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There’s an appetite for healthy meals at CSD

Last week, CSD Business Manager Anna Houpt and Kitchen Manager Donna Taylor served sample meals to the Creswell School Board, showing off the new and improved school menu. School Board members Paul Randall and Natalie Smathers both agreed that their taste buds approved. ERIN TIERNEY – THE CRESWELL CHRONICLE

Creslane Elementary School Principal Ryan Beck said their school’s got a problem – though it’s a nice problem to have.
With the onset for healthier, homestyle meals at the school since Kitchen Manager Donna Taylor came onboard with Creswell School District last year, Creslane kids are stashing away their bagged lunches to join the cafeteria line for hot meals.
Parents were receiving bills for lunches, not knowing their kids were opting out of bagged lunches for the lunchline.
But Beck is happy to see the food has become so popular with students. The school has been trying some new items in their food service program since Taylor came onboard from Pleasant Hill School District last year.
Taylor’s got 600 clients, all kids. She plans meals for all three buildings in the District, makes food purchases, plans and creates the menus – all while following nutritional and federal guidelines, which have strict salt, whole grain and protein requirements.
Taylor’s ”menus have almost doubled the amount of staff and parent interest, and we’re seeing more and more kids paying for lunches; that’s the future of the program,” Beck said. ”We brought back the salad bar – which has been a dream of mine – and kids are eating greens every single day. They have at least two veggies and three fruits to choose from every day.”
Beck said that the school’s plan was to ”create a menu that was appetizing and appealing to students, staff and parents – meals that met all requirements but would also taste good. School lunches used to be prepackaged and premade heated food; now, we’re focusing on making meals from scratch as much as possible.”
The menu change is just part of a big health overhaul at the elementary school. Creslane also participates in the CATCH program, Coordinated Approach to Child Health, which is a component of the school’s nutritional education. The school menus are color-coded for ”woe,” ”slow” and ”go” foods so kids can visually see what their healthy food decisions are. The program is also tailored to grade levels and features a classroom curriculum.
Creslane also received a Healthy Moves grant, which helps keep children moving during the entirety of recess. Healthy Moves trainers and Creslane Physical Education Teacher Lindsay Carlson help the kids have fun consistently on their feet.
Speaking of recess, Creslane has also strayed from the traditional model of eating lunch and then going to recess and has switched the two around.
”In the traditional model where kids eat-then-play, (students will) eat as little as possible and as quickly as possible in order to get to recess faster,” Beck said. ”So there’s a lot more food wasted, uneaten and dumped.”
He said the entire state of Montana participates in this model and has seen great success.
”It just makes sense,” he said. ”And with Donna coming on board, it seemed like the perfect time to try it out.”
Research shows an increase in food consumption with the play-then-eat model, and less chaos and drama in the classrooms during the afternoon, Beck said.
”Kids come back from lunch more focused and ready to learn because the cafeteria gives them time to cool down,” Beck said.
Beck said he looks forward to more health developments in the upcoming year.