they’re providing without adding a lot of salt. We have a lot of sodium in the American diet and child nutrition programs are really trying to promote the idea of adding herbs and spices rather than just adding salt to it.”

Child nutrition programs such as this one are based on the dietary recommendations for Americans, she added, and she is trying to ensure kids in schools are provided healthy, well-balanced meals.

“We really want the staff that are here to take away that they can do that and still provide great flavor,” she said. “I’ve already heard staff whisper about adding some of the recipes into the menu, so that’s kind of fun.”

Friday, Visinsky made a barbeque three-bean salad that she said was delicious, and that sometimes, meals with beans are harder to make kids take from the lunch line. Adding beans to a salad can add flavor to the meal that kids will find appealing.

“I think we do have community members come to the lunch and get to taste what the staff cooked and created,” she said. “It’s an important opportunity see what food in schools looks like now.”


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