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For better nutrition - West says new food program a hit

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By Mercy Lopez

When students at West Las Vegas schools returned to the classroom last month they were greeted with a major change.

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A food service company is now providing the students with their daily dose of nutrition, and district officials said students seem to be happy with the change.

“I’ve visited a few of the sites during lunch time and see the students are eating a lot,” said acting Superintendent Gene Parson.

Parson said the students are enjoying the nutrition bar that is being provided to them at no cost. Free lunch is provided to all West students.

The nutrition bar includes fresh fruits and vegetables to help the district comply with federal guidelines to increase the amount of fresh produce districts serve.

Jose Baca, Summit Foods food service director at West said that when students come through the lunch line they get their entree, plus a side, and a bread. He said they can also help themselves to as many fruits and vegetables as they want at the nutrition bar.

Baca and his production manager Jojo Jaramillo said all of the district’s students enjoy having fresh fruits and vegetables. They said high school students have the choice of four entrees, a prepared salad, and other items.

“Our counts are going up,” Baca said. “They have a good variety of choices to pick from, plus it is free.”

At the elementary level, students have the choice of a hot meal, a salad or a sack lunch. Additionally, they are also provided a nutrition bar with fresh fruits and vegetables.

“The students are saying the food is tasty,” Jaramillo said. He said they also have the choice of other entrees including a cheeseburger, tortilla burger and a chicken wrap that is extremely popular among high school students. Pizza is also available on a regular basis.

“We make our own pizza here using whole grain products in the middle and high school,” Baca said. He said the district is serving all whole-grain products. For example, a menu item for Sept. 28 includes an Asian Pasta Salad made with whole grain spaghetti noodles served with a whole grain garlic roll.

Other menu items include an Italian sub on wheat roll, baked chicken in a pita, sweet mashed potatoes, chicken parmesan, chicken stir fry and chicken fajitas.

Additionally, the students throughout the district receive a free breakfast that is served in the classroom. Martinez said that is “the most important meal for kids and a lot of the times before, the kids missed it.”

“I try to give them a hot sandwich, something with protein, and we are getting it done,” Baca added.

They said breakfast is delivered to each classroom no later than 8:05 a.m. during the school day.

“Students are really loving the food that is being served,” Parson said.

The school board voted unanimously in June to approve a one-year contract with Summit Foods to provide food service for the roughly 1,800 students throughout the district.