Quinoa could soon be on your child's lunch menu as Kentucky schools whip up healthier meals

Posted at 4:30 AM, Jul 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-02 08:01:58-04

ERLANGER, Ky. -- Nancy Seiter's last three decades have been spent cooking meals for Campbell County students, and she's gotten to know them so well she can often guess what they're going to order every day at lunch.

Usually, she said, it's not something healthy. She and other Kentucky school chefs want to change that.

"Our joke is, 'Our garbage cans are as healthy as they're going to get,'" she said. "'We need to have our kids eat it and not throw it away!'"

Seiter and chefs from nine different Kentucky school districts will spend part of their summer learning to create new school meals that are both healthy and eye-catching. 

Their teachers, chefs and dietitians from the Institute of Child Nutrition, will tutor them through a free 16-hour course that includes preparing dishes such as chicken stir fry fajita, roasted fish wraps and quinoa salad, all of which are "fresh, visually appealing, and of course, delicious."

"We're starting to see a lot more diabetes and heart disease and high blood pressure in children," chef-instructor Brenda Thompson Wattles said. 

Schools can't control what children eat in their free time or what their families can afford, but Thompson-Wattles, Seiter and others hope they can provide enough options to help steer students toward healthier choices and tastes long-term -- and, when their school districts see positive reactions to the new dishes, steer them toward investing more in healthy options.