Healthy lunches take over at Cedar Falls school - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Healthy lunches take over at Cedar Falls school

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL)-- First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign is now officially one year old.  The initiative aims to reduce the rate of childhood obesity.  It's already resulted in some legislation, including the "Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act," which in part authorizes funding for child nutrition programs.

Here in eastern Iowa, one school has been taking strides of its own to help kids eat healthier.  This is the second year for the "Grassroots Café" at Malcolm Price Lab School in Cedar Falls.  The café offers a variety of foods with fresher options.  And most kids are eating it up.

It might look like your typical school lunch line.  But at Price Lab in Cedar Falls, the food being served up is anything but ordinary.

"The mission is definitely about trying to serve less processed food.  I know we had a big paradigm shift last year when we took out the desserts and took out the salt, and how huge that was, and how it took the kids a long time to get used to that.  And now it's like, "Yes.  We know we're going to have fresh fruit," said Jacque Bilyeu-Holmes with the Grassroots Café.

On Thursday, it was chicken or veggie stir fry served with rice, a breadstick, and the choice of an apple or banana.  Chef salads are also served daily.  It takes a lot of preparation to make the meals from scratch, all while complying with federal guidelines.

"We'll get a work list together of chopping say a bushel of green peppers, 20 pounds of onions, a bushel of celery which is about 60 pounds, so that we can have our full 75-80 pounds of vegetables that we need for the day," Cara Ullrich, chef for the Grassroots Café.

The healthier options served up are sometimes more unusual and include things like humus.  But many kids have been pretty open about trying the new foods and have found their own favorites.

"I really like the lunches.  I'm a vegetarian so I think it's really great that they have vegetarian options too," said Price Lab student Mickey Fishback.

"I like their chicken gumbo.  It's a really organized lunch, and it's not the same thing every day.  And it's evidently healthy, so I really like it," said Price Lab student Gabi Carr.

One parent we talked with is thrilled with the healthier choices now being served up for school lunch.

"I know the food is locally grown.  We even get some food from our own garden that we have in the back of the school in the summer time.  And my daughter really likes the vegetarian options they have," said parent Stacy Glascock.

Feedback is constantly taken from students and their families about the food.  Recipes are tweaked for taste according to the comments received.  And as the chef says, if the kids actually eat the healthier options that are served, it's seen as a success in helping to establish life-long healthy eating habits.

Price Lab's healthy lunches seem to be producing results.  Each year, the school's PE teachers measure the body mass index of students, and those numbers have dropped over the past year.  Teachers also say students seem sharper throughout the day and are no longer experiencing the after lunch slump. 

As part of Michelle Obama's initiative, Price Lab is also introducing a program called "kids in the kitchen."  The three week series will teach kids how to make healthy foods.  At the end of the class, they'll be tasked with preparing and serving a healthy meal to their families.

KWWL Reporter:  Kera Mashek

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