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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Dining service seeks to offer healthy choices

Friday, October 15, 2004

Logan Hampton, a first grader at Southeast Elementary School, takes his lunch tray.
SIKESTON -- Rivers Fowler decided to have his usual Thursday: turkey breast on a Kaiser roll.

The high school junior said that's what he eats every day and likes it.

The new "Sandwich Central," which offers other kinds of hoagie-type sandwiches with fresh vegetable toppings and milk, at Sikeston Senior High is just one of the different foods offered by the district's recently privatized dining service.

"We are trying to reduce fat, sugar and salt and increase fiber," said Doris Mills, dining services director for Sikeston R-6, adding the new dining service provides more choices for the students.

Ninth grader Paul Glaus said he likes all of the different food choices the school offers.

And while freshman Caitlin Underwood admitted she didn't really notice a difference in the items on the menu, she said the food tastes better this year.

For example, increasing fiber to a meal can done by adding oatmeal in the ingredients of the school's apple crisp or peach crisp desserts, Mills pointed out.

And in honor of National School Food Lunch week, specialty salads were added to the high school's menu this week, Mills said. Students can choose from a blackened chicken salad, taco salad or a chef salad as well as get fresh fruit and milk.

Mills pointed out unlike elementary students, those in grades 6-12 are allowed to make their own lunch choices.

Elementary students may have set menus each month, but they also get to receive a visit from Pyramid Pete the friendly dinosaur who helps them learn about the importance of each food group and how it contributes to a balanced diet.

Before the nationally-known Chartwells School Dining Services began operating Sikeston's food services, junior and senior high school students were offered a plate lunch and a few a la carte items, noted Malinda Martin, Sikeston Junior High kitchen manager.

Now students can choose from several entrees and side items as well as the a la carte menu. Main entrees include chili dogs, chicken nuggets, hamburgers or hot dogs.

"The No. 1 seller is the Frito chili pies," Martin said. "We sell 250 pies a day," said "And we do sell a lot of the salads."

Students also love the homemade desserts like applesauce cake and strawberry shortcake, Martin noted.

With Chartwells, the school is able to provide students with different activities like a cookout at noon next week at the junior high.

"It will be like a barbecue," Mills noted.

And each month there is a theme for students to learn more about nutrition. "Fruitus Freakus chooses fresh fruit" is the October theme for elementary students, and "Would you like that super-sized? is the theme for the secondary schools.

Over the summer the Sikeston R-6 Board of Education voted to privatize the district's food service, and while students are adjusting to their new menus this year so are the food service employees -- many of which come from the district's former food services program.

"There's been a lot of different changes and we're trying make them be positive," said Martin, who worked for Sikeston R-6 for 10 years.

Employees have received different training and the training is ongoing, Mills noted. They all wear red shirts and black pants, she added.

Only two months into the new services, Mills admitted adjustments are still being made.

For example, when school started in August secondary students couldn't buy a la carte items unless they purchased a reimbursable item first. Beginning this week, students can purchase a la carte items without buying the reimbursable item first.

Future plans for the dining services include adding pizza to the high school menu and revising and reviewing menus, depending on the input from the students, Mills said.

"Ultimately, we want this to have a restaurant feel to it," Mills said. "But we also want to continue to have good, healthy choices that are appealing to the students."