Grand Rapids schools offer healthy meal choices
Even students with special dietary needs can find options in Grand Rapids Public Schools.
Grand Rapids Public Schools’ (GRPS) Nutrition Services Coordinator Amy Klinkoski has a big role to play: she is responsible for planning and overseeing the service of 9,000 breakfasts, 16,000 lunches and 1,500 snacks each school day. These meals are important sources of nutrition, particularly for low-resource households.
In addition to providing healthy choices according to the new standards outlined in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act , many GRPS students have special dietary needs, including: nut, egg, dairy and soy allergies, gluten intolerance, vegetarian, vegan and religious food requests. Klinkoski, a school nutrition specialist, works hard to develop new recipes that are vegan and allergen free. Her latest creation is called “Stop Light Soup.” It is a vegetable-stock base with navy beans and red, yellow and green peppers. Klinkoski is also working to try and source navy beans for the soup from Michigan growers.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service recently posted a new “Food Buying Guide” for school meal programs. This guide is designed to help food service directors better understand the new school meal nutrition standards and adjust their purchasing accordingly. Although the new nutrition standards don’t call for special dietary foods, the increase in servings and types of fruits and vegetables will be welcome for students and parents of those with special needs. Klinkoski says all GRPS middle and high schools offer “fresh choice” salad bars where students can find a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.