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"Grab-and-Go" lunch a hit with Barren Co. High students who like the healthy choices and faster service; more time to sit, eat and chat

Daily Times, Glasgow, Sept. 5, 2015

Students like ‘Grab and Go’ option
Healthier food choices being better accepted
BY JEFF NATIONS

Victoria Smith carefully considered her lunch options as she stood in front of a an array of deli-style sandwiches, fresh salads, fruits and vegetables, chips and a steadily churning smoothie machine.

Smith, a senior at Barren County High School, likes having the extra time to choose provided by the school’s newest lunch option, Fresh Market 95210, which opened for business in the cafeteria just more than two weeks ago. “There’s more time to sit down and talk,” Smith said.”It’s quicker, there’s not as many people over there, and it’s healthy.”

The concept, a second choice on the school’s Grab-and-Go option that gives students alternatives to the main lunch line, has been a hit so far with students and faculty, said CheyAnne Fant, Barren County’s director of nutrition services.

“Part of our strategic plan for nutrition services was to create areas that made you feel like you were in like, small shops or different venues that those students could go to,” Fant said. “And the second purpose of that was to decrease the time that the students were in line so that they’d have more time to eat.”

At Fresh Market 95210, students and staff can choose from a selection of displayed items to create their own lunch, with some stipulations in accordance with the National School Lunch Program’s requirements for reimbursement to the school. For example, at Fresh Market 95210 if a student chose a sandwich, they would have their choice of any fruit or vegetable and any other side item. If they select a salad (chef or vegetarian), their required fruit/vegetable serving is met and they can any other two sides.

The extra choices in the Grab-and-Go option are the real difference, Fant said.

“Before, it had all the meal components, but the decision was made for you and you just picked up a bag,” Fant said. “So this allows a student more options.”

In the first seven days of school before Fresh Market 95210 opened, Fant said the school served 222 Grab-and-Go meals (about 31 a day). In the 11 days since opening that number has risen to 735 (67 meals a day).

Combined with the other quick option, a line called Hot Food Fast that serves burgers or pizza along with salad and fresh vegetables, the Grab-and-Go option is utilized 13 percent of the time by students. Staff sales are even higher, Fant said.

“The teachers are in just as big a hurry as the students are,” Fant said. “So 24 percent of our adult sales since this opened have come from the FreshMarket.”

Danielle Certain, the school’s assistant nutrition services manager, monitors the line daily and has seen more students trending toward the healthier options.

“We usually have to fill it up between every single lunch because we run low,” Certain said. “I’d say it’s almost more popular than the pizza and hamburger line. And surprisingly, the most popular items in there are the salads. Even the boys love the salads.”

Senior Casey Frazee opted for the Fresh Market’s sandwich combo on Friday. Before the new line opened, Frazee said she’d usually just go with “whatever was in line” for the tray lunch.

“I don’t get it every day, just every other day,” Frazee said. “I mean, it’s faster than standing in those lines to get food. And I like it a lot better.”

Fant said the idea for Fresh Market 95210 came from a former culinary arts student last year. The 95210 designation is part of a district-wide wellness policy:

• 9 for nine hours of sleep (suggested)
• 5 servings of fruit or vegetables
• 2 hours or less of screen time
• 1 hour of physical activity
• 0 sugar-added beverages.

“I think they really like the layout,” Certain said. “A lot of kids have mentioned that it looks like a deli, and they’re kind of feeling like they get special treatment when they come over here and get to pick from the fresh options.”

All the Grab-and-Go items, including the Fresh Market’s sandwiches and wraps, are made next door at the Trojan Academy cafeteria by staff and students. Tower gardens installed at the end of last school year at the high school will eventually supplement the offerings, with a goal of providing fresh school-grown lettuce every 21 days and cilantro to start.

Shelly Young, the school’s central kitchen assistant manager, said the sandwiches and salads have been the bestsellers “by far” in Fresh Market 95210. Students haven’t shied away from the fresh fruit and vegetable options, either.

“One of the things I think is exciting about this next generation of kids coming through that I think about is that they’re already going to have those healthy habits developed,” Young said. “It’s going to be exciting to see it, but what’s really good is those things are already established so we’re going to have a whole generation of kids who are growing up healthier.”

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