Those who eat in the lunchrooms in the Somers-Lakeside School District have known for some time that the meals are “delicious and nutritious,” but after last week the whole state knows — now that the district has received the Healthier Montana Menu Challenge award.
On Wednesday, the district became one of seven school districts in the state to have received the award that provides menu-based recognition for food service programs that meet certain nutrition criteria from Montana Team Nutrition and the Office of Public Instruction. State officials, community members, staff and students attended assemblies at both district schools in recognition of the award for their healthy school lunches.
Those who spoke regarding the program highlighted the options given to students and its use of Montana-grown ingredients in its menus. Those are two key components that help make the district’s program stand out, food service director Robin Vogler said.
“That’s something I’m passionate about,” Vogler said of serving locally and state-grown foods. “At the eve of World War II, Montana supplied 70 to 90 percent of our food. Now that’s about 10 percent. I’m trying to change that.”
In fact, Vogler has worked at the state level with a farm-to-school peer mentoring group and has helped with work to develop guidelines.
Vogler submitted an application for the award last spring. It required an analysis of a month’s worth of menus for either lunch or breakfast. The district decided to submit for the lunch award, she said.
“I was so pleased we’d get that recognition for the school,” Vogler said. “It is a work in progress. I feel like I’ve been in good hands. We’re going to keep doing what’s good and nutritious for kids.”
At the assemblies, Denise Juneau, Montana’s superintendent of public instruction, commended Vogler and the district for its efforts in the lunch room.
“Healthy food helps you learn all day long,” Juneau said. “This is just a great program you’ve got in this school here. I think it’s fantastic that this certificate is going to be awarded here today.”
Representatives from both Montana senators’ offices were present to read statements on behalf of the senators. Both recognized the value of the use of Montana-grown food in the school district’s meals for both nutrition and to aid and support Montana’s farmers.
“It’s clear you worked hard to plan and serve healthy food,” said Sen. Jon Tester in a statement read at the middle school assembly.
Superintendent Teri Wing acknowledging students’ role in making food service a success. In a video of student and staff interviews shown at the assemblies, dishes such as turkey and mashed potatoes, Italian dippers, pizza and breakfast for lunch were commonly mentioned among the favorites.
“If we made the best food in the world and you didn’t eat it, we wouldn’t have an award-winning program,” Wing said.
Vogler also thanked students and staff for their support.
“I have the best job to be able to do what I love so much,” Vogler said.