Thanks to Suzanne Souza, the new director of food services for Norton Public Schools, the days of children buying a bag of potato chips and a cookie for lunch are over.
In order to stay within new state and federal guidelines for school lunch, Norton will be serving meals with more whole grains and lower sodium and sugar. The goal is also to serve less frozen foods and learn how to cook healthier options. For example, while frozen pizza will be taken off the menu, cafeteria workers will learn how to make a nutritious version of the school lunch staple.
Some other items to be taken off the menu include flavored milk, chips, sports drinks and fries.
Though Americans are often thought to pass on bad eating habits to kids, Souza has seen a more positive trend.
“I’ve noticed kids are eating healthier,” she said. “I think young kids are being brought up eating healthier.”
Souza believes that in addition to avoiding places like McDonalds, children should learn why eating healthy is important.
According to Souza, the school will focus on buying local produce. In fact, Sept. 19 to 23 is Harvest for Students Week. This event is coordinated by the Massachusetts Farm to School Project in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. During Harvest Week, schools and colleges promote local harvest and serve fresh, nutritious meals prepared with foods produced by Massachusetts farms.
Souza began working in Norton about a month ago, preparing for this change. But she has worked in the food service industry since high school. She began in the health care field in high school and transitioned to school lunch programs in 1993. Though she has never been formally trained, she worked her way to the top.
“I know how to do every single job in that kitchen,” Souza said.
To learn more about Souza and the school lunch program, stop by the food service table at each school’s open house. For information on free and reduced price lunch, see the attached PDFs.