Photography by Jen Britton
A couple of years back, Winnie created an alternative lunch program for her sister’s children’s school in San Diego because many parents were not satisfied with the existing lunch service. Parents told her they wanted healthy, affordable lunch options that their kids would actually eat. No easy task, but from there, Winnie made another critical move: She developed strong partnerships in manufacturing, local farming and kitchen staffing, aligning with people who believed in her mission.
With partners in place, success still wasn’t possible unless kids liked and consumed the meals, so Winnie involved kids in the process. Here’s how it works: Kids pre-select their main lunch items online from five or six kid-tested options. On lunch day, they make additional independent choices from bowls of raw vegetables and whole fruit that Freshlunches picks up from Santa Monica Farmers Market that week. Notably, packaged snack foods and processed desserts are not among the lunchline options. Empowerment translates to kids being vested in the food that’s on their plate. One veteran teacher said that the kids are eating “a whole lot more for lunch” than they had with the previous food service.
Getting kids to eat more vegetables can be as challenging as getting them to brush all of their teeth. Because Winnie’s business depends on kids eating well and liking their food, she and her team commit to a few strategies that she now uses at home with her own daughter.
- Start early. A healthy lunch program is most successful when it begins in Kindergarten or even younger.
- Present only healthy choices, but make them taste good. Because seasonal foods taste better, Freshlunches shops weekly at local farmer’s markets.
- Introduce new foods along with familiar foods. Encourage kids to try something new without a mandate to eat it all. The service staff at Freshlunches gets to know the kids’ preferences and makes suggestions to keep them trying new foods.
- Offer items with color and crunch.
- Use themes and festivities break through. Taco Day, one of the most anticipated, provides grilled fish along with the more common beef and chicken fare. This fall, Freshlunches is working with schools and parents to create farm-to-table lunch event.