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Today’s school lunches are just as good, if not better, than many restaurants’ fare

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One of three lunch choices last week for elementary students in Manteca Unified: turkey and gray with roll, baby carrots, fresh sliced oranges, green apple, lettuce and low fat milk.


POSTED September 3, 2012 11:03 p.m.

You are at a restaurant for lunch. These are your three choices for your entree: turkey with mashed potatoes and rolls, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and corn dog.

Next, you go to the salad bar where you help yourself with some fresh cruciferous veggies like a bag of bright orange baby carrots and lettuce looking so fresh not a piece has any hint of brown anywhere in the green leaves. Sliced oranges, juicy red nectarines, and green apples help round out your choices. For drinks, you can have bottled water, low fat milk, or chocolate milk.

Any meal you choose is guaranteed low in fat and sugar content.

This nutritious meal costs just under $3 for the whole thing.

For the savings alone, I would be a regular at the dining destination that offers these healthy and nutritious food selections on their menu. You’d be running in circles to find one with that combination of unbeatable price and healthy gastronomical offering these days.

Fortunately, there’s one place where that deal is still possible. And fortunately, it’s accessible and available to all school-aged children in the Manteca Unified School District. That place is the school cafeteria.

I had an occasion to visit the cafeteria at George McParland Elementary School a week ago around noon when the third graders were having their turn to have lunch. I was impressed by the number of students who hit the salad bar and grabbed - not with their hands but with tongs - the fresh fruit and vegetables to round out their lunch.

When the students were done eating and lined up to dispose of their plates and drink containers for recycling, I noticed that practically all of them ate all of their food. I understood why after I’ve test-tasted what they ate. For the entree, I selected the turkey and mashed potatoes with a dinner roll. Baby carrots, nectarine and a bottled water rounded out my selection.

I was surprised to note that while the school district’s Nutrition Services strictly follows state and federal mandates for low salt content, the turkey and mashed potatoes did not taste bland at all. In fact, I can remember a few occasions when I’ve ordered something similar and paid more at a number of dining places where I had the opportunity to have dinner.

Nutrition Services Director Patty Page was right. Healthy food can be tasty. But, in Manteca Unified, that is the testament to how hard she and her staff are working to make that happen for the benefit of our children.


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