DMPS Chosen to Pilot New Healthy Menus

Three schools in the Des Moines Public Schools — Brody Middle School, Jefferson Elementary School and Wright Elementary School — have been chosen to pilot newly developed healthy menus, thanks to a USDA Team Nutrition grant administered by the Iowa Department of Education.

Seven Iowa schools were chosen for the Gold Menu Pilot following an application process. The new menus are “Chef Approved” seasonal 5-week cycle menus that meet the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, meet the Gold standard for the HealthierUS School Challenge, and include USDA Foods and locally grown foods.

Chef Consultants and ISU Extension Specialists will provide on-site training to the schools, which includes technical assistance and training for staff to include enhancing knowledge and skills for presentation and preparation of healthy foods.  ISU Extension Specialists also will administer menu outcome assessment, prior to the release of the menus for all Iowa schools in the spring of 2011.

Des Moines Public Schools was chosen to participate in the Gold Menu Pilot partly because of the Central Nutrition Center’s (CNC) centralized production method in which food is prepared in large quantities, bagged, cooled quickly, and sent out to schools and reheated. This production method limits the production of raw meats to the CNC and allows for a consistent quality product.

“Our centralized production method, while improving the quality and consistency of our products, has resulted in our staff in schools needing to use fewer culinary skills,” said Sandy Huisman, Director of Food and Nutrition for the district. “Cooks and other food service employees are excited to be preparing more foods on site through the Gold Menu Pilot and the chef training will help them learn new skills with an emphasis on quality and good nutrition.”

The CNC will be using more fresh vegetables — such as jicama, winter squash and summer squash — and emphasizing how to assure foods are as nutritious as possible while learning preparation techniques to conserve nutrients.

“Part of the pilot project is to evaluate student acceptance of the new items, so we will use that data to determine what additional items can be added to the district menu in the future,” said Huisman.

The Gold Menu will be served at Jefferson Elementary, Wright Elementary and Brody Middle Scholl starting October 18, and a few menu items will be served district-wide. A sample of the new menu choices includes mandarin orange chicken with brown rice; beef and bean enchilada; and chicken caesar wrap.