healthy school lunches boxed up for northern ca schools

Healthy School Lunches Boxed Up For Northern Ca Schools

Mon 28 Feb 2011

Story by Cathy Smith

The school my daughter Ivy attends, Blue Oak Charter in Chico, California, is adopting a leading new lunch program this month using USDA commodities to feed every child. This is amazing!

The school has teamed up with the Healthy Lunch and Lifestyle Project to offer fresh, healthy school lunches to their more than 360 students - grades Kindergarten through 8th grade – cooked fresh each day and delivered to the school.

Amanda (pictured left with her family) is the extraordinary parent volunteer who has headed up the school’s Parent Lunch Committee. Amanda has been involved in a local group, called Chico Eat, Learn, Grow, for several years. Chico Eat, Learn, Grow paired up with Bridgette Brick-Wells, the Executive Director of Healthy Lunch and Lifestyle Project, who has provided the opportunity for the school to offer healthy school lunch choices for their students.

The Healthy Lunch Program produces meals that are in compliance with 2005 Guidelines for Americans, published by the USDA and Department of Health and Human Services. Bridgette and her staff choose food from the USDA commodities and local farms and ranches. Her goal is to feed the kids healthy unprocessed lunches and create a structure that all schools can use. Creating school gardens, farmers markets and education to bring the farm to school connection to our Northern California schools, I love the fact that she also uses locally grown seasonal foods in her boxes everyday!

The lunches are packed with whole foods, organic and local produce when possible, whole grains, and lots of fruits and veggies. The program has two kitchens, one in Redding and one in Chico, where the lunches are made before being boxed up and delivered. Many of the ingredients are cooked from scratch, like their homemade strawberry preserves. Lunch choices include Chicken Soft Tacos, Potato Cheese Soup, Ham and Cheese Sandwich, all with homemade sides.

The chef in the Chico kitchen is Emily Zimmerman, who trained at the Western Culinary Institute in Portland. Emily, and her two staff, Kristen and Molly (pictured), work in the kitchen each morning cooking, baking, and preparing the meals to go out to schools. The women in the kitchen describe their job as fun and rewarding. Chef Emily must follow specific federal guidelines for the lunches; however, she does have some degree of creative freedom. Emily says one of her challenges is to make sure the students like the food, as many of them are not used to eating healthy. “It’s so important for parents to educate their children on eating healthy at home.” Molly says she is proud of her job and it makes her feel good to know that what they are putting in kids’ lunches is healthy.

For more information on Healthy Lunch and Lifestyle Project, visit

About the author: Cathy is mum to Ivy (pictured top right), a foodie and one of our Food Revolution heroes having started her JOFR fan page last year that now has over 112,000 fans!


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