In January the U.S. Department of Agriculture passed a final rule that established standards for major improvements to nationwide child nutrition programs, including age-appropriate calorie limits and portion sizes; more fruits and vegetables; a wider variety of produce, such as dark green and orange vegetables, and reduced sodium content.
Most of these standards will be implemented across elementary schools nationwide for the first time. Not Darien, though. Darien Elementary schools haven't been a part of the National School Lunch Program for about two years.
In 2010 the Board of Education decided that it would be better for Darien if the elementary schools were no longer a part of the program, according to Deborah Bossie, director of food service of Darien, who added that the high school and the middle school have both been out of the program for many years.
Once the schools were pulled out of the program, Bossie began introducing more organic foods slowly.
"We were able to get in a lot more organic products that weren't really approved yet," Bossie said. "The community decided it was a better guideline for us to go by. We slowly introduce products and see if they're going to do well. It's hard to get access to some of these products but we've hooked up with a great company. They provide us with a lot of really great products."
The daily menus offer five different salads for the students to choose from including garden salad, carrot and raisin salad, tri-color veggie pasta salad, Asian salad, tomato basil and mozzarella salad and broccoli slaw. The school offers organic hot dogs and hamburger patties, which were gradually introduced into the elementary schools over the years, and they have been incorporated into some new recipes.
"[Bossie] has done a really good job of offering high-quality menu items," Keith Margolus, principal of Royle School, said.
The elementary schools also have an organic pizza delivered to all seven district schools that is brought fresh twice a week, and has plans to introduce a new hummus with gluten-free chips this year. The schools only use Boar's Head deli meat
"These are high quality cold-cuts. It's certainly not what I was eating when I was in public school," Margolus said.
Bossie said the menu items are still kid-friendly.
"[The students] choices are incorporated with what we're offering and it makes the process very sustainable," Bossie said.
"What we have really works well. One of the local country clubs calls up this vendor and says that the parents want what the Darien school lunch programs are serving cause that's what the students are used to. That's what the parents are requesting, so that's always a positive thing," Bossie said, adding on that the parents of Darien are very involved and supportive of the lunch program.
For those students who don't buy lunch at school, there are still ways that you can ensure your child has a healthy lunch. Royle School Parent Teacher Organization mom Shannon Silsby, mother of four, said that her family always tries to have a balanced meal.
"You always have a fruit, you always have a veg, but there's always a cookie. It's not lunch time without a cookie," Silsby laughed. "We like whole wheat bread, whole grain braid. Turkey sandwiches seem to be a big hit in our house."
When she asked her sons what the favorite thing inside their lunch box was, the youngest replied -- "Nothing!" with a grin.
"Their favorite thing is to buy," Silsby added with a laugh.