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Healthy lunch choices plentiful in Granite district

Students in Granite School District ponying up to their schools lunch counter looking to order a basket of golden fries and crispy chicken nuggets aren't in for a huge surprise when they are told those items have been eliminated.

These and other deep-fried foods were yanked off school district menus years ago when deep fryers when the way of the dodo.

While the news is old to most students, its something quite new that has the taste buds of students perking up: Healthy variety.

"We feel we want to make the choice as easy as possible for students and parents," said Jeff Gratton, executive chef in Granite District's Food Services Department. "Our goal is to make sure kids are getting a balanced, nutritious diet. Academic performance is tied to nutrition."

And while some students may balk at the importance of a healthy, balanced lunch Gratton says the recent implementation of made-to-order salad stations in some district high schools says otherwise.

Hunter High School introduced its made-to-order salad station to students just a few months ago. Now, roughly 90 unique, hand-created salads are dished each day - a statistic that says students do indeed care about what they consume for fuel.

The push for healthier food options in school cafeterias is a nationwide initiative and Granite District's Food Services Department stepped up years ago to meet the challenge. Deep fryers were eliminated long ago while other districts are still giving their fryers the boot. Whole grain is used in most products including pizza, tortillas, hamburger buns, pastas and rolls. There are zero trans fats in baked goods and all milk used is either skim or one percent.

But it's the consumption of fruits and vegetables that rules the roost.

"Each student has to pass by carrots before they sit down," Gratton joked.

Nutrition stations are offered daily at schools and feature five fruits and five vegetables. Students purchasing school lunch may have as much of each as they would like. Elementary schools get an annual visit from the A to Z salad bar a unique array of fruits and vegetables representing each letter of the alphabet that allows students to try new foods. Gratton says the district works hard to provide fresh produce to all students.

While healthy eating is a priority, its choice that makes the biggest difference in the cafeteria.

"It is our intent and goal at Food Services to offer every student a healthy, nutritious and complete meal option every day. We feel that by providing the students with multiple choices we can accomplish this."

Granite elementary school students are offered seven different meal choices each day. Secondary students can choose between 10 to 20 different selections. Deli bars featuring sub sandwiches, salsa bars with chips and dips and salad stations give students the opportunity to create a personalized lunch according to their daily tastes.

Nutrition also extends beyond the cafeteria. The Food Services Department hosts more than 170 nutrition classes yearly, explaining the healthy food choices and benefits to nearly 4300 Granite District students. The department also conducts fine dining events, which allows students to put to use the four-course dining skills they learn through an etiquette course. Students show off their skills, dining with district administrators.

Granite School District  |  2500 South State  |  Salt Lake City, Utah 84115  |  (385) 646-5000