DMPS joined four other regional urban school districts (Omaha, Minneapolis, Chicago and Detroit) on Thursday to participate in the 4th annual Midwest Menu Day promoted by the Focus Midwest Learning Lab which seeks to leverage purchasing power to improve the quality of food served to public school students. The Learning Lab is a project of School Food Focus, a national non-profit organization which supports school districts in moving toward school meals featuring healthier menus.

Today’s menu across the district featured the following:

  • Sweet Corn (Iowa Choice Harvest)
  • Golden Roll (Sweet Potatoes from Farm Table Delivery)
  • Bolearo Carrots (Iowa Choice Harvest)
  • Chicken Drumstick (Antibiotic Free)
  • Apple Crisp (Iowa Choice Harvest)

Secondary students had the option of a zesty accent – Asian BBQ sauce or “Chef Chad’s Wowie Sauce” on their drumstick (made from locally grown hot peppers provided by Farm Table Delivery).

Central Kitchen Executive Chef Chad Taylor made a personal appearance at Hoover High where his Wowie Sauce was getting the thumbs-up from the 1st block lunch crowd (Wowie Sauce at 11:00 AM? Ah, youth…).

Taylor picked Hoover for his house call with good reason. Dixie Rollheiser runs the cafeteria there and won the district’s All About the Kids Award last year as bestowed by the district’s Food & Nutrition Department.

“It’s because she and Emily (Rollheiser’s Lieutenant Ehlers) go above and beyond with menu planning and soliciting input and feedback from students,” Taylor said. “They exemplify what we are trying to do – fuel our students for learning with nutritious food that they enjoy.”

Ehlers agreed that Hoover’s food choices are as diverse as the school’s student body.

“Dixie’s nomination for the award was supported by student recommendations,” she said while patrolling the cafeteria as Rollheiser kept up the fast pace of the serving line. “We are keeping more students here for lunch which is good for a couple of reasons. First, meals are free because we’re a community-eligible school so that saves the kids and their families money. Second, we know they’re getting good meals that are better for them than if they left campus for fast food.”

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is an innovative program that makes it easier for high need schools to serve free meals – both breakfast and lunch – to all students by removing the need for schools to collect paper applications.

Midwest Menu Day makes for the perfect lead-in to National School Lunch Week next week. Also, October is National Farm to School Month. Taylor says that DMPS continues to find more ways to capitalize on the availability of local produce in particular. Take his Wowie Sauce for instance (in small doses) with an active ingredient derived from Iowa-grown hot peppers.

Asked how he’d rate it on a scale of 1-5 alarms Taylor smiled and gave it a ‘3’ which didn’t ring completely honest. He concocted 150 gallons for Thursday’s special occasion, enough to launch a rocket.

Maybe the leftovers, if there were any, could go to Hoover’s STEM Academy.

Photos of Midwest Menu Day at Hoover High School

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