Northshore Magazine

March 2016

Northshore magazine showcases the best that the North Shore of Boston, MA has to offer.

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54 | MARCH 2016 nshoremag.com it's on a taco bar or in a veggie melt served on house-made focaccia— two popular items at the school. Even items that some adults may shy away from, like chicken and vegetable curry with rice, become popular staples once the kids get a taste. In fact, Wood says parents of MCCPS students admit to being sur- prised to find themselves asking for recipes for the lunchroom's popular items such as roasted cauliflower. With a small student popula- tion and a slightly larger per-meal charge, Wood is able to do some things that are out of reach for other public schools. But even schools with more limited resources are working toward an uptick in healthy eating. "Years ago, if you offered kale, kids wouldn't eat it," says Sheila McAdams, principal at Winthrop School, a public school serving grades pre-K through fifth in Ipswich. "Now, kids don't pass on kale," because they've grown it in the gardens that are found at every school, thanks to the work of Ipswich Sustainable Education, and likely tasted it in the classroom. "We've expanded their palate. When every kid is eating it, you eat it too." While Ipswich Sustainable Education has been working in the schools for several years, planting gardens, having tasting events, and teaching in the classrooms, it's only this fall, with the hiring of Bonnie Kitsakos as food service director, that they are able to make the con- nection with "the three C's" of the farm-to-school movement: cafeteria, classroom, and community. With her new part-time position funded by a grant, Kitsakos is working hard to make changes, from whole wheat bread for the grilled cheese sand- wiches (unpopular at first, but now accepted) to redesigning the weekly menu to appeal to both parents and kids, as well as adding house-made hummus and, yes, more kale. "Kids are asking: 'When are you going to have kale chips again?'" Kitsakos marvels. "When do you hear that?" Presentation is also criti- cal, she adds, explaining that single servings of carrots in small plastic cups look appealing, and encourage kids to take them. Gail Koutroubas, school nutrition director for the town of Andover, agrees. She notes that when they started cooking the cafeteria's chicken pot pie, which is made from scratch, in individual tins instead of in large photographs by Doug Levy pans, it was suddenly popular. "It's exactly the same food, but because it's in that little tin, they will eat it," Koutroubas says. Like many schools, Andover also does frequent taste-testing, where they hand out small samples of new items or foods that will be featured in weeks to come so kids will be familiar with them later on. Plans for some digital signage and a social media-savvy school nutritionist may even enable the kids to vote for their favorite foods. While much publicity has been heaped on school lunches in recent years, from people like Michelle Obama and Jamie Oliver, Ipswich's McAdams hopes that these changes form the basis of a new way of look- ing at child nutrition, rather than being a flash in the pan, so to speak. "I hope people realize there is nothing trendy in this. There should be a consistent watchful eye on nutri- tion, particularly for our youth." Gloucester's Padulsky agrees, adding that he sees hope every day, as kids and cafeterias move beyond pizza and chicken patties. "It's a cultural change," he says. "It's probably going to take a generation to get back to the way it used to be." Laura DeSantis Wood makes the popular veggie melt on house- made focaccia.

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