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Alachua County Schools cooking up a cure to boring cafeteria food stereotype

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Cafeteria food at public schools tends to get a bad rap but Alachua county schools want to chop the stereotype with their unique and fresh menu.

“We really focus on making sure that we are staying on trend with what the students are seeing out there in the restaurant world,” said Caron Rowe, an Alachua County School District food specialist.

Nutrition regulations placed on school lunches nationwide does not make that task easy.

“One of the first things that was taken away was a lot of the fat and the sodium and those are the two things that are mainly the mediums for delivering flavor,” said Moss Crutchfield, the district chef. “Having resources like Farm to School and more scratch cooking makes that much more attainable.”

School chefs can’t just throw salt and butter in a recipe to make it taste better.

Instead, Alachua county got creative with seasonings and fresh produce to bring trendy and healthy food to the lunch table.

With soups, dressings and entrées made from scratch, these school lunches contain a lot less sodium and preservatives. This allows students to have better portions, attractive choices and overall healthier food.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize in our cafes we have scratch made potato soup, we have a pesto we use and we have a lovely farm to school kale salad everyone just raves about,” Rowe said.

This school year’s new creation is the “Classy Clark” kale salad inspired by the district’s new superintendent, Karen Clark.

“We’re doing a special salad to celebrate our superintendent. So we’re taking a page from a restaurant she enjoys where we have a chicken salad topped with fresh fruit” Crutchfield said. “It contains kale, carrots and romaine.”

The fruit will change throughout the year to whatever is fresh and in season in the area. But what’s really unique to this salad is the house made, pineapple vinegrette.

Alachua county is trying to take school lunch to a whole other level. This year the majority of schools are offering free lunch. The district wants students to know ‘free’ does not mean bad quality, it’s just another way to serve students.

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