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Nutritious, tasty school lunches impress parents
school lunches
From left, youngster Whitlee Burgen provides her mother Jules Barnham with feedback on some of the samples from Wednesday’s Family Food & Wellness Expo at Golden West Elementary School.

Fresh broccoli salad? A healthy cheese pizza? Nuggets made from the muscle of chickens?

Those weren’t the food options available during Jules Barnham’s school days.

The mother of 5-year-old Whitlee Burgen attended the first-ever Family Food & Wellness Expo hosted by the Manteca Unified Nutrition Education Department on Wednesday.

“When I was in school our lunches weren’t nutritious,” Barnham said.

Her daughter will be attending kindergarten at Sequoia Elementary School when school starts Wednesday, Aug. 8.

The youngster had a chance to try the aforementioned lunch samples at the free event held inside the Golden West Elementary School gymnasium.

“She really liked the broccoli salad,” said Barnham, much to her surprise. “I didn’t think (Whitlee) liked broccoli.”

The Family Food & Wellness Expo had a casual drop-in setting consisting of 13 booths.  Those attending signed in at the information booth – four brand-new donated bicycles were part of the drawing just for registering – and had a choice to make their way to various stations.

Included were the Seamless Summer Meals, Meal Applications, Elementary Lunch & Breakfast, Pre-Sales/Charge Policy, Home Visitation Initiative, Large School Wellness & Smart Snacks, Allergens, Junior Farmer’s Market, Meal Benefits, Give Every Child A Chance / Snack & Supper Meals, and First Five of San Joaquin.

“This is the first time of doing the Expo,” said Director of Nutrition Services Patty Page of this free interactive and informative event. “We’re always seeking suggestions on how to make it better and more beneficial.”

She was hoping for 150 or so to stop in at the two-hour event.

With the first day of school right around the corner, parents had a chance to fill out meal applications or set-up a pre-payment plan.

Some sites will receive the free meal plan. However, those at the sites still had to fill out the proper forms made available at the Expo.

Many parents did try the meal samples.

“They were really good and nutritious,” Jules Barnham said.

To contact reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail