By Kavitha Cardoza
The head of Food Services in D,C.'s public schools, Jeff Mills, is promising more students will see school meals that are healthy, tasty and made from ingredients farmed close to the District.
Local fish with roasted potatoes, chicken salad with cilantro yogurt sauce and turkey, ham and cheddar on a whole wheat English muffin. Those are a few of the items on the menu when schools reopen. Mills, a chef himself, says he's spent hours tasting sample items for quality.
"I tasted 30 different chicken products one day, from 30 different manufacturers cooked 30 different ways. Imagine that with chicken beef, pizza, salads, yogurts, we're tasting everything," says Mills.
Mills says 14 schools will participate in a pilot program with two new vendors. Students in half the schools will have prepackaged meals while those in the other half will have meals made-from-scratch. Chartwells-Thompson the current vendor will continue to provide meals for more than 100 schools with a revamped menu.
All three food providers will have to buy at least 20 percent of their ingredients from within 120 miles of D.C., and the meals have to meet the Institute of Medicine guidelines for nutrition. Mills says their assumption is simple.
"Kids would eat food if we really paid attention to what we were preparing. If we paid special attention to where it came from, how it tasted, what it looked like, it would make a difference," he says.
Earlier this year the D.C. Council passed the Healthy Schools Act which aims to reduce child obesity by mandating standards for nutrition and exercise in all D.C. public schools.