EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

March 1, 2012

Culinary surprises - good ones - in the school cafeteria

Chefs work to create healthier, tastier meals

LAWRENCE — Spinach salad, minestrone soup, whole grain pizza topped with low fat cheese, vegetables and turkey pepperoni, corn mixed with black beans, brown rice and beans, chicken in sauce, and watermelon.

That was the fare offered at Lawrence High School Wednesday prepared by chefs Guy Koppe and Kirk Conrad of Project Bread.

The feast was part of the Chefs in Schools Initiative - a partnership between Project Bread, the anti-hunger organization and Lawrence public schools.

"It's very critical for us that the students be exposed to healthy food," said Sarah Cluggish, Chefs in Schools program manager.

"Eating healthy is important at every level, especially in high school because their taste is already set," Cluggish said of students. "But, we're seeing that they are willing to try something new."

One day a week, Conrad, chef in residence with Project Bread and Koppe, administrative chef, work with kitchen staff at Lawrence High planning a healthy meal made from scratch using fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables.

"It's great because everyone needs to make sure they're eating healthy and what we're trying to do here is that they're enjoying their food at school," Koppe said.

Lawrence is one of four school systems in Massachusetts Project Bread is working with after receiving a $1 million grant over four years from Arbella Insurance Group Charitable Foundation. The other cities are Salem, Chelsea and East Boston.

Cluggish said Lawrence was selected because of the large number of students eligible to get their school lunches for free or at a reduced price.

Full price lunch in the elementary schools ranges from 75 cents to $1, and full priced lunch at the high school is between $1.25 to $1.50.

"Secondly, Lawrence has a strong food service director and program that we were able to partner with and make sustainable changes," Cluggish said.

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