(NEPTUNE) – New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher today marked National School Lunch Week with a visit to Neptune Middle School to applaud the Neptune School District’s efforts to offer students meals that are nutritious and appealing as well as provide New Jersey produce and teach students about agriculture.
Secretary Fisher joined USDA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Pat Dombroski and state, local, and school officials to highlight the school’s lunch program. The day featured a specialty taste testing of curried butternut squash soup and a roasted fall vegetable ratatouille.
Following the taste test, Secretary Fisher observed lunch in the cafeteria, which offers a fresh fruit and vegetable bar each day that includes fresh whole fruit, assorted chilled fruit, tossed salad, and a different vegetable each day. Wednesday’s offering featured seasoned broccoli and a citrus kidney bean and garbanzo bean salad.
“School districts around the state are providing the best nutrition for our students and are engaging them to provide them with food they want to eat,” Secretary Fisher said. “We congratulate Neptune Middle School for making sure students have a wide variety of healthy options every day and placing an emphasis on serving local fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Middle school students are given the option of choosing shredded romaine lettuce, sliced tomatoes, broccoli florets, and fresh baked potatoes regularly with their hot lunch. The district participates in the Department of Defense Direct Delivery, which brings fresh produce into Neptune schools. The school also purchases food from a handful of local farmers, including Cassaday Farms and Muzzarelli Farms, which grow a variety of vegetables.
“Establishing healthy eating habits is important at an early age,” Neptune Middle School Principal Dr. Arlene Rogo said. “We want our students to have healthy choices for lunch and we encourage them to make good choices about what they eat.”
New Jersey schools have implemented the 2010 Federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which required more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk, fat-free flavored milk, and limited saturated fat and portion size. It set requirements for school breakfast and snacks as well. Each day, an average of 653,793 students eat school lunch in New Jersey.
National School Lunch Week was created by the School Nutrition Association to encourage participation in the National School Lunch Program and recognize the school districts providing healthy meals every day. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture administers the program in the Garden State.
To learn more about the state’s school lunch program, visit www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/fn/childadult/school.html.