Lyons Township menu balances nutrition, student likes
Rafael Linares of LaGrange Park (from left), Ethan McGahey of La Grange and Eamon Condon of La Grange study the selection of foods available as they move down the line. | Jon Langham—for Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 7, 2012 6:06AM
WESTERN SPRINGS — Striking a balance in food choices is at the heart of the lunch line at Lyons Township High School.
General Manager Patrick Thompson said Sodexo Food Service strives to mirror the nutritional guidelines of the National School Lunch program, yet offer choice and a taste of what kids crave.
“If we strictly followed the National School Lunch program, we’d never have fries,” Thompson said.
And by the look of trays carried around the south campus in Western Springs, fries, cheeseburgers and pizza remain top choices for freshmen and sophomores.
But recipes for teens’ favorites are being revised to reflect healthier alternatives in an ala carte setting.
“We’re using 51 percent whole grain flour in our pizza,” Thompson said. “It’s not quite the same as what you’d get at a local pizza parlor, but it counts for a serving of whole grains. Also, the toppings can qualify as a serving of meat or vegetables.”
Freshmen gave the homemade pizza a thumbs-up.
“The pizza is good, especially when you’re hungry,” said Mareena Mendez, who has seventh period lunch from 12:09 to 12:34 p.m. “Compared to middle school, this is so much better. There are so many more options.”
Thompson said juniors and seniors at the north campus in La Grange seem to have a more adventurous palate.
“The older students get, the more they’re open to embracing vegetables,” he said. “More often than not, they like them with ranch dressing, and all our dressings are fat-free.”
In addition, sushi has been offered periodically at the north campus for the past several years and is expected to be on the menu again this year. The food service also highlights other cuisines with pasta, orange chicken and quesadillas at both campuses.
“For vegetarians, we have spicy black bean burgers, and I think they’re better than our regular burgers,” Thompson said. “Parents are good about letting us know any special dietary needs, whether it’s an allergy situation or gluten. We can make accommodations.”
Sodexo has phased out high-calorie drink choices in favor of diet pop, 100 percent fruit juices, flavored water and 1 percent or fat-free white or chocolate milk, rather than 2 percent milk.
La Grange sophomore Leonard Ross said he noticed some improvements over last year’s set-up and selections.
“They just started a new sandwich section, and it’s faster to get your food, and the cheese is better melted on the burgers,” Ross said. “The prices are the same as last year. It’s a win-win situation for me.”
Freshman Emily Bulir of LaGrange Park said she considers the selections “kind of expensive” and prefers to bring her lunch most days. The pizza and pop tarts she tried were good and an improvement over middle school offerings, she said.