Earth’s Bounty food program remains a success in its sophomore year

Earths Bounty sample contains three zesty paninis.

Photo Credit: Photo via Patrick Coveny

Earths Bounty sample contains three zesty paninis.

By: Patrick Coveny, Editor

Just two years ago, Colonia High School implemented an ambitious new food program entitled Earth’s Bounty. With the goal of adding more nutrition and flavor to Colonia’s existing school lunches, the new food choices given to students from the program have successfully increased pupil nourishment. In its sophomore year, Earth’s Bounty and its unique menu remain wildly popular among students and staff. With gourmet paninis, soups, and salads, Earth’s Bounty has brought taste and color to a previously dreary lunch cuisine.

Of course, efforts to reform the nutritional value of school lunches have not been isolated to Colonia.. Beginning in 2010, former First Lady Michelle Obama undertook a new initiative aimed at increasing healthy food consumption by schoolkids. The policies Obama inspired have been criticized by some and embraced by others. What separates Earth’s Bounty from other improved menus enacted across the country is its savor. While nutritious meals are typically associated with distaste, the dishes from Earth’s Bounty defy expectations and truly satisfy student’s appetites.

Melinda Hargis, a dedicated chef and cafeteria worker at Colonia High School said, “It is a great feeling to see the students get excited about the food we are serving… I love being able to make that happen for them.” Hargis has worked with Earth’s Bounty for the past year and believes it is truly improving the quality of school lunch. She notices a positive change in student’s attitudes towards it, and attributes this to the program’s tasteful menu items.

“With Earth’s Bounty, we have more freedom to use gourmet ingredients. We can order options that you will not see in the other sections of the cafeteria. We are very proud of the sandwiches, soups, and salads that we offer […] and are also very happy about how much the students have taken to it,” Hargis comments.

A survey conducted by The Declaration of 83 school-lunch-buyers supports this. The results found that a whopping 80% believe Earth’s Bounty has been a successful program. 69% of students asked also believe that Earth’s Bounty has helped improve the health value of the lunch they consume. The program has equally raised awareness of teen fitness. 68% of survey respondents stated that they were either somewhat or highly interested in the nutritional value of their lunch.

Rana Rezk, a senior at Colonia High who orders lunch everyday, is extremely pleased with the new selections provided by Earth’s Bounty. “Earth’s Bounty is not only nutritious, but very tasty! I love eating their soups!,” Resk says. She was so enthralled with the revamped lunch, she even helped in an effort to build a new outdoor seating are for seniors.

This is exactly what nutritionists are looking for when attempting to apply effective changes to high school food. Earth’s Bounty manages to both engage and indulge at the same time. For generations school lunch has been seen as dreadful, with menu options regarded as stereotypically revolting. Colonia is dispelling these longstanding beliefs and providing students with an array of fresh produce and lean, delectable treats.

An Earth’s Bounty sampler, for example, contains three enticing paninis: a BLT, a pulled pork, and a grilled chicken. Sides include tasty chickpeas and a refreshing tomato-mozzarella salad. Beverage choices include three different flavored mixed fruit and vegetable juices. All this adds up to is a well balanced, palatable lunch experience for teens. Earth’s Bounty has eliminated high amounts of fat, sugar, and sodium from the high school diet. Just one nutritious meal per day for teens can help contribute to the fight against the obesity and diabetes epidemics.

One great thing about the program, however,  is that it has continued to coexist with the former school lunch program from the township. Students have an option to remain with the old lunch of pizza and other daily creations or to adventure out and buy a new, healthier lunch from Earth’s Bounty. They are never forced to choose between the two. This allows for eaters to learn how to make good food choices on their own. It also gives students a wide assortment of lunch menu options each day. Many students interchange between cuisines, or mix lunches with items from both areas of the cafeteria.

Additionally, the Earth’s Bounty seating lounge has also been a hit among students. The partition between two school cafeterias having been entirely revamped by the program two years ago, the area is continuing to provide a comfortable ambiance for lunch-buyers. New additions to the space include baskets of fresh fruits and vegetables, decoratively distributed to each high-top table. Lines to purchase food are more convenient and accessible for students, as well.

The positive effects of Earth’s Bounty are truly remarkable. When students are interested and involved in the value of their daily food intake, a school has made a great accomplishment. Although the program is not exactly perfect, it has been successful in its goal of improving meals at CHS. School chefs are happy as they are able to cook and concoct fare that they are proud of. Students are delighted by what they are served each day. Earth’s Bounty should set an example to educational institutions around the nation and other high schools in our district: implementing healthy lunch programs can be both affordable for high schools and, at the same time, be rewarding for teachers, staff, and students.

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