Centennial School District launches its Wednesday Local Lunches program

Rich-green roasted asparagus, mashed sweet potatoes and all-natural chicken breast.

“This is nummy!” says Victoria, a 6-year-old first grader at Lynch Meadows Elementary School.

The Centennial School District is breaking the school lunch stereotype of mystery mush with five new made-from-scratch, home-cooked meals.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Lynch Meadows Elementary School second-grader Melanie eats her lunch featuring food from a new healthy lunch program.

March 6 was the start of Wednesday Local Lunches in Centennial schools. Funded through a $29,033 Farm to School and School Garden Grant, the program encourages schools to purchase directly from local farmers and producers to create fresh and healthful lunches.

“We wanted something a little healthier, something a little bit more local and something new and exciting,” says Julie Mack, Healthy Active Schools coordinator.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Lynch Meadows Elementary kitchen manager Michelle Dryer rearranges breaded chicken pieces in the oven.

Every Wednesday through May 15, Centennial students will feast on five rotating menu items: baked fish filet with rice pilaf, beef stroganoff with spinach salad, turkey meatloaf muffins with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli, turkey lo mein with snap peas and the chicken recipe.

Eighty-seven percent of the grant is going toward food preparation, while 13 percent is being used for taste testing, nutrition promotions and getting raised garden bed kits that were donated by Portland Nursery installed.

Spearheading the new recipes is Kitchen Manager Michelle Dyer.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - The salad bar at Lynch Meadows Elementary School offers healthy vegetables and fruit.

With a background in assisted living scratch cooking, Dyer began experimenting with traditional school lunch recipes at Lynch Meadows, adding little touches such as seasoning to make lunches more appealing to kids.

When the opportunity came up to create new menu items through the grant, Dyer stepped forward to help. Initially, kitchen staff members were hesitant to change, but Dyer said the new recipes were well received in taste tests and didn’t take as much extra time as kitchen staff had anticipated.

Dyer also has a goal to incorporate cultural touches into the recipes she prepares.

After polling Lynch Meadows students after the first lunch period Wednesday, Richard Larson, director of business and operations for Centennial, declared the first Local Lunches a success.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - A Lynch Meadows Elementary School student tries the first Local Lunch Wednesday, March 6.

“Your customers are happy,” he told Dyer. “Everyone loved the chicken, and all but one loved the mashed potatoes.”

Among the satisfied students were second-graders Melanie Phan and Anthony Villa, both of whom finished everything on their plates.

Longer term, the district has a goal of incorporating one or two of the new recipes to the permanent lunch menu. Mack also is looking ahead to the next grant cycle.

“This is something that’s beneficial to the local economy because school districts aren’t going away,” Mack said.

Poster contest

Centennial Dining Services is asking students to submit ideas, artwork and recipes to help create new school meals.

Through April 10, Dining Services will hold a poster contest featuring the healthful foods students like and why.

The classroom, club or after-school class with the most posters and ideas submitted will receive a garden bed kit for a classroom hands-on learning project.

For more information about the Local Lunches program, call 971-533-9958 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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