Sep 28, 2011 11:14 AM by Ariel Wesler

Lompoc Unified looking to expand healthy food program

As childhood obesity continues to be in the spotlight across America, one local school district is looking to expand its healthy offerings.

Lompoc Unified has already implemented its "Food from Scratch" program at middle schools and high schools in the district.

Now, it's hoping to expand the program to its elementary schools. In the next couple of months, the district plans to start a pilot program at two Lompoc elementary schools.

The district's goal is to eventually make more food from scratch, but at a time when budgets are tight, district leaders need to make sure the menu options are also cost-effective.

It's lunchtime in the Lompoc Unified School District, which serves about 6500 meals to students each day.

"The pasta bar's really good," said Lompoc High Junior 10th grader.

At Lompoc High, seven stations work to keep up with the rush. You'll find subs, a salad bar, baked chicken, steamed veggies, some asian cuisine. It's not your typical cafeteria fare and even the Alfredo sauce is made from scratch.

"It's made with vegetables. It's lower fat," said Kathy Bertelsen, a dietician and food services manager for Lompoc Unified.

At the elementary schools, they serve turkey sandwiches, hot pockets, and breaded chicken, but the district is making some changes in the kitchen, expanding its "Food from Scratch" program to two area elementary schools.

"We're putting ovens, hoods, new floor, salad bars, hot serving counters," Bertelsen said.

And the kitchen staff is getting cooking lessons.

"More than half of my staff has attended a culinary boot camp," Bertelsen said.

The challenge, to give kids healthier options along with some of their usual favorites.

If everything was considered extremely healthy, like health nut type of food, I don't think the kids would probably eat it," Bertelsen said.

As you stroll through the cafeteria, it's easy to see kids eating everything from the less healthy to the more healthy, but the choice is theirs.

"Sometimes, I'll grab some of the food from the food salad bar, but not a lot," Acosta admitted.

Bertelsen will test the program at La Canada and Buena Vista, before deciding whether to expand it to all Lompoc elementary schools.

"If we feel that we can do this and not lose money and it's working out well as far as getting our kids through our meal lines, so they can eat and have their recess, then we will move forward," Bertelsen said.

The changes are being paid for through a grant from the Ofalea Foundation. Berterlsen credits the media and people like celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver who are pushing for healthier meals in schools and making eating healthy the cool thing to do.

Bertelsen will give her progress report to the district's Wellness Committee tonight and discuss what improvements can be made. In the last two years, the district has taken chocolate milk, sugary cereals, and Pop-Tarts off its menu.


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