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Healthier Options on the Menu


In their new cafeteria, high school students stopped by a demonstration table to sample California rolls packed with sticky rice, cucumber, avocado and cooked pollock, which were customized with ginger and wasabi sauce right before their eyes.

Junior Emma Norman grabs a sushi sample

“I like it a lot. It’s better than I thought for a school sushi,” said junior Emma Norman, adding that she might buy $3 packs of six rolls now available in the cafeteria’s grab-and-go section. “I like healthier options.”

Health-savvy students like Emma have had exposure to foods of many different varieties and cultures, so highly processed school lunch fare of the past doesn’t quite cut it anymore, said Food Service Director Mimi Mahaney-Stalzer. A recent student survey showed students wanted sushi and other foods that fit a health-conscious lifestyle.

“I feel like kids see more things,” Mahaney-Stalzer said, comparing popular food choices to the days before quinoa, couscous and feta were common in household refrigerators and cupboards. “Kids are definitely healthier.”

Chef David Lodygowski and account executive Pat Gibson, from the district’s main food supplier, Sysco, served the sushi samples at Caledonia High School’s main building and new South Campus.

Juniors Allison Bushart and Zoe Straw start lunch period with sushi samples

“We really want to show them a diversity of food and a healthier option,” Lodygowski said. “Coming from a different generation, I was really surprised and impressed with the questions kids were asking, like, ‘Is it gluten-free?’ and ‘Where did the pollock come from?’ They were asking me a lot of questions that I never expected to actually hear.”

The South Campus, a separate building adjacent to the main building, opened at the beginning of the school year. The cafeteria is designed like a food court, with stations, grab-and-go options, smoothies and a salad bar. It features restaurant-style seating as well, with round tables and booths. The goal was to have a more college-style design, Mahaney-Stalzer said. More food options fit in with that vision as well.

“I thought it was really good. It wasn’t expecting it to be this good,” said sophomore Zoey Zupin, after taking a bite of sushi.

“This is gourmet!” said substitute teacher Judi Galloway. “It was interesting. I’ve never had sushi before.”

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SNN story on Caledonia High School South Campus

Students are looking for healthy options, said the food service director

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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