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Utah schools find creative ways to promote healthy lunch

Published: Thursday, Oct. 31 2013 10:25 p.m. MDT

Canyons School District began implementing healthy food practices when it opened in July 2009, according to Sebastian Varas, the district's director of nutrition services. The district offered whole wheat grains and a variety of fruit and vegetables.

"That really paved the way for the (federal) changes," he said.

Varas said he tries to find foods the students like, such as pizza or fries, and cook them in healthy ways that are appealing to students.

"You can have the most healthy lunch, but if (the students) don't like it, it's pointless," he said.

Part of Canyons District's success has come from its educational efforts, Varas said.

"Any opportunity we have to educate the public and the student, we take," he said.

This year, Varas and his team have adopted a jungle theme. They have created games for students in the district to help them learn about nutrition.

"They're playing, but they're learning at the same time," he said.

District officials have tested the taste of their food by soliciting feedback from a panel of students in grades K-12. They then try to create a menu that matches these preferences.

The success of such programs is evident in the rising numbers of school lunch participation, Loveland said.

Statewide, school meal participation is up 3 percent from last year. In August, schools served 99,000 more meals than they did in August 2012, and in September they served 24,000 more meals than the same month last year.

"It's better than ever before," Varas said.

Email: wevans@deseretnews.com, Twitter: whitevs7

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