December 20, 2014

Elyria
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Kids crave Lorain school’s healthful dining concept

LORAIN — Chicken nuggets and fish sticks are no longer  common fare at one local school.

Lorain’s Helen Steiner Rice Elementary School celebrated the beginning of a new healthful dining concept, Cool*Caf, on Monday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

ARAMARK, Lorain Schools’ food service provider, designed Cool*Caf to encourage healthful eating habits among elementary school students. Implemented as a pilot program, Cool*Caf incorporates nutritious menus, faster lines and a fruit and vegetable bar in the cafeteria.

Recognizing the difficulty of getting young children to eat their vegetables, the initiative concentrates as much on presentation as on the food. Bright colors, nutrition “mascots” and educational programming attract the children’s attention and make the idea of healthy food fun. 

School officials are optimistic that the program will enhance the overall academic experience of the children.

“When students are well-fed and healthy, they learn better,” said Susan Bartosch, communications specialist for Lorain Schools.

Students collectively oohed and ahhed at Monday’s ceremony, when officials drew back a curtain to reveal a vibrantly repainted and decorated cafeteria renovated during Christmas break. Each child left the ceremony with an apple.

According to Principal Alexis Hayden, many of those apples reappeared at lunch.

“The kids were eating them,” she said, and they were enthusiastic about the new meals. “They were asking: ‘Can we have this sub sandwich tomorrow? Can we have it every day?’”   

ARAMARK approached the district about implementing Cool*Caf at Helen Steiner Rice Elementary School last year. ARAMARK paid all costs of the conversion, including the cafeteria’s remodeling.

The pilot program is the first of its kind in Ohio.

Introduced to only 60 elementary schools nationwide this January, the program will have a wider release this fall.

If it is successful and students benefit from the healthier fare, officials hope to make the program permanent.

Officials, including Hayden, believe in the program’s potential.

“I think it’s going to work wonderfully,” Hayden said.      

Contact Kaitlin Bushinski at 329-7155 or ctnews@chroniclet.com.