Changing the idea of school lunches as we know it: local school gets creative in the kitchen

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — From falafels to ginger chicken and vegetable egg rolls – Allendale Columbia School is all about branching out when it comes to school lunches.

“There’s seven different entrees a day for students to choose from, four of them always vegetarian, at least two of those vegan,” said Laura Reynolds-Gorsuch, food service director. Shannon Baudo, Interim Head of School said the options they provide are all about making sure everyone’s needs and desires are included. Some individuals have severe allergies that staff cater to. “We had to get creative with making sure we have everyone feeling this inclusive community here at ACM,” said Baudo.

Reynolds-Gorsuch said food – and lunchtime – play big roles in the school’s community. Before the pandemic, parents would traditionally be allowed to sit in with younger students during their lunches, if they wanted. When staff made the decision to deliver pre-packaged meals to classrooms this fall, Reynold-Gorsuch knew she’d miss the face-to-face connections with the kids.

“The fact that I’m not seeing the kids means what we are doing is working, but it is bittersweet, I miss seeing them and having that contact,” she said. While it’s hard – it’s not stopping her from keeping kids engaged with their meals – and trying something new.

“What was the most important to us is that the kids don’t feel like this is super different and like some punishment,” she said, regarding the packaged in-class meals.

Reynolds-Gorsuch said a lot of her ideas come from what’s available locally. “We do try to base a lot of our meals around what is available seasonally and what we can buy locally,” she said. One of those local partners is Flour City bread, for bread and hamburger rolls.

Reynolds-Gorsuch said while they’re providing a lot of different meals, it’s also important to keep those basic, longtime favorites of kids. “We did a fresh berry arugula salad last week and paired it with one of our most popular entrees – chicken fingers – and people were still choosing the arugula salad so we were really pleased,” she said.

Both Baudo and Reynolds-Gorsuch agree that if the act of looking at the menu for the week brings kids excitement in these unfamiliar times, they’re doing something right. Parents may not be there physically during those lunch hours, but Baudo said they’re still involved in the meal selection process.

“I think what’s nice is that they [parents] can still sit at home, sit down with their child, look at the menu and say what are you going to choose today, what will you be eating?”

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