I am a Registered Dietitian with an MS in Nutrition. Prior to joining Butter Beans I was employed by the public school system. My job was to teach “Healthy Living” to after-school students grades K – 5.
Initially I was impressed with the NYC school food program. Whenever bread was served it was whole wheat. Fresh fruit was always offered. Milk was low-fat or skim. Meals were served on biodegradable plates. But as I looked closer I realized that although all the meals included a protein, starch and vegetable the choices were not always representative of these food groups. There was a heavy focus on carbohydrates, i.e., potato or corn as vegetable often paired with an entree of pizza or a burger. A typical example: Cheeseburger deluxe or fish and cheese sandwich. Deluxe toppings. Sweet potato wedges (frozen). Accompanied by milk (mandatory) and a fruit (fresh or frozen). The lack of fiber, micronutrients and vitamins is obvious. Some schools provide a salad bar. The school where I was placed did not. The food waste was off the hook.
Then I met Butter Beans.
On that exact same day the Butterbeans menu was BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches or herbed tofu (so delicious!), steamed kale, herbed roasted potatoes, and carrot ginger soup. All made from fresh ingredients.
Plus the salad bar which is always available and includes at least two fresh fruits, a spread, a specialty salad, two crudités, two meats, cheeses, eggs, lettuce and greens, yogurt, granola, pickles or olives, sunflower butter and jelly sandwiches, and pita. Milk is offered but the kids can choose.
The immediate differences were obvious.
Even if a child doesn’t want any of the hot food options s/he could still create a great lunch from salad bar alone. Most make choices from both. But equally important, in my opinion, is the minimization of food waste. Kids are not forced to take a milk and a fruit. They are offered the choice. They are encouraged to “take a taste” of something they may not be sure about.
How important is that?
Studies have shown that even if kids are on a “food jag” or “picky eaters” that they will intuitively balance their nutritional needs over a week or so. They just know what their body wants.
Choices are key.
Butter Beans offers choices to any child who may be hesitant to try a new or unfamiliar food. We don’t require a child to take a food, instead we help them choose, educating them in the process.
I am so proud to be a part of this food revolution!
This post was written by Tammy Chalala, Food Service Supervisor for Butter Beans