Healthful school lunch options abound, Mundelein students eating it up
Mundelein High School senior Samantha Ibrahim, 17, waits for a salad during lunch Friday at the high school. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 7, 2012 6:40AM
MUNDELEIN — School-cafeteria dining isn’t what it used to be at Fremont School District 79 and Mundelein High School District 120.
Images of cold meatloaf, soggy mashed potatoes and funny-looking vegetables that used to be associated with cafeteria cuisine are now a thing of the past in Mundelein schools, where Quest Food Management Services, Inc. has been operating their cafeterias for about three years now, and have added food options made from scratch and with fresh ingredients.
Quest’s menus should help local parents relinquish any guilt felt from sending their children off to school without a sack lunch.
“We are now at a maximal 750 to 850 calories per day,” said Quest’s president Mike McTaggart, noting strict changes in serving sizes. “There used to be minimum standards so calories could range, but that has changed.”
When MHS switched its food service provider to Quest in 2010, the school’s longtime food service operator, Kelly Paschall, also switched over and became the local unit manager for Quest at MHS.
After the 2010 food service change, Paschall noted that the school began offering a wider variety of foods. She also said she and her kitchen staff began preparing more food from scratch than ever before.
In 2011, Quest provided Fremont Elementary School with $250 to purchase seeds for its courtyard gardens, which was an initiative spearheaded by teachers to prepare “today’s child for tomorrow’s world.” The gardens also fell in line with its health and wellness committee’s emphasis on healthy eating.
McTaggart said he’s happy school communities have found healthy food initiatives favorable.
“The kids expect that now,” he said.
“I think there’s been a generational shift, and that the kids are going for the healthier foods more often,” McTaggart added. “It’s really nice to see.”
Since becoming the schools’ food service providers, Quest’s fresh fruits and vegetables have almost doubled. It also began the program “Quest For Life: Food and Education from the Ground Up,” which aims to reverse the current food service trend and return to traditional cooking methods. These methods include using responsibly harvested products, cooking from scratch and using fresh ingredients.
McTaggart said that Quest is constantly looking for new ways to integrate healthier foods into the school system.
One of Quest’s current goals is to increase the amount of 100 percent whole grain foods they serve from half of the school menu, to all of it.