Colorado Mum Turns Lunch Lady To Provide Hot, Homemade Lunches To StudentsThu 30 Sep 2010
Story by Bonnie Hoffmann
Parent Bonnie Hoffman, unimpressed by the lack of a hot lunch program at her local school, started preparing and supplying hot lunches in January 2010. Starting with just one hot lunch a week, she now prepares eight lunches a month proving that with support, dedication, and a group of helpful parent volunteers, you can improve school food at a local level.
About a year ago, I was sitting with a couple of friends discussing job opportunities. The conversation seemed bleak until they both suggested that I start a regular hot lunch program at St. Stephen's Catholic School. St. Stephen's is the school our children attend. It is K-8 school with approximately 150 students. I had prepared lunches occasionally over the years so I had some idea of what I was getting in to.
After pitching the idea to the principal of the school, getting permission for use of the church kitchen (a commercial kitchen), and getting the licensing and insurance in place, I got the program rolling.
I started in January 2010 with one hot lunch a week for approximately 65-85 students. By March, I was preparing 2 meals per week. The menu is planned ahead of time and it's up to the parents to sign their children up in advance so that I can properly prepare. After selecting a menu, I make my shopping list and head to Costco where I stock up on everything that I will need.
I am preparing approximately eight lunches a month. I try to mix it up by doing a couple of poultry dishes, pasta dishes, beef, pork, and casseroles. Each meal consists of a main entrée, a combination of a side dish such as a vegetable, a salad, a starch, and fresh fruit. I use whole grain pastas, multi-grained breads for hot sandwiches, and lean meats. Cooking for children is tricky and getting them to broaden their culinary horizons can be a bit of a challenge. But, I've found that given the chance, most of them will try something new when it's laid out in front of them.
The advantage to starting this program at St. Stephen's is that I don't have to follow the ridiculous guidelines that the public school system has in place. I don't claim to be a professional chef. I'm just a person (and parent) who loves to cook. The people who have allowed me this opportunity trust my judgment, and for that I'm extremely grateful.
In closing, I would like to mention one very important thing. I can plan the menu, shop for the food and prepare the meals, but the one thing I can not do by myself is serve the lunch. For this I have a wonderful group of parent volunteers who come in and help me serve it up to the kids. I couldn't do it without them!
Here is a sample of September's lunch menu:
Macaroni & Cheese with Orange slices and Carrot sticks
Roasted Teriyaki Drumsticks with Brown Rice and Salad
Penne Pasta with Marinara Sauce and Salad
Pulled BBQ Pork Sandwiches with Peas and Apple Sauce
Chicken Pot Pie with Fresh Fruit
Fresh Cheese Tortellini with Marinara Sauce Salad
Beef Tacos with Black Beans and Corn
Grilled Hot Dogs (Vienna Beef all natural franks, of course!) with Fresh Fruit
About the author: Bonnie Hoffmann is the St. Stephen’s Catholic School Lunch Lady in Colorado
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