As the Food Service Director for Burrell School District, Andrew Klipple is using his previous experience as a chef to provide healthier and tastier options for students throughout the district.
One of his biggest challenges is following the guidelines set by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which restricts the use of sodium, mandates increases in whole grain, and governs how many calories, vegetables, fruits, and protein each grade should have per meal.
"I brought in my skill set and recipes to use spices to help food taste better without sodium, sugar, or other unhealthy ingredients," said Klipple.
The district still offers kid-friendly favorites, such as pizza and chicken nuggets — with a twist. For example, with chicken nuggets, Klipple uses whole-grain breading with a mix of seasonings and bakes them instead of frying them.
Even with traditionally sugary options like donuts for breakfast, Klipple explains that they aren't the same donuts you'd get at a bakery. They have reduced sugar and whole grain to make them healthier.
"When dealing with the kids, it’s a fine line," Klipple said. "We want them to know that it’s healthy, but we also don’t want to deter them from trying it because of that. It's our goal to introduce kids to a way to have the foods they like and recognize, but in a healthier way."
Offerings vary depending on age, with high school students having the most foods available. In addition to the main daily entree, they can pick from pizza, burgers, chicken patties, a fresh salad bar, and a full deli.
"I think our participation rate speaks for itself," Klipple said. "Our program is thriving, and over half of our kids are eating breakfast or lunch here."