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New menu items on the horizon for school lunches

January 23, 2012MCSD Food Service Staff

Monticello Schools Lunch Manager Debra Donleavy recently joined other food service directors from around the region to sample new products and gather ideas for new menu concepts at the NY School Nutrition Association (NYSNA) tradeshow and seminar.

Many of the products showcased are being touted as healthier options when compared to some of the more traditional cafeteria foods. These include whole grain and vegetarian products, sweet potato fries, and lean proteins. In addition, many of the selections do not contain trans fats or added sugar, have lower sodium levels and no high fructose corn syrup.

When the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 takes effect in September 2012, schools will be required to serve lunches that meet strict federal guidelines. This includes offering dark green leafy vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains and low fat milk. Many of these food items are already available in Monticello.

One new item of interest at the NYSNA show was a non-breaded, full muscle Alaskan Pollock fillet from Highliner. Ms. Donleavy found the fish to be delicate and flavorful so she decided to create and enter a recipe into Highliner’s contest to find new dishes that encourage students to eat more fish. WithPaella Goes North help from Debbie Muller, head cook at Monticello High School, Ms. Donleavy developed a new recipe she calls, "Paella Goes North" (pictured). The high school cafeteria staff and custodians were invited for a taste test. Based on their comments and reactions, the final recipe was a huge hit.

Once the new Pollack fillets become available to purchase, Ms. Donleavy and her staff will be offering their new tasty creation in the district dining halls. Other new dishes slated for future menus include fish tacos, fish chowder and seasoned fish filet. 

Results of the Highliner contest will be released later this year.

Photo: From left, Monticello Schools food service worker JoAnn Ruggiero, Monticello High School head cook Debbie Muller and School Lunch Manager Debra Donleavy at work in the MHS kitchen preparing meals for students and staff.

More Information and resources

A recent report released by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) noted that nearly 32 percent of children in the U.S. ages 6 to 19 are overweight or obese. CLICK HERE for more information about the USDA and the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 due to take effect on July 1, 2012.

CLICK HERE to view the final rules of the New Meal Guidelines (PDF)

CLICK HERE for information about the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and more (NYS Education Department website).

Child Nutrition Reauthorization Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010 READ (PDF)

School Nutrition Association helping to guide schools as they offer healthier meals

The School Nutrition Association (SNA) provides support and resources to schools as they move to provide healthy, well-balanced meals to their students. This includes offering more fruits and vegetables, serving more whole grain-rich foods, offering only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties and making sure that kids are getting proper portion sizes.

"SNA is a national, non-profit professional organization representing 55,000 school nutrition professionals. Founded in 1946, SNA is dedicated to making healthy school meals and nutrition education available to all students." For more information, visit and

CLICK HERE to view the SNA report "State of School Nutrition 2011."

Parent Today article, "School lunches go green and leafy," addresses the healthy makeover of school meals READ

CLCIK HERE for more information about the Parent Today initiative.

To sign-up for the free Parent Today e-newsletter, visit