Lifetime puts good food on the table in Burr Ridge schools
Principal Cathe Smith helps pass out fruit servings to students at lunch. Anne M. Jeans Elementary School recently received a grant from Lifetime Fitness that will help provide the school with healthy food choices for the lunch program. | Jon Langham~for
Updated: February 21, 2013 10:38AM
BURR RIDGE — Lifetime Fitness is committed to helping people stay healthy, and not only those who sign up for a membership.
Beginning next month Anne M. Jeans Elementary School and Burr Ridge Middle School will serve healthier meals, thanks to a grant from the Lifetime Foundation.
“We started in early 2011 with the idea of working with schools to improve school lunches,” said James McGuire, director of the Lifetime Foundation.
The Burr Ridge District 180 schools are the third and fourth schools in the country to work with Lifetime to make better food choices for their students. Under the agreement, District 180 will purchase only foods that meet Lifetime’s requirements. That means no bleached flour, processed sugar, food coloring, high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives, trans fats, antibiotics or hormones, and where possible, organic fruits and vegetables.
“We will be getting food from vendors that provide food for nice restaurants downtown,” Superintendent Tom Schneider said.
The district is searching for vendors that can provide the healthy, high-quality foods the Lifetime grant requires. The grant will cover the difference between the school’s current food cost and the cost of the new menu.
That generally is 20 to 25 cents per meal, McGuire said.
The main goal is to take the highly processed foods off the menu. But that doesn’t mean kids will be sitting down to unfamiliar entrees.
“We still have pizza, we still have chicken nuggets, we still have grilled cheese,” McGuire said.
In Minnesota, where the program began last year, processed chicken nuggets were replaced with nuggets made of real hormone-free chicken meat with whole wheat breading, baked not fried.
“Kids don’t notice the difference much,” McGuire said.
But such habits can make a big difference down the road.
“It’s about getting kids to eat real food,” McGuire said.
Lifetime has committed to helping District 180 for the next three years.
“We’re looking forward to working with them,” McGuire said.
Cafeteria director Beverly Kowalcze said the grant will provide more than just healthy lunches. Food served at breakfast, as snacks and even at teacher meetings must also meet Lifetime’s criteria.
And while that means Flamin’ Hot Cheetos no longer will be available, Kowalcze said she has heard few complaints from her students.
“It’s going to be fabulous,” said Kowalcze, who pursued the grant for the District 180 schools.
“If there’s a grant available that my children can benefit from, I’m going to go for it,” she said.