Adams County: Mapleton focuses on healthy meals

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Whole wheat pasta and bread; chicken hot dogs; steamed vegetables; non-processed food, so raw chicken and pork are prepared on site; multiple items made from scratch — such as ranch dressing, marinara sauce, lasagna and soup.

This menu sounds like that of a health-conscious adult, but it’s actually what students in Mapleton Public Schools are eating. Hungry kids don’t learn well, and Mapleton wants to satisfy their hunger healthily.

“Under the leadership of our nutrition services director, Joella Carron, we’ve take all deep fryers and breaded items out of our kitchens and are now serving our children whole grains, grilled chicken sandwiches, and even fruit instead of syrup on pancakes,” said Melissa Johnson, communication specialist. “We are doing some incredible things in our kitchens. We are excited to continue such culinary advancements through our partnership with LiveWell.” 

LiveWell Colorado conducted a two-day culinary workshop Oct. 14-15 at Mapleton for its nutrition staff, with a focus on scratch cooking and recipe and menu development.

“More than one in four Colorado children are overweight or obese and only 8 percent of Colorado’s children meet recommended levels of fruit and vegetable consumption.”

Venita Currie, program director at LiveWell Colorado “So we wanted to jump into the food fight and teach kids healthy food is good for them and it can taste good too.”

The workshop is an extension to what Mapleton has been doing for the past four years since Carron began working at Mapleton.

Fifty percent of students in the district buy food from the cafeteria, Johnson said, “We’re hoping with LiveWell we can bring that up to 70 percent. Good nutrition is good for kids.”

Currie explained that the more students who buy meals at school, the more funding the district receives, which means more ability to buy healthy food.

Carron said it is her passion to make sure children eat healthily so they can grow up and be healthy adults.

“If you start when they’re young, it’s a learned process,” she said.

Under her direction, the district did away with fryers, breaded products and switched from pork hot dogs to chicken.

“I don’t even think they knew we switched items on them,” Carron said.

As part of the workshop, members with LiveWell helped Carron plan for the implementation of salad bars in the elementary schools in 2014.

LiveWellColorado is a nonprofit organization committed to preventing and reducing obesity in Colorado by promoting healthy eating and active living. Since 2010, LiveWell has hosted 20 culinary events, trained 434 food service workers in 89 school districts.